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Friday, November 30, 2012

Holiday Stress - Part 5 - Who is Santa?

How do parents tell their kids that Santa isn't real?  I think this is a case where it's possible to worry a little too much.  Of course Santa isn't real.  Neither is Frosty the Snowman, Rudolph the red nosed reindeer or the Grinch.  To a very small child, these characters probably seem real.  This is normal.  Developmentally, they haven't yet learned how to distinguish between imaginary and real.  Just wait a few years and they'll figure it out for themselves just like they figured out that Spiderman and Big Bird aren't real.  They won't be scarred for life.  It's part of the growing up process. 

Something you can do is treat Santa like the holiday figure that he represents.  When you are at the mall with your kids, you can point to him and say, "Oh, look, there's a Santa" (emphasis on the a) just like you might say, "Look, there's a Christmas tree!"  Make Santa part of the holiday experience if you wish but don't overpersonalize him. 

A couple of my kids had a different problem when it came to Santa.  They were really bothered by the idea that a strange man with a white beard and red suit would watch them while they were sleeping and would (basically) break into our home.  Never mind that Santa was supposed to bring them presents, they didn't want anything to do with him.  I had no problem reassuring them that Santa was not a real person and that he wouldn't be coming down our chimney or peek in on their sleep.

All children are different.   Take your cues from them.  If they're afraid of Santa, don't push them.  If they ask if he's real, they're old enough to be answered truthfully.  Remind them though that Santa Claus represents kindness and giving and those are some of the things we should be focusing on during the Christmas season.  They'll be ok.

PS...My mom still signs her Christmas gifts to me as From Santa  :)

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Holiday Stress - Part 4 - Shopping

Unless you are super organized and bought all your Christmas gifts during the year, carefully choosing each item especially for a particular person and getting it on sale (of course), you are faced with one of the most common stresses of the holidays.  I'm talking about fighting the crowds, finding what you want sold out, and not being able to figure out what to buy at all.  I know, you were planning on doing things differently this year but somehow here you are and it's less than a month before Christmas.

Well, it's no use wishing you had more time.  What you need to do is sit down (real soon!), make a list of the people you need to buy gifts for and make a plan.

This is why you don't take children shopping with you  :)
There are better times to go shopping than in the middle of the day on Saturday.  Luckily, most stores have extended hours in the month before Christmas so use that to your advantage.  The best times to shop are early in the morning or late at night.  And you DON'T want to take your kids with you!  Trade babysitting with another mother or have your husband sit with the children.  This is a must!

Did you remember to bring your list?  Do you have your credit card or money?  Can't forget that!

Even if it's freezing cold outside, leave your coat in the car.  It gets hot really quick inside stores.  That's one of the things I dislike about dress warmly for outdoors and then are hot when you get inside.  Oh well, you don't want to carry your coat around.  Being a little cold between car and store is not a big deal.

Stick with your list.  It's easy to get sidetracked when you see all the glittery, sparkly displays but try to remember what you are there for.

Maintain self control.  Too many people are rude and inconsiderate this time of year.  You don't have to take it personally.

Treat the sales clerks with respect.  They have a tough job, low wages, lousy hours and they have to deal with all those rude people every time they work.  Make their day a little easier by being polite and making sure to thank him or her.

Above all, breathe deep and remember that everything is going to be fine.  Even if you can't find that sweater in the right size, life will go on.  Christmas is about much more than gift giving or gift getting and when you stress out so much on shopping, you don't have room to enjoy the beauty of the season, and the love of family and friends.

Good luck with that shopping!  And if all else fails, shop on the internet  :)

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

What's cooking? Wednesday - Cheater's Chili

Cheater's Chili
I admit.  I'm a cheater.  Whenever I make chili from scratch, it turns out really bland (I'm not that good with adding spices) so I cheat.  I open a can or two of chili and use it as a base for a large batch of chili.  Canned chili is really high in sodium and tastes too strong anyway.

