Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Good Night Show Crafts for Kids

Last summer my kids and I would watch The Good Night Show on the Sprout channel each night before bed.  It was a great way for our family to finish the day together.  The best part of the show is they tell you how to make a different craft each night.  If it's a craft my kids are interested in, we would make it the next day. 

Don't worry if you don't have the Sprout channel, you can still go to their website, Sprout Online, and click on the link for The Good Night Show.  There you will find the instructional video and a printable version of the instructions.  If you want more crafts, Sprout has a great selection of quick and easy crafts here.  Have fun and happy crafting!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Inexpensive Summer Fun for Kids

As a stay-at-home mom, summers can be challenging.  You have to find a way to keep the kids entertained all summer long without breaking the bank.  A couple of weeks before summer vacation starts I like to take the time to make a tentative plan of how our weeks will go during the hot, summer months.  And the more thrifty ideas, the better.  Below are some ideas on how to have fun with your kids this summer without dishing out too much dough.
  • Day at the Zoo - Pack some snacks, a picnic lunch and drinks and head to your local zoo for the day.  Print free coloring pages including animals the kids will see at the zoo and bring them with a box of crayons, for a break from all the walking. 
  • Miniature Golf - Check your mail for your free Valpak!  They usually have great deals for local miniature golf locations.  If you can't find a coupon, call your nearby miniature golf place and see if they have any summer events.  Our local Putt-Putt has a different even each day of the week, like: Wacky Wednesday with 3 attractions (18 holes, 20 arcade tokens and 3 batting cage tokens) for $10/person.
  • Pizza Party - With a pizza party you kill two birds with one stone - something fun to look forward too and dinner served!  You can order in or let the kids make their own pizzas.  For extra fun try out a dessert pizza part.
  • Sign Up at Your Local Pool - Check out the prices for your local pool.  They are most likely less expensive than you think.  If your church has a pool, they often only ask for a donation.  Whatever the cost, you may find it's worth it by the end of the summer.  It's a great way to keep the kids cool and good and tired for bedtime. 
  • Treasure Hunt - You can find some great pirate stuff at your local Dollar General/Dollar Tree to help make a great treasure hunt for you and your little pirates.  Michael's craft store also has some great pirate crafts.  But since they can be kinda pricey, use them as inspiration for making your own.  You will be amazed at how much you can make with construction paper, crayons, scissors and tape.  (Click here to print a pirate hat and eye patch for free.)
  • Sundae Party - Invite some of your kids' friends and ask them each to bring a fun sundae topping: licorice bits, sprinkles, Mini-M&M's, Oreo crumbs, etc.  Don't forget the whipped cream and cherries!  Let the kids get imaginative and try out some new sundae ideas.  If you'd rather not deal with the mess, head to an ice cream parlor.
However you choose to spend your summer this year, get creative, have fun and be safe!  For great FREE ideas check out my post Free Summer Fun for Kids

Free Summer Fun for Kids

Are you looking for FREE ways to keep your kids busy this summer.  Here are some great ideas that may help you through these long, hot summer months. 
  • Public Library Events - Check out your public library.  Most libraries have summer events that the kids love, like: pet shows, magic shows, family movies and age-appropriate story times. 
  • Go to the Park - Try out a different playground/park whenever you can.  You may find a new family favorite.  Take bikes, bubbles and pack up some snacks or a lunch for a day that will surely wear the kids out.
  • Movie Nights - Break out your DVDs/Blu-Ray Disks, pop up some popcorn, grab a few candy bars for the sale bin at the grocery store and lay out a blanket on the living room floor.  You are all set.  If you and your kids are tired of the same old movies, try Netflix.  They have great trial-offers for free and inexpensive monthly plans too!
  • Game Night - Dust off those board games and have some good old fashioned family fun. It's a great way for everyone to stay connected and have fun.  If your family wants a new game to play, ask a neighbor to swap board games with you for the night.
  • BBQ Fun  - What is summer without a good, ole cook-out?  Let your hubby grill up some burgers and dogs while you and the kids have fun in the backyard.  Blow bubbles, run through the sprinkler, play volleyball...the options are only limited to what's in your garage.
  • Head to the Beach - If you are blessed to live near the beach, pack up the sunscreen, sand pails & shovels and a picnic lunch for a fun, sun-filled day. 
  • Find more summer fun ideas in my post Inexpensive Summer Fun for Kids.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Time to Get Healthy!

