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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Tidy Tuesday - Important papers

I'm not going to tell you anything novel or new today but little reminders now and then can jog our memory and strengthen our resolve to get things done.  Even though we know we should keep our important papers in a safe place and be able to put our finger on any particular paper at a moment's notice, it's easy to procrastinate and forget where something is at the exact time we need it.  So, this is one of those friendly reminders  :)

Do you know where everyone's birth certificates are?  Social Security cards?  All past tax returns?  Immunization records and medical records?  Insurance information?  Mortgage papers?  Other important papers?  Do you have them in a safe place?  Can you access it?  Do you have copies?

I keep copies of important papers in sheet protectors in a three ring binder.  The originals are in a fire-proof safe in a (hopefully) safe place.  I probably should have a safe deposit box at the bank too.  All former tax returns are in the file cabinet, well labeled.  So far, I haven't had any trouble locating any records when kids have asked for copies of them.  When they borrow something, I take out the sheet protector where the paper is kept and leave it out on the kitchen counter until it is returned.

With school starting soon, you're going to need all those immunization records and medical records for your kid's school and sports programs.  If you haven't gathered them all in one place, this is the perfect time to find them and organize them.  There are many organizational systems online and in books so you should be able to find one that will fit your needs.  I'm not going to show you mine because it's very simple and not especially attractive  :)  But, it works for me!  You can do the same!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Why do kids ask "Why?"

Does the following scenario sound familiar?

Mom, "Put on your shoes because we're leaving."
Junior, "Why?"
Mom, "Because we're going to the grocery store."
Junior, "Why?"
Mom, "Because we need food."
Junior, "Why?"
Mom, getting exasperated, "Because I have to make dinner."
Junior, "Why?"
Mom, really frustrated now,"BECAUSE I SAID SO!"

Why, Mommy?
Why, you wonder, why does he drive me so crazy!?  Believe it or not, Junior isn't trying to drive you insane.  He's going through a totally normal phase of learning how to communicate.  It's his way of trying to carry on a dialogue with you and learn about his world.

Does that mean that you have to answer every "why" or you'll stunt his development?  No, of course not.  You can do one of several things, depending on the situation.

When it seems like he's really curious about something (like, where do thunder and lightning come from?), by all means, answer to the best of your knowledge and explore the subject with him so he understands. 

When it's just repetitive questioning, turn it around and ask HIM why do you think ...  This also encourages conversation and thinking skills.

When you're frazzled and/or in a hurry, answer the first time and when he repeats, just honestly tell him that you aren't going to talk about it any more right now.  Try not to use this one too often but at least you stop yourself from blowing up at him.

It may seem like kids are out to drive us crazy but they really aren't.  They will grow out of this stage.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Saturday is a special day...

I often have a song running through my head (does anyone else have that?) and this morning I woke up and my brain was singing a children's favorite, "Saturday is a special day. It's the day we get ready for Sunday."  So, I thought, why not?  I'll talk about Saturday!

Most families have at least a block of time together on Saturday and what better use of that time than to work together and make your home beautiful, catch up with laundry and other chores, and see that your kitchen is full of good things to eat.  If everyone works together, the jobs don't have to take all day.  It's nice to set aside one day a week to take care of all those pesky little tasks and be able to start a new week, fresh and ready to take on the world.

So, rise and shine!  The day has begun and if you hurry, you'll have time to do something fun this afternoon to reward your family for all their help and cooperation  :)  (I can dream, can't I?)

Don't be so hard on yourself!

When you look in the mirror, what do you see?  When someone gives you a compliment, do you graciously thank them or make excuses?  Why are we so hard on ourselves?  It seems so natural to compare our perceived flaws with other women's perceived perfection.  How unrealistic is that?!  And yet we still do it.

Probably a lot can be blamed on the media.  Rarely are real women portrayed in movies, tv or magazines.  Anyone can look great when they're airbrushed.  Anyone can look amazing when a professional make up artist and hair dresser do their magic, followed by a fashion stylist with an unlimited budget.