 Tonight I made chili for eight people so I used two cans of Nalley's Chili, a quart size freezer bag of pinto beans (I made those from scratch so does that count as homemade?), one half pound of ground beef, one small onion and a bag of frozen diced tomatoes.  You can add anything else you want, such as corn or olives or omit the ground beef.    

Cheater's Chili (for 8-9 people)

2  15 oz. cans chili (any brand)
1/2 pound ground beef (optional)
4 c. cooked pinto beans
1  15 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 small onion, chopped fine

In large pot, cook ground beef and onion until brown and crumbly.  Add  rest of the ingredients and cook on low for 10-20 minutes.
To serve, put a handful of tortilla chips in a bowl.  Put on a cup or two of chili.  Top with grated cheddar cheese and/or sour cream.

Super easy! 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Holiday stress - Part 3 - I WANT!

I was visiting with four and a half year old Chuck and he told me what he wants for Christmas.  He wants an iPad and a chainsaw.  :)  The iPad is a definite NO and unless Fisher Price makes a real working chainsaw, I think he's going to be disappointed.

Our children are bombarded with commercials and advertising telling them what they should want.  Those commercials are very enticing and our children are not immune to their allure.  They are also influenced by the movies and TV shows they watch and things the people around them have.  They are led to believe that they can ask for anything and see it under the tree on Christmas morning.  Yes, they can ASK for anything, but they need to know that they might not GET everything they want.

So, what do you do when you know your child isn't going to get what he says he wants on Christmas?
It depends on the age.  In Chuck's case, he's too young to get the "We can't afford it" or the "There's no way in heck you're getting that!" explanation.  Keep your explanation simple and short.  You can say that real chainsaws can only be used by people who are at least 14 (or whatever age you want) so you're sorry but he's going to have to wait on that one.  As for the iPad, you can remind him that Daddy already has one and he can still use it.  You can go with him to a store and carefully direct him to toys you think are appropriate and talk them up.  You can as him for other suggestions.

For older kids, I think it's ok to be upfront and let them know that you have a budget that you need to stick to.  You can say, "I know you're 16 and you want your own car for Christmas but it's just not going to happen.  We are keeping our gift purchases for you kids to $------ this year."

Be careful about substituting a knock-off product for the real thing.  If your child really wants an American Girl doll (and knows exactly which one she wants), she might not be happy with the imitation doll from Walmart.  Again, be upfront with your kids.  If the budget won't allow certain gifts, help your child come up with something more reasonable.

I don't think it's ever too soon to introduce children to the idea that they can't just make a wish list and expect someone (Santa, Daddy, or whoever) to come up with everything on it.  Start now and try to turn the focus away from what they get to what they can give.   

Monday, November 26, 2012

Holiday stress - Part 2 - Traditions

If you were to spend the holidays with a family in China or Germany, you would expect the customs and traditions to be different than what you are used to.  You would be respectful of those customs and try to blend in.  Well, here's a surprise for you...every family has it's own culture and traditions.  Even if your husband grew up in the house next door, you'd soon find out that his family does things differently that yours does.  At no time is this more evident that during the holidays.

My advice to you?  Relax and don't try to change them.  You may think they're weird (and they may be) but it's probably best not to voice that opinion  :)  Maybe you don't even like them.  That's ok.  You don't have to.  But you DO have to be pleasant and cordial when you get together with them.  You are talking about the family your husband grew up with and loves.  It's not going to hurt you to participate in your in-law's holiday traditions.  What you will be doing is being supportive of your husband and building a relationship with his family.  And his family is YOUR family.

There is plenty of time to develop your own traditions within the walls of your own little home.  Take the favorite traditions of both families, incorporate them and build on them and you will have your own unique family traditions that your children will love and look forward to. 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Holiday Stress - Part 1

Christmastime is coming and you know what that, happiness, joy...and tension, stress and frustration.  That's right.  Holidays have a habit of bringing out some of the more negative emotions we all have.  In the quest to produce the perfect holiday, we tend to get carried away with things that don't matter at the expense of things that are important.