Three kids and an undisclosed amount of weight later, I realize it's time for me to get real and get healthy.  I'm not only doing it for myself but for my kids.  Being a stay-at-home mom can make you lose yourself in the mommy-role.  When you make or get food, it's what the kids want, which is more chicken nuggets and french fries than most of us would like to admit.  

We don't put ourselves on the top of your priority list and for most of us, that's hard to do.  We think it's selfish or worry that others will think it's selfish.  Even though we think we are taking care of ourselves, if you break it down, you are just taking care of your kids.  It's time for a change!  I need to take care of myself.  If I don't take care of myself, who will be around for my kids? 

With a recent medical problem, I had my ah-ha moment and decided to get serious this time.  I began doing research (some done in the past) and really thought about how my head works and how my life is.  After checking out my options I decided to sign-up for Weight Watchers online.  I'm still figuring things out but am allowing myself time to do so.  I am also making sure that I make realistic, small goals and work my way to my ideal weight.  And my ideal weight is not the ridiculous recommended weight based on my height and age but, a healthy weight.

I have a long way to go and I'm nervous with lots of questions.  My biggest challenge will be making this new meal plan work with my family.  But, I hope that this change will make a healthier me, make me a better role model for my kids, give me the energy I need to keep up with my kids and help my family get healthier too.  I look forward to this new beginning and plan to share the knowledge I learn along the way with all of you. 

Please share with me:  
  • Have you tried something to help you be a healthier you?  Did it work? 
  • How did you stay motivated? 
*You can sign-up for free at Weight Watchers Online, now through June 18, 2011 with a 3 month plan.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Printable House Rules

As part of starting a Token Reward System for my kids, I was searching the web for a fun way to display our House Rules.  I couldn't find anything that I liked.  For that reason, I decided to make something of my own.  Then, I figured if I was looking for a House Rules template, other people probably were too.  So I am sharing it with you.  To download a copy of my House Rules template click here.  Hope this helps you as much as it has helped me.   

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Token Reward System

As most parents know, or will soon find out, we often have to change how we discipline our kids.  Children try to test their limits every now and then, or get new video game consoles we have to regulate, etc.  Well, I have reached that point again when I need to try something new.  I remember discussing a Token Economy in one of Psychology college courses and thought it might be a great way teach my children about earning privleges.  It is also a great tool for teachers to use to help enforce class rules.

I hit the keyboard and right away found a PDF file all about building a Token Economy.  The file includes checklists and ideas on how to get your own Token Reward System started.  So, I decided to try it out with my kids.

I went to the store today and picked up a 2-pack of medium Ziploc Twist 'n Loc storage containers for my two oldest kids and wrote their names on them with a permanent marker.  My husband had 200 old plastic poker chips that he had never used stashed in the garage that I designated for the tokens.  I am keeping all the undistributed tokens in a plastic storage container I already have and labeled it as the Bank.  I am going to keep the Bank stored where the kids cannot reach it, just in case they try to get clever and snag tokens on the sly. 

Next, I plan to create charts to display listing:
  • Rules - Complete Chores, Be Honest, No Back-Talking and Do As You are Told.
  • Token Values - Completed Chores - 2 tokens, Honesty - 1 token, etc.
  • Rewards - 10 minutes TV time - 1 token, 5 minutes of Video Games - 1 token, etc.
I will also keep a running tally of how many tokens they each have and post it on our dry erase board on the fridge.

I am hoping this will encourage good behavior just in time for summer.  If not, I'll have to try something else and don't worry I'll blog about it of course.   