Let's get real.  After all, that's what we are...real women, moms, sisters, daughters, aunts.  We have real limitations and real strengths.  We are the whole package...not two dimensional dolls.  If we have stretch marks, we should embrace them as a badge of honor.  When we start getting fine lines and wrinkles, we earned them (Boy, did we earn them!).  Our friends and family love us for who we are.  It may be hard but maybe we should learn to accept ourselves for who we are too, flaws and all.

So...don't be so hard on yourself!  Perfection doesn't exist.  Just never stop trying and be the best you possible!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Thrifty Thursday - The Penny Jar

"A penny saved is a penny earned."  We've all heard that but do we believe it?  Why not try a little experiment?  From now to the beginning of December, put all loose change and found money in a jar and don't break into it until December 1st.  Then gather the kids around and have a counting party.  (Kids LOVE doing this!)  Use this money for a special Christmas treat or family activity (depending on the amount).  You don't have much time this year (only 5 months) but if you start at the beginning of each year, the money adds up quickly.

My family started doing this years ago when my oldest kids realized the value of those shiny coins.  Whenever someone found a dime or penny on the street, the other ones would whine and complain that they saw it first, it's not fair etc... So, we made a rule that all money found would go into a jar and when we cashed it in, the money would go towards something the whole family can enjoy.  Some years we had as much as $200+  in that gallon jar.  It was pretty exciting to count it out and see how much we had.  (ok, so it didn't take much to get excited at our house!)

One of my daughters took the jar idea one step further.  When she and her future husband got engaged they set up a "love fund" jar.  Again, all loose change and found money went into their jar, with the proceeds going towards their wedding/reception.  They made a game out of going places and looking for coins dropped on the floor, in malls, restaurants, or wherever they went.  I kept my eye out for stray coins and added loose change too.  When they got married, they had accumulated over $500 in their jar.  Not bad for something so painless and easy.

I hope you see by this experiment that the saying is true..."A penny saved is a penny earned!"  Try it!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

What's cooking? Wednesday - Surprise Spice Cake

This cake is also called Tomato Soup Cake and yes, it has a can of tomato soup in it.  Sounds awful, doesn't it?  Try it and see what your family thinks.  You might be surprised  :)

Surprised Spice Cake aka Tomato Soup Cake

1 1/2 c. flour
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
2 t. cinnamon
1 t. allspice (optional)
1 can (10 3/4 oz) tomato soup, undiluted
1 1/3 c. brown sugar, packed
2 eggs
1/2 c. oil
1 c. uncooked rolled oats
1 c. chocolate chips
powdered sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease (or Pam) a 13 X 9 inch baking pan.
2. In large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and allspice.
3. Add soup, brown sugar, oil and eggs.  Beat until smooth.
4. Stir in rolled oats and chocolate chips.
5. Pour batter into pan.  Bake for 20 -25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
6. Sprinkle top with powdered sugar.
7. Cut into squares

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Tidy Tuesday - Tackling the Toys

Here are just a few random thoughts and ideas about organizing kid's toys.

The toy box - These are the worst containers for holding toys ever!  If you have one, consider using it instead to hold extra blankets or out of season clothes.  Toy boxes are the black hole of a kid's room.

Shelves - Keep shelves and bookcases low to the ground and anchor them to the wall if they're freestanding.  I knew a toddler who received serious and permanent injury because he pulled a bookshelf over onto him.  That kind of accident is tragic and preventable.  Kids don't know any better.  We do.

Containers for toys - Organize toys into categories (Fisher Price Little People, blocks, Lego's, dinosaurs, etc) and store in shallow, sturdy containers, preferably clear or semi-clear and labeled.  Don't use Dollar Store containers for kid's toys.  They aren't sturdy enough to hold up to kid's use and abuse.  Buy strong plastic containers like Rubbermaid.  You won't have to replace them.  Label each container with its contents or attach a picture of what's inside.

Little People
Books - Books are easier for kids to see if you place them face forward in shallow containers too.  That makes it possible for little ones to go through the books without pulling them all off a bookshelf.  Another alternative that I wish I'd thought of, is to attach lengths of clean plastic gutter to a wall (low and reachable, of course) so the books can be face out and easy to see.  I saw that idea on Pinterest and loved it!