How can you reduce tension and stress during the holiday season?

1. Reduce your expectations.  The table doesn't need a perfect centerpiece and the tree doesn't have to color coordinate to make an enjoyable get together.
2. Accept the things you can't change.  You have no control over the weather, illness and other unexpected situations.  Make sure you have a Plan B in case your original plans fall through.
3. Laugh.  When you realize you forgot to put a main ingredient in the showcase dessert, it does no good to get mad. Learn to laugh at your (and others) mistakes.  Laughter can lighten the darkest mood.
4. Serve others.  Instead of focusing on the difficult things in your life, find ways to help someone in need.  Encourage your children to do the same.
5. Remember the reason for the season.  What are you celebrating? Keep that the main focus of your holiday.
6. Be thankful.  No matter how humble your circumstances, you have much to be thankful for.  Count your blessings every time you feel down.  Never forget how much you have. 

Friday, November 23, 2012

Playing games with kids

Have you ever tried playing Monopoly with a six and ten year old?  Even in the best of circumstances, Monopoly is a long, sometimes boring game.  Take a couple of kids with short attention spans (who really want to play the game) and you have the potential for a looooong afternoon.  So, what did we do?  We made up our own rules to fit the kid's level of interest.  It was a mercifully short game, pretty fun, and the six year old won  :)

One of my favorite comic strips is Bill Watterson's Calvin and Hobbes.  Calvin is an imaginative six year old with his stuffed tiger, Hobbes (who is alive in his world).  One of the recurring themes of the strip is Calvin and Hobbes playing "Calvinball", which boils down to making up their own rules to the games they play.    

"Other kids' games are all such a bore!
They've gotta have rules and they gotta keep score!
Calvinball is better by far!
It's never the same! It's always bizarre!
You don't need a team or a referee!
You know that it's great, 'cause it's named after me!"
Part of the Calvinball theme song.

For some reason, when people play games, they think they need to "play by the rules".  Who says you have to do that?  Play however you want! Games get too complicated anyway.  Have fun!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving

Too pooped to post today  :)   Happy Thanksgiving and may we always be thankful for the blessings we have in our lives and in our families.  Life is good.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

What's cooking? Wednesday - Pies!

If you read this blog regularly, you know that I like to make food that is quick, easy, and inexpensive.  The exception to this is Thanksgiving.  It's one of the few times of the year that I make things from scratch...cranberry sauce, rolls, stuffing, pies, yams...prepackaged or precooked just won't do.  So, today I've been making pies.

My well-used ancient cookbook
It's been a while since I've made pie crust so I got out my ancient Better Homes and Gardens "New" Cook Book.  I was planning on making two pumpkin pies, two banana cream pies, one "better than pumpkin pie" pumpkin dessert, and one pumpkin custard.  That meant two pie crusts needed to be made and cooked without filling.

Oops!  Forgot to prick the dough!
I followed the recipe and popped the crusts in the oven.  About ten minutes into the cooking, I realized I forgot to prick the crust with a fork to prevent the crust from puffing up.  Oops!  I peeked in the oven and yes, the crust had large bubbles.  Darn!  I thought about using them anyway but no, I'm going to do it right.  So, I let them finish cooking and started over again.  This time I got it right.  I'll break up the puffy crusts, freeze them and use them for pie shakes later. 
I'll save the oopsies for later  :)

Second time - no mistakes!
The rest of the pies and desserts turned out surprises.

Better Homes and Gardens Plain Pastry  (for 2 single-crust pies)
2 c. flour
1 t. salt
2/3 c. shortening
5-7 T. cold water.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Put flour and salt into bowl.  Cut in shortening with forks until pieces are the size of small peas.  (If forks are hard to use, use your clean hands to gently incorporate the shortening into the flour.)  Sprinkle cold water over the mixture, tossing with fork until all the mixture is moistened.  Form into a ball.  Flatten on lightly floured surface with your hand.  Use rolling pin to flatten dough until about 1/8 inch thick.