Monday, May 16, 2011

Insect Repellents for Your Family

For a few years there has been talk of the main ingredient of most insect repellents, DEET, being unsafe especially for children.  People began turning to natural insect repellents that didn't contain chemicals.  Now you can find both natural and DEET insect repellents at the stores like Walmart.  So, it can be a bit confusing as to which one to get.  With a family camping trip coming up, I decided to do some research on DEET to help me find the best insect repellent for my family.

DEET is the active ingredient in a lot insect repellents.  It's applied to human skin to repel insects, not kill them.  According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, DEET is not a health concern as long as insect repellents containing DEET are used by following the label's directions and consumers take proper precautions like:
  • Do not apply to open wounds, cuts or irritated skin.
  • Do not apply to children's hands or near their mouths and eyes.
  • Do not allow children to handle insect repellents.
  • Only used repellent on exposed skin and/or clothing (not under clothing).
  • Only use the amount needed and not more.
  • When you go indoors, wash off repellent with soap and water.
  • Do not spray indoors.
  • Spray repellent on hands and apply to face.  Do not spray directly on face.
During my search I read a few articles that state that insect repellents with DEET should not be used on children under the age of 2 months old.  Also, it is recommended that no more than 30% of DEET be used on children.  The amount of DEET does not make a repellent more effective but, it does make it last longer.  So, if you will only be outside for a few hours you can use a product with a lower percentage of DEET.  Insect repellents can always be reapplied but, do read the labels instructions for more information. 

Natural repellents do not contain chemicals like DEET.  However, they do not last as long and leave a greasy layer on your skin that may be tempting to wipe off.   Natural repellents tend to use oil of eucalyptus but the labels read that it should not be used on children under the age of 3 years. 

With this information in hand, it was time for me to decide whether to go with a natural insect repellent or one with DEET.  Since I have young children (including a 2 year old), I thought it best to try a repellent with a low percentage of DEET. 

After reading the reviews on insect repellents on ConsumerSearch.com, I decided that I would try OFF! Family Care Smooth & Dry.  It has 15% of DEET, which is in the recommended safety range for children.  It dries quickly, doesn't feel greasy and it is long-lasting (about 8 hours).  However, since it contains DEET, we'll have to make sure to wash it off once we go indoors.  Also, it can damage synthetic materials.  With these things in mind I do still believe this is the best choice for our family. 

Saturday, May 14, 2011

How I Organized My Home Office

Do you ever feel overwhelmed by your office space?  I did!  Piles of papers everywhere, lost reminders and missing bills.  I got sick of it and finally organized our home office.  It took some time and a lot of sorting but, it was so worth it. 

We used to have a computer desk with a hutch but, it just gave us a lot of places to pile stuff.  So, we now have a desk without a hutch.  Our new desk has a keyboard drawer, file drawer, a small drawer and a deep drawer.  We also have a matching file chest.  However, with all the paperwork we wished to keep and organize, all that space wouldn't be enough.  So, we pulled up a two-drawer black, metal file cabinet we had in the basement.  With these items I was able to give everything a place.

How I Did It
  1. In the file chest, I filled hanging folders with all the paperwork we don't need access to regularly.  On top of it I have a magazine holder with all our current magazines.  (I recycled all our outdated and unwanted magazines. )
  2. I put the black file cabinet in a corner of the room with the desk right next to it.  Since it's between the desk and the wall, it's not as noticeable.  But this also gives me a place for the printer to sit.
  3. In the top drawer of the black file cabinet I have hanging folders for all our monthly bills: Loans, Auto Insurance, Credit Cards, Utilities, etc.  This way it's easy for me to file them away after I pay them.  I also keep the computer paper in this drawer.
  4. The bottom drawer of the black cabinet is used for things we need and receive less often like Medical Bills, Community Information, Home Maintenance Contacts, etc.
  5. On top of our desk is the computer monitor, a small desk lamp, the computer's mouse and a stacked file folder holder.  In the holder I have decorative file folders labeled "To Do", "File" and "Bills".  I check these folders each day. 
  6. In the desk I keep files for each child including their school information, sports info, etc.  I also keep a couple of pens, my checkbook, stamps, etc.
  7. Since I no longer have the hutch to hang things on, I purchased a wood framed cork board that I hung next to the desk.  On it I pin game schedules, school reminders, etc.
One of the most important steps I took was tossing out junk mail before it had the chance to land on a counter or desk.  Piles of papers and mail have always been the biggest source of clutter at our house.  But now everything we need to keep has a place to go.  So there is no excuse for overwhelming piles of paper work to be laying around our house.  Our office finally looks like it belongs to two adults instead of looking like it belongs in a dorm room.