Keep everything easy to reach and easy to put away.  The more complicated you make it, the less chance there is that your kids are going to put things away.  We have an extensive Lego collection and many years ago my husband decided to make special shelves for the bricks.  We spent many hours sorting all the Lego's and putting them all in their own plastic bins, each according to its shape, color and size.  It looked amazing...a whole wall of small bins, perfectly organized.  Only problem was, no one wanted to put them back in their little bin after they played with them.  It was a major hassle trying to keep the bricks sorted.  We gave up on that and went back to storing them in large shallow containers so the kids could see them easy AND put them away quickly.  Lesson learned.

Check out my post Decluttering - The kid's room  for ideas on how to trim down the toys to a manageable amount.

Monday, July 23, 2012


Secure in her mother's arms
Having a sense of security is an important basic need for everyone.  We all want to be secure in our homes, our relationships and in our life experiences.  Think of a newborn baby.   She is most comfortable being swaddled or snugly wrapped and held close.  Why?  Because she feels warm and loved and secure.  As Baby gets older, she still needs to feel that sense of security if she is going to venture beyond Mommy's lap.  She needs to know that Mommy will be there for her and will protect her from danger, either real or imagined. 

One of our responsibilities as mothers is to provide that secure family environment where our kids can feel safe and loved.  We can only protect them so long before they have to go out into the world and experience the challenges and opportunities that are there for them to learn from.  We can't shield them from many things but we can be available to encourage and comfort and support them.  Our homes can truly be a refuge from the cares of the world for our family.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Options and choices

Which would you told what to do or be given a choice of what to do?  If you are like most people, you would like to have a choice and children are no exception.  True, there are many times when we can't let our children do what they want but even then there are choices that can be made.  For example, say it's bedtime and your daughter doesn't want to go to bed.  First, you don't ask her if she wants to go to bed because there isn't another option.  But, you can still give her the choice of wearing the Sponge Bob jammies or the Princess jammies.   Or, if you all have to go to Great Aunt Lavinia's house, let your children choose what activities and books to bring to keep them from absolute boredom :)   Your toddler wants to get dressed all by himself?  Pick out 2 or 3 shirts and pants and let him choose between them.

If you think about it, you can use this technique almost anywhere and anytime.  Give your children options wherever possible but make those options ones that you are comfortable with.  When you do this,  you are helping your children learn decision making skills and letting them feel in control of their world.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Meltdown averted :)

Yesterday I took L and E to the local Children's Museum.  We had a wonderful time exploring and playing with all the exhibits and activities...that is until about 15 minutes before it was time to go home.  L said she wanted to go to a different part of the museum and I told her that I was sorry but we didn't have time because we had to leave in 15 minutes.  Well, she sat down on the floor, took a big breath and was about to create a little scene so I knelt down beside her and quietly told her that if she started crying, we were leaving immediately.  She looked surprised, got up and went back to playing nicely until it was time to leave.   Whew!  A  mini crisis averted.

It isn't always that easy but you can often defuse a potential explosion if you are quick to cut if off before it has a chance to fully develop.  Calm and quiet speak louder than tense and angry.  Oh, and be prepared to follow through with what you say.  I was quite ready to take her outside if she ignored me  and she knew it.  We had a great time the rest of the day.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Thrifty Thursday - Basic skills

When I was a young mother, I made most of my kid's clothes.  My friends did the same and we weren't in the minority.  Schools taught home economics and girls graduated from high school knowing how to sew and how to cook from scratch, whether they wanted to or not.  It was part of the required school curriculum, just as auto shop and wood shop were required for the boys.  I know that that is considered sexist today but those are still worthwhile skills to know...for all kids.  I know  I wish I'd had the option to take auto shop and wood shop back then!  