Fit pastry into pie pan.  Trim to fit.  Tuck under edge and flute edge (that's the zig zag pattern you see on crusts).   To bake the crust without filling, prick all over the bottom and sides with a fork (I forgot to do this the first time).  If you are baking the crust and filling together, do not prick the pastry.

Bake at 450 degrees for 10-12 minutes.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Life is precious

Today is my fifth child's birthday.  When you have gone through pregnancy and childbirth four times already, you're familiar with what's going on and don't expect any surprises.  This particular birth seemed especially easy...only four hours of labor, a healthy baby boy and I felt great.  We went home the same day and settled in to life with five kids under the age of eight. Thanksgiving was two days later and my husband made the entire Thanksgiving dinner (except the pies - I made those).  Everything was going smoothly.  The next few days were spent preparing talks for church on Sunday for my three oldest children and myself.  Why I didn't decline the opportunity to speak that Sunday I'll never know.  I had a five day old baby!  Anyway, the talks went fine and everything was going smoothly.

Then came Monday.  We had to take our baby into the city (about 40 miles away) to get him circumcised.  An odd thing happened while I was sitting in the waiting room at the hospital.  I got a splitting headache and started getting chills and a feverish feeling.  It came on suddenly.  Fine one minute and horrible headache the next.  Odd.  After leaving the hospital, we drove to my husband's work, where I dropped him off and went on home.  I still felt sick.  I took some Tylenol but that didn't seem to help so I gave my midwife a call.  She heard my symptoms and told me to get my husband home immediately and get to the emergency room at the hospital.  If he wasn't home in 30 minutes, I was to call an ambulance to take me.   That got my attention!  Hey, it was just a fever and headache.  However, I did what she told me and we went to the hospital.  I figured the doctor would look at me, maybe give me some antibiotics and send me home.  Wrong.  Somehow, I had developed septic shock from childbirth and my organs were in danger of shutting down.  I was seriously sick.  I had never been sick before!  My husband took our new son home with him and I was stuck in the hospital, hooked up to tubes and crying miserably.  I spent nearly a week in the hospital, alternating between feeling sorry for myself and feeling totally grateful to be alive.   I missed my kids.  I was supposed to be bonding with my new baby and I couldn't even see him.  One of the highlights of that stay though was a card my six year old son made for me.  It said, "Violets are blue.  Roses are red.  How's your head?  We're glad you're not dead."  :)   Oh, how I love that boy!

Well, the story ended well.  I came home.  Everyone survived.  I developed a new appreciation for life and a new respect for healthcare providers.

Key learning - If something seems out of the ordinary concerning your health, check with your doctor, especially concerning pregnancy and childbirth.  Don't delay.  If I had waited, the consequences might have ended differently.  Life is precious.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Emergency Entertainment

The pic is blurry because of the rain on the camera.  It's a blustery day!
Today I'm sitting in the living room listening to pounding rain and heavy wind.  We've had a couple of power outages already and the internet is periodically going out.  All this makes me think about emergency preparedness.

I've already written a basic blog post on the subject but today I think it's important to remember that if the power goes out, most of our usual entertainment goes out too.  No TV, internet, video games, music, anything that requires electricity (unless you're lucky enough to have a generator!).

How are you going to keep your children happy and content in the event of a power outage?  In your emergency preparedness supplies did you remember to include activities, games and books to entertain the restless masses?  How about for you and your spouse?  What are you going to do if you're stuck in the house with no power and maybe even snowed in?

Dollar stores are wonderful sources of cheap entertainment for kids and adults.  You can get a supply of coloring books, crayons, paint sets, marker sets, play dough (although I prefer real Playdoh), little plastic army men and animals, craft sets, crossword puzzle books and other books, playing cards and games, and lots of other things.  For less than $20.00, you can get enough stuff to keep most kids busy, hopefully for the duration of the emergency.  Store your goodies in a plastic container and hide it from the kids.  You want them to be surprised with fun things to do that are unfamiliar to them.