Toy Story Party Cookies

A great dessert idea for a Toy Story party are these cute pig cookies that look like Ham from the Toy Story movies.  The idea is from Taste of Home and you can find the recipe for their Cute Pig Cookies by clicking here

You can make it a little easier on yourself by up buying ready-to-bake cookies and then decorate them as directed in the recipe.  These cookies are also a great idea for a farm themed party.  Any way you make them and whatever you choose to make them for, they are tons of fun and the kids will love them!  

*Find more Toy Story party ideas here.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Baby Registry Checklists

Whether you are expecting your first, second or even your third child, you most likely need need a checklist to help you figure our or remind you of the things you need to get before your baby comes.  Baby Registry Checklists aren't only for baby shower registries, they are a great tools to help you keep track of what you need for your new bundle of joy.  There are lots of great printable checklists from tons of different sites.  However, I believe these to be the best of the best:
  • In my opinion, Target.com has the best list out there.  They provide a downloadable PDF Registry Checklist.  Target also offers a Baby Welcome Kit (available at stores only).
  • BabiesRUs also has a downloadable "Must-Haves" Registry Checklist.  It's cleverly categorized and very detailed.  They also have an online version of the list with links for each subcategory, making it easy to find things on their website.
  • If the guides above are too overwhelming, try out Baby Center's simpler Baby Registry Checklist.  Baby Center also has a wealth of parenting information for parents and parents-to-be.  I visit their site just about every week for information on everything from kids health and milestones to recipes and crafts.
Now, don't feel obligated to get everything on these checklists.  They are guides to help you along your way to welcoming your newest addition to your family.  Congratulations and happy shopping! 

Monday, May 9, 2011

Best Baby Monitor

My sister is expecting a baby and asked me to research the best baby monitors out on the market today.  So I began my search on Consumer Search, a free website with expert reviews on everything from electronics to the family pet.  Under their baby monitor section, Consumer Search lists the top four rated baby monitors (and the runner-ups) with photos, prices, specs and more.  Then I looked on Target and Walmart websites to read reviews from real parents who have already tried them out.  I was able to narrow down the selection based on my sister's needs and the reviews to two.

My top two recommendations to my sister for baby monitors were the Philips Avent SCD510 DECT Baby Monitor and the Sony Baby Call Nursery Monitor NTM-910.  The Avent digital monitor is great for families in apartments/townhouses or tech savvy families with wireless Internet, cordless phones, etc because it doesn't get inference from these devices.  However, the price tag is hefty at about $100.  For a much less cost, you can pick up the Sony Baby Call.  With a great price around $40, you save big but, it is an analog monitor which can mean more inference.  My sister has chosen to try the Sony out first and return it if it doesn't work for her.  If that's the case, she will purchase the Avent baby monitor.

To help you find the baby monitor that is best for your family, click here.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

10 Best Web Sites to Save You Money

I've been looking into ways to save our family money to help diminish our debt.  So, I went on my search and found an article on TLC's website called 10 Best Web Sites to Save You Money.  Of course, I had to check it out right away.

The article suggests several sites to help you save money on anything from clothes to monthly bills.  A lot of great ideas and terrific websites.  The one they suggest more than once is Groupon.  Groupon is a website that helps you find deals in your area for local stores and entertainment.  Click here to read the article and find out more.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Mother's Day Gift Ideas

Mother's Day is just around the corner and if you haven't gotten the moms in your life a gift, you better hop to it.  Moms can be some of the most difficult people to shop for.  Sure you may not think so but, you probably also think all moms love anything to do with cleaning or something for the house.  And you would most likely be wrong.