Even though those classes aren't required in the public schools any more, doesn't mean that your children don't need to learn them.  And while sewing your own clothes is no longer cost effective (it's less expensive to buy most clothes), most people at one time or another need to know how to sew a hem, or mend a rip or replace buttons.  Do your teenagers know how to do that?  It might be a worthwhile summer project  :)

His daddy taught him well!
And cooking...the first thing I learned how to make in junior high was biscuits.  Not from Bisquick or Krusteaz but from flour, shortening, salt and milk.  How novel!  There are a few basic things kids should know how to make before they venture out into the world on their own.  Let's meat and poultry so no one dies from food poisoning,  how to cook different veggies (we want them to be healthy, right?), making different kinds of eggs, cooking pasta, rice and potatoes, and of course, cakes, cookies and pies.  Unlike sewing, it's still cheaper to make meals from scratch than it is to buy them frozen or microwaveable or from a restaurant.  Some might even say they taste better too!

You will be giving your children (both boys and girls) a great gift if you teach them basic home economics and maintenance skills as they are growing up.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

What's cooking? Wednesday - Mexi Bowls

I am sensing a trend in my cooking posts...I like making different kinds of bowls.  I've made Sushi bowls, Pasta salad bowls, Hawaiian Haystacks (in bowls) and today I made Mexi bowls.  What's so special about bowls?  Well, they are very flexible (if you have picky people to feed), they are versatile (you can vary the ingredients you use), they don't require exact measurements, they're great for large groups and of course they are quick, easy and inexpensive. 

Mexi Bowls - serves 4

about 4 c. cooked rice (I used brown but you can use white or Spanish rice)
about 1 lb of meat (I used shredded beef but you can use sliced chicken or ground hamburger seasoned with Taco seasoning)
about 1/2 lb cheddar cheese, grated
any or all of the following -
chopped tomatoes
chopped green onion
frozen corn, thawed
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
chopped green pepper
diced olives
chopped avocado or guacamole
sour cream
tortilla chips

Starting with the rice, layer ingredients or mix together in individual bowls.  Top with guacamole, sour cream, a sprinkle of tortilla chips and/or salsa.   Enjoy. 

L didn't want anything touching and she didn't want rice.  No problem!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Tidy Tuesday - The Garage

I wonder why garages are called garages.  How about Limbo?  or Junk's final resting place?  or The Black Hole?  I suppose there are people who actually use their garages for their cars but by the looks of the open garages I drive by, a home for an automobile is rare.

Today I ventured into my garage with the intent to go through the contents, throw away and get rid of stuff, organize stuff and make room for...more stuff  :)  It's just amazing what lurks in the dark corners of the garage...boxes that haven't been touched since our last move 13 years ago (my husband's), dead computer parts (my husband's), rusting building supplies (my husband's), and unused office equipment (guess whose?)  Those are the things I can't do anything about.  :(  But I can do something about the unused toys and dolls, the fake Christmas tree, and the boxes of old household stuff...all of which I got rid of.  I sorted through the remaining boxes, combined and condensed the stuff I decided to keep and labeled everything so I know where things are. Then I swept off the shelves and the floor.  I cleared out about 30 linear feet of shelf space and have no intention of filling those shelves with anything except real, honest to goodness good stuff.  I'm still not done.  There are boxes of things that I'm not sure what to do with but I'll work on that tomorrow.  The Black Hole looks much better already, even though if I had my way, I'd get rid of a whole lot more.  Oh well...

Monday, July 16, 2012

Kids aren't miniature adults!

Little imp!
Children aren't just little adults.  Sure, we all know that but how many times do you see people treat them as they would an adult?  Children need more sleep than adults.  So, why do parents keep their kids up late, forgo naps and then wonder why their kids are so unmanageable?  Children need well balanced, healthy meals to give their bodies the nutrients they need to grow.  So, why do parents feed their kids junk food?  Children are trusting.  So, why do people take advantage of that trust?  Children's brains take time to develop so why try to reason with them as an adult?  Children have a lot of energy.  Why do people expect them to be able to sit still for long periods of time (or even short periods of time)?  And let's talk about clothes.  Why do some moms dress children to look like little adults (and not very modest ones at that!)?  