Most emergencies are stressful but there are things you can do to make the time pass more pleasantly.  The time to gather things for an eventual emergency is not when the storm hits.  It's now.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Moving outside your comfort zone

Remember when you were in elementary school and you only associated with kids who were in your grade?  You didn't interact with those who were even one grade lower or higher.  Then as you progressed into junior high and high school you started branching out a little to include kids of different grades.   You'd think that as adults it would be easier to have friends of different ages but there is still that tendency to stick with people of your own age.  That's really too bad.  Some of your closest friends might be women who are old enough to be your mother or young enough to be your daughter.

When I was a young mother, I lived far away from my mother and sisters but found friendship in several women who shared their wisdom and talents with me.  Let's see...Mary Ellen taught me how to can fruit.  Marge (who was raising five children) gave me child rearing advice.  Ruth, who was severely disabled with rheumatoid arthritis, taught me how to quilt by hand.  Ila taught me how to grow a garden.  I loved those women.  Much of what I learned about being a mother, I learned from them.  How I would have missed out if I had only interacted with other young mothers who were as clueless as I.

Several years later, I am still learning a great deal from dear friends of all ages.  I am thankful for those friends, not just because I learn from them but I enjoy their company.  My life is richer because of that bond of friendship.

After you get married and start having children, age means very little.  A woman having her first child at age 40 is experiencing many of the same struggles as a 20 year old having her first baby.  All of a sudden, there is much in common.  You might make a new friend if you step out of your (age) comfort zone and get to know women who have either gone through or are going through the same challenges that you are experiencing.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Bathroom conversations :)

Lilly is a 2 1/2 year old little girl with an extensive vocabulary.   We had this conversation while she was using the bathroom the other day.  I was sitting on the edge of the tub keeping an eye on her and she was taking her time.   Oh, and the family bathroom shares a common wall with the master bathroom.
Lilly, not in the bathroom  ;)

Lilly (after listening intently for a few seconds) - "What's that noise?"
Me - "That's the water from the shower.  I think Grumpy taking a shower in his bathroom."  (the grandkids call their grandpa "Grumpy")
Lilly - "That's the shower?  And Grumpy is taking a shower?"
Me - "Yes, Grumpy is taking a shower."
Lilly - "Is he naked?"
Me - "What!?"
Lilly - "Is Grumpy naked in the shower?"
Me - "Uhhhhh, I guess so."
Lilly - "So, is Grumpy naked?"
Me - "Aren't you finished going bathroom yet?"

Talk about being taken by surprise  :)  I related the story to Lilly's mom later and she laughed and explained.  Lilly had walked into their bathroom while her daddy was taking a shower and he told her to go out because he was naked.  Kids remember more than we think.  :)

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Thrifty Thursday - Over budget and over time

I still need to add a mantel but that can wait a little while.
Two weeks ago, I posted about a project my husband and I were working on...building a new hearth for our pellet stove.  (post dated 11/1/12)  Well, I am happy to report that the hearth is completed.  It passed inspection and all clearances are up to code.  As usual, it cost twice as much as we anticipated and took waaaaay longer than planned.  But it's finished and it works beautifully.

Most do-it-yourself projects DO take longer and cost more than planned.  To cut down on too many nasty surprises, plan on twice the amount of time you think a project will take and double the estimated cost.  You still might go over but at least it won't be as much of a shock.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

What's cooking? Wednesday - Meatball Sandwiches

Whenever I make something new for my husband, I ask him to rate it on a scale of 1-10.  This sandwich rated a 9.5 on the husband approval rating scale.  (I gave it a 10)

Meatball Sandwiches - YUM!
You can use any kind of bread for the sandwich, although a baguette-style loaf  works particularly well because it isn't too much bread in proportion to the meatballs.  I admit to loving Panera Bread's Asiago Cheese Demi Loaf when making this sandwich.  It's a little more expensive than what you'd buy at Safeway or Albertson's ($2.99 a loaf vs $1.99 a loaf) but I think it's worth the difference in cost.  Whatever you decide, it's sure to be a hit!