When you get a Mother's Day gift for someone, it should be for her!  Don't buy her a blender, vacuum or a new shower curtain.  Those are things for your house and family.  Buy her something like a gift card to the spa or her favorite craft store.  Even if a mom says she doesn't need or want anything, give her something anyway.  For more ideas check out these sites:

Mother's Day Gift Ideas

Creative Gift Idea

I showed you the gifts I put together for my first graders teacher with Gift for Teacher or Mom.  I also made gifts for my preschooler's teachers.  I got the idea for their gifts from when I was searching the internet for Gift Ideas for Teachers.

I decided to make my preschooler's teachers decorative canvas tote bags.  He has three preschool teachers and I was able to find a 3-pack of brightly colored canvas totes at Walmart.  I had decorative and alphabet iron-ons at home, so I didn't need to buy those.  I also grabbed a few things to fill the bags:  designer notebook, designer planner, 2 nice pens and a bag of Hershey's Bliss chocolates.

I put the words HOPE, LOVE and JOY on the bags with iron-on velvet letters.  I surrounded each word with relative and colorful iron-on images.  I chose these words because these particular preschool teachers have taught our two oldest children over the last four years and during this time they have brought hope, love and joy into our children's lives.  It only seemed fitting to tell them so.

My son and I gave his teachers their gifts today in celebration of Teacher Appreciation week.  However, this is a creative and fun craft or gift idea for anyone and any occassion.  I had fun making them and the teachers loved them.

Gift for Teacher or Mom

I love putting together gifts for my kids' teachers to show them how much our family appreciates all they do for our kids.  Since this week is Teacher Appreciation week I got on the ball and came up with some cute ideas for gifts.

I decided to make a gift basket for my first graders main/homeroom teacher.  I layered a couple of floral print sheets of tissue paper in the basket and bunched a couple sheets up at the bottom.  In the basket I put a designer notebook, designer planner, 2 nice pens and a bag of Hershey's Bliss chocolates.  I topped it off with a thank you card in the front. 

This would also be a great gift idea for Mother's Day.  You can fill the basket with all your mom's favorite things!

For the bunch of teachers that my first grader encounters throughout the week, we made 3 dozen muffins.  I bought the Martha White's Muffin Mix in chocolate chip, blueberry and mixed berry flavors.  You only need a 1/2 cup of milk for each package.  Super simple and fairly inexpensive.  I piled the muffins into a disposable cake pan lined with wax paper and covered with a lid.  (You can dress up the cake pan by putting colorful tissue paper instead of or under the wax paper.)  On top of the lid I taped a thank you card addressed to all the elementary school teachers.  Inside the card I listed the muffin flavors. 

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Easy Veggie Pasta Dish

I have recently decided to get more healthy with our dinners, whether my kids and husband, like it or not.  My first attempt at incorporating more veggies into our dinners was a very easy Veggie Pasta Dish I made last night.

  • 1/2 Box of Barilla's Mini Pene Pasta
  • 1 Handful of Grape Tomatoes
  • 1/2 Asparagus Bunch
  • 1 Handful of Black Olives
  • Balsamic Vinegar
  • 3-4 Cloves of Garlic
  • Oregano
  • Parsley
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Olive Oil
  • Butter
  • Grated/Shredded Parmesan Cheese
  1. Cook pasta as directed, saving a couple of ladle fulls of pasta water.
  2. While pasta is cooking, coat a large skillet with olive oil and tab of butter and heat on medium to medium-high.
  3. Add crushed garlic cloves to skillet.
  4. Wash and cut tomatoes, asparagus and black olives.  Then add to skillet.
  5. Add herbs, spices and Balsamic vinegar to your liking.
  6. Once pasta is done at to skillet.  Add pasta water as needed.
  7. Before removing from skillet, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.