Are your expectations realistic?  Please don't rush your kids.  Enjoy them and the things they do.  Let them be children and they will grow into well adjusted adults when the time is right. 

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Look for the good

It's so easy to dwell on the negatives in our lives....the kid's misbehavior, the insensitive husband, the lack of sleep or money or time or all of the above,  the daily monotony, the job or lack of one,  health problems etc.  But, what good does it to focus and concentrate on the bad things or frustrating things of which we have little or no control?  There is also much good in our lives.  There is a saying that if you look for the bad you'll find it and also, if you look for the good you'll find it.  Which makes you happier?  Which one makes you feel better?  We each have a choice of what we want to focus on.

We all have difficulties and they need to be dealt with but let's not let the hard stuff consume us to the point that we miss the beautiful and sweet tender moments that give life meaning.  Sure, the kids misbehave but doesn't your heart melt when they put their arms around you and tell you that they love you?  Don't you just love to see them playing nicely and showing genuine concern for others?  Look for those moments.  My bet is that they're more frequent than we notice.   The same is true with our husbands.  Frustrating?  Absolutely!  Trying their best?  sigh...yes.

It's the beginning of a new week.  Why don't you try a little experiment and look for the good all around you...maybe even write it down.  Acknowledge your children and spouse when they do something nice or helpful or caring.  Everyone likes to be noticed in a good way.  See if it makes a difference in your family this week.  It can't hurt  :)

Saturday, July 14, 2012

20 ways to build family unity

Developing a strong, united family bond is so important in this crazy world of ours.  If our children don't find acceptance and love at home, they will look elsewhere for it.  Here are some ideas to help build unity within the family.

1. Pray together as a family and for the family every day.
2. Eat at least one meal together daily.
3. Never compare children.
4. Play board games together.
5. Involve everyone in decision making.
6. Find opportunities to serve others.
7. Take up activities that can be done as a hiking, gardening, fishing, frisbee throwing, music
8. Read books out loud to your children every day.
9. Support each other.
10. Develop traditions unique to your family.
11. Praise each member of the family often.
12. Encourage cooperation between children.
13. Rotate chores so everyone learns how to do everything.
14. Set aside time regularly to be together...preferably without electronics  :)
15. Work on a family project.
16. Do not allow belittling, name calling nor teasing between siblings.
17. Communicate.
18. Listen.  Listen.  Listen.
19. Remind them that they are an important part of the family often.
20. Show your love by the way you act.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Girls need their moms to be moms

Some moms think that the only way they can develop a good relationship with their teenage daughters is to dress and act like one too.  I'm sure you've seen them at the mall and at school functions...they're the women in their late 30's or 40's (or heaven forbid, older) who look glaringly out of place in their outfits from Aeropostale or Hollister, who are hanging around with a group of teenagers (hopefully one of them is their daughter!).

Here's a news flash - Girls need their moms to be moms first.  They have enough friends but they only have one mom, and that's you.  Of course, you should keep up with what your daughter and her friends are wearing, listening to, reading and doing but as a bystander, not an active participant! 

If you take on the role of best friend, who does that leave to provide the stability, security, guidance and discipline for your children?  Your husband?  That's not really fair.  Your daughter?  That's just not right either.  It's your job to provide those things for your daughters and sons too.

That's not to say that you have to dress like a frumpy old lady but remember that you have left the teenage years behind and it's someone else's turn to be the kid.  You can still dress up to date and trendy if you want but please stay away from your daughter's clothes!

You don't need to act like a teenager to relate to one.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Thrifty Thursday - Ever learning

It always surprised me the number of moms who told me that they wished they could learn a new skill or hobby or --- but couldn't because they couldn't afford classes or get babysitters, or their kids were too young or some other reason.  True, there are some things that have to be taught by qualified instructors and have to be hands-on (like sky diving).  But, there are so many other things that anyone can learn in the privacy of their own home, and don't cost anything, or very little.  With books, mentors, online tutorials and instructions, there is no reason why you shouldn't continue to grow and expand your knowledge and skills.  You have many responsibilities as a mom but you also are a woman who has a mind and abilities, and exploring and developing these will only make you a more well rounded individual.  So, what are some things you want to learn about?  Do you want to improve your homemaking skills?  Do you want to learn more about politics or the stock market?  Do you want to learn photography or other creative skills?   Do you want to learn woodworking and carpentry?  (I do!)  Do you want to improve your health and fitness? You can do it.  Go to the library.  Look online.  Ask your friends.  And then practice, practice, practice.  Your first attempts might not be the greatest but keep at it.

When I was a young mom, I wanted to learn how to do smocking (little girl's smocked dresses were very popular at the time and very expensive), but we didn't have any extra money for classes so I got a book and did the "trial and error" thing.  I practiced with scraps of material, then moved up to making a bonnet and then a baby dress and by then I was comfortable with the technique and could follow patterns.  My friends were amazed that I learned it on my own but really, anyone could have done the same.  You don't have to have someone stand over you and tell you what to do.

Currently, I want to learn how to build things.  I've been practicing with my husband's circular saw and I already know how to use his drill and some of his other power tools so I'm getting pretty close to trying something real.  I love and have my eye on some of her projects.  Wish me luck!

Now, it's your turn to learn something new too!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

What's cooking? Wednesday - Dutch Babies

Despite the odd name, this is a really great recipe.  And, it meets my most important qualifications - it's quick, easy and cheap.  Try it for a brunch, light lunch or dinner.  My kids love it!

Dutch Babies

1/4 c. butter
Put butter in 9 or 10 inch pie plate or oven-proof frying pan (cast iron is best).  Place pan in 425 degree oven until butter melts and gets bubbly. 

While butter is melting, combine the following -
3 eggs
1 1/2 c. milk
6 T. sugar
3/4 c. flour
1/4 t. salt

Beat ingredients until smooth.
Remove pan from oven and immediately pour egg mixture all at once in the hot pan.
Return pan to oven and bake in 425 degree oven for 30 minutes.
When done, sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve with fresh fruit. 
I picked these berries from my garden this afternoon! 

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Tidy Tuesday - Board games

 Board games can be a real pain to keep organized.  They come in flimsy boxes that fall apart, and the pieces easily get lost.  So, then you end up with a bunch of game boxes that don't stack well any more and you can't find the pieces and the instructions are nowhere to be found.

Our family went through the above frustrations with our large collection of games.  It wasn't a pretty sight...until we finally decided to throw away the boxes and organize the games by category and put them in large Rubbermaid containers.  If the instructions were printed on the inside of the cardboard box, we cut them out and added them to the container.  Small pieces were put in Ziploc bags or in smaller plastic containers.  Now all the games stack neatly on shelves, the pieces are together and the games are easy to get to.  So easy.  Why didn't we do it sooner!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Parenting styles

One of the beauties of child rearing is that there is not one set way of doing it.  What works great for you and your family might be totally different from your neighbor's way of doing things but as long as you are both raising well adjusted, healthy children, then both ways are the right ways.  When you consider all the different combinations of personalities we have, it only makes sense that there should be an equally large variety of parenting styles.

When I was raising my children, there was a very popular parenting book that many of my friends were reading and applying the principles to their families.  I read the book and couldn't relate to the author's style nor her ideas.   She often related stories about trips to Europe and Mexico with the children and the adventures they had at their mountain retreat.  Her idea of teenage problems included what kind of car to buy her 16 year old.  I just could not relate to that!  Our big adventures involved car trips to the nearby beaches and local attractions.  As for cars for 16 year olds, I didn't even want the kids to be driving at that age, let alone having their own car!  So, I gave that book to a grateful neighbor and watched as my friends first struggled with implementing the suggestions this author gave, even though they didn't have the resources to do it, and then going back to what worked for them.

My family is definitely unique!
As I've said before, there are a few key principles that all parents need to teach their children, but the way they teach them is an individual family matter.  Don't think that because you don't have unlimited resources that you are at a disadvantage.  Personally, I think kids do better when they don't have unlimited resources.  Your family is unique.  Do the best you can with what you can.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Beams and Motes

The story of beams and motes is found in the New Testament, Matthew 7:3-5.  To paraphrase, the question is asked, "Why do you notice the mote in your brother's eye and not notice the beam in your own eye?"  "First get rid of the beam in your eye and then worry about the mote in your brother's eye."  A beam refers to a large wooden beam, the kind used to build houses.  A mote is a tiny speck or splinter.

How often do we spend our time worrying about things that don't really matter?   How often do we ignore the large, important issues in our own lives?  I think it's human nature to turn our focus on small, insignificant problems because we don't want to face the big ones.  Yet it's the big problems that, when acknowledged and corrected, make the greatest impact for good.  You know which problems I'm talking about...the things that are holding you back from being the best person you can be.  It might be a bad habit or doing things a certain way that doesn't work.  It might be an attitude that needs adjusting.  Whatever it is, it doesn't have to define you or confine you. 

Sometimes it helps to step back and try to see the big picture and regain the proper perspective on the issue.  You know the saying..."You can't see the forest for the trees."  The same holds true for the things that we deal with every day.  Often, if we take care of the big things, the little things get taken care of too. 

Friday, July 6, 2012

A memorable Olympics year

Whenever it's the year for the Olympics, my mind always goes back to the most memorable Olympics year in my family's history.

It all started during the Winter Olympics. (I know, I know, it's the Summer Olympics not the Winter Olympics this month)   My three young daughters were enthralled by the figure skaters and sat glued to the television every time a skating event was broadcast.  They imitated those beautiful, graceful skaters, jumping and  twirling around on the floor, imagining themselves as Olympic champions.  And then, my four year old daughter had the bright idea (during naptime of course) to try a triple axel from her bed.  Unfortunately her landing was far from perfect...she broke her leg.   Off to the hospital we went and then to the Orthopedic surgeon's office where she got a lovely bright pink cast from her toes to the top of her leg.  Fast forward thirteen long weeks and the final cast was off and she was back to her usual energetic self.  Maybe she shouldn't have been quite so energetic because while running down the hill next to our home, she tripped and fell and re-broke the same leg in the same place.  Back to the hospital and back to the Orthopedic surgeon's office for another twelve weeks in a cast.  What we didn't know at the time was while we were at the hospital, someone had also come into the emergency room with a case of chicken pox.  Guess who came down with chicken pox ten days later?   Yup...four year old daughter in bright blue cast...and how that cast itched her!  Poor kid!   This is where the domino effect began.  None of the other seven children had had chicken pox so ten days after that, all seven came down with chicken pox too.   You'd think that was enough.  Nooooo...two kids had complications from their chicken pox, one was hospitalized with pneumonia and the other one got a bacterial infection that almost hospitalized him too.  Oh, and the four year old was still itching in her cast.  That was the most crazy month I've ever lived through!  I had one daughter in the hospital who needed me there for her, one very sick boy at home, one daughter scooting around on the floor with her casted leg in the air (the doc said no crutches!) and five kids in various stages of fevers and itching misery.  Whenever I think back on that time, I wonder how we managed to get through it, but we did with only some little chicken pox scars to prove it.

And it all started with Oksana Baiul and the Winter Olympics...

Oh, and in case you're wondering - I do believe in vaccinations for kids.   It was a few years later before the chicken pox vaccine became available to the public.  Funny, my kids didn't need it  :)

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Thrifty Thursday - Spending Fast

The title of this post is intentionally misleading  :)  I'm not talking about fast as an adverb, like to run fast or to eat fast, but as a noun.   Now it has a whole new meaning!  A fast is to go without something, for a higher or greater purpose.  It is often associated with spiritual things but we are going to use it in the context of household finances.

Having a spending fast means going without spending for a specific length of time.  It can help you see where your spending weaknesses are.  It can help you start a new budget program.  It can help you save money for a large purchase or current or anticipated need.

First determine how long you're going to do this fast...for this example I'm going to say one month.  It could be one week or as much as a year (I've never tried that one!).  But by doing it for a month, you're doing it long enough to begin to break certain bad spending habits and form new ones..theoretically  :)

For the duration of the month, only spend money on the things you HAVE to have...things like bills, rent or mortgage, gas for getting to work, basic food etc.  This would also be a good month to start tracking your spending because you're not going to be spending very much.  Try to keep your meals simple and use what you have in your freezer and pantry before replenishing your food supply.  No recreational spending, no entertainment spending, no spending for the kids except for necessities.  Money normally used for these things can be put into savings for use after you have completed your fast.  See how little you spend.

This exercise takes will power and self control but it is a worthwhile challenge to try occasionally.  The nice thing about a spending fast is that it is temporary and you can do just about anything if you know it has an ending.   And at the end, you have something good to show for your effort!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy Fourth of July!

Happy Independence Day!  Do your children know why we celebrate the Fourth of July?  It's not just a day to have a BBQ and watch fireworks.  It represents the day we became a free and independent country, no longer under the rule of another.  Because of the sacrifices made by men and women, we can enjoy freedoms unlike any other country in the world. 

I hope you sit down sometime and talk with your children about this unique holiday.  There are some amazing stories about bravery and courage that your children might not know the bulletproof George Washington.  Don't know it?  Your homework assignment is to Google it and find out  :)  Also, can your kids sing the patriotic songs America the Beautiful, The Star Spangled Banner, America (My Country Tis of Thee)?  Can they recite the Pledge of Allegiance?  These are all part of being an American.  It's our responsibility as Mom's to see that our children truly understand the reason we celebrate the Fourth of July.  Now have fun watching fireworks!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Tidy Tuesday - Input vs Output

One of my daughters is in the process of moving out of her apartment and into a new home as she prepares to get married next month.  Yes, another one!  :)  She and I were talking yesterday about how quickly things accumulate and yet, how hard it is to get rid of things.  Think about the first apartment or house you lived in as an adult.  No matter how small, it was your own space!  You could do with it as you please.  You could decorate it as you please.  The possibilities were endless, even if the money was tight.  You had so much room!  Fast forward to the time you had to move out of that first home.  Where did all the stuff come from?!  It didn't take long, did it?

Those are eye opener times and you vow not to let that happen again and yet, it does.  That's why it's so important to regularly and systematically go through your belongings and decide what you no longer need or use.  If we never brought things home (think garage sales, impulse items, things on sale too good to pass up) we wouldn't have to go through this exercise very often but very few of us have that kind of willpower.  If input exceeds output, there's going to be problems down the road.

Last month, I decided I had enough books and wasn't going to buy any for the rest of the year.  I carefully pulled out books that I knew I wouldn't use again and donated them.  I was so proud of the space I cleared up on the bookshelves.  And then it husband wanted to stop by Half Price Books last week and I followed him in.  Bad me!  So many books were calling to me and their price was so good that I soon had an armful of new and exciting books.  Did I need them?  No.  Was I looking for those particular books?  No.  Would I have even cared about them if I hadn't seem them?  No.  I felt so guilty after I brought them home that I couldn't even enjoy them.  The lesson here?  Don't put yourself in a position where you are going to have a hard time resisting temptation.  That probably applies to things other than books and possessions, but hey, it works!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Principle centered child raising

If I had to describe the type of parenting I try to live by, I think I'd call it principle centered child rearing.  It's impossible to come up with rules to cover EVERYTHING that our children will encounter.  Even if we did know each and every situation our kids would be faced with, the list of rules would be so huge that no one could possibly remember them.  So, we teach principles and we try to live the principles we teach and hope that our children will be strong enough to make the correct choices in whatever situation they're in.  Some basic principles include kindness, honesty, modesty, respect...and as Thumper's Dad said, "If you can't say sumthin nice, don't say nuthin at all."

There are still rules each family has to make but if we combine those rules with the underlying principles behind them, our children will be better equipped to make their own decisions when we're not around to tell them what to do.  And that's what the eventual goal of our parenting see them grow into happy, healthy, principled adults.