Meatball Sandwiches

For the meatballs -
1 lb ground beef
2 slices day-old bread
1 egg (or 1/4 c. egg replacer)
1/4 c. finely chopped onion or 2 T. dried onion
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper (or to taste)

Mix everything together in a bowl.  Form into one inch balls.  Cook in large frying pan over medium heat, until the meatballs are brown all the way through.

For the Sandwiches -
Cooked meatballs
1/2 c. to 1 c spaghetti sauce (canned or homemade)
2-3 oz. cheese (mozzarella, provolone or gouda work well), shredded
Parmesan cheese (to sprinkle on top)
Sandwich rolls, french bread, baguettes...some type of sturdy loaf-type bread

Turn oven to broil.  Mix the cooked meatballs with the spaghetti sauce.  I don't like mine really drippy so I don't use a lot of sauce but that's a personal preference.  Slice bread lengthwise.  Lightly toast bread under broiler.  Take out of broiler and put meatballs (and sauce) on one side of the loaf.   Sprinkle with shredded cheese and top with parmesan cheese.  Put under broiler again and broil until the cheese is melty and bubbly.  Yum!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Tidy Tuesday - Thanksgiving is coming!

In case you aren't aware, Thanksgiving is in one week and two days.  Is it my imagination or does it seem too early for Thanksgiving?  I'm still buying Halloween candy  :)

Anyway, if you're hosting the gargantuan Thanksgiving feast at your home this year, this would be an ideal time to start getting the house clean and ready for the onslaught.  Even if you're not hosting, Thanksgiving means the Christmas season is fast approaching so you might as well take the time to get the house ready for the holidays too.

To get things ready for Thanksgiving, the first place to start is the refrigerator.  Clean it out.  Use up those leftovers or throw them away.  Having a cleared out refrigerator will give you space to put all the goodies for the big meal.

Next, do you have a list prepared for the things you will need next week?  Do you have the menu planned?  (It should be in the reverse order...first plan the menu, THEN make the list).  Check your cupboards.  Do you already have some of the ingredients?    Watch for the grocery ads to come out later this week.  The best prices on turkeys and other traditional holiday food should be in this week's ads.

Has the bathroom had a thorough cleaning lately?  At least clean the guest (or main) bathroom really well and stock it with the necessities.  You don't want any awkward moments...

Head turkey dissector
With a little planning and advance preparation, you don't have to be frantically running around on Thanksgiving day.  Enlist as many people as possible to help you (either by making special dishes, keeping an eye on little ones, washing dishes, running errands, setting the table, etc.).  Whatever you do, don't decide to do a major cleaning of your home on the morning of Thanksgiving.  Too late...

I know it doesn't seem like it when you're up to your elbows in turkey guts but Thanksgiving is for you too, you know.  Spend a little time this week so you can enjoy the holiday with the rest of the family. 

Monday, November 12, 2012

Kindness begins with me

Yesterday at church there was a lesson on the power of kindness.  After the meeting, I was talking with a group of people and we were discussing the lesson.  Someone said that he felt people use kindness as a way of manipulating others to their point of view.  HE'S MISSING THE POINT!  Kindness isn't about how others treat you.  It's about how you treat others!   When you try to guess the motive for someone else's behavior you are putting your own prejudices and assumptions into the mix and distorting their motive and intent.   It's no wonder people have problems with communication!  Let's not worry about why other people are saying or doing something.  Let's just focus on our own behavior.

There is a cute little children's song that tells the point simply and beautifully.  It goes -
I want to be kind to everyone for that is right you see.
So I say to myself, remember this
Kindness begins with me.

Friday, November 9, 2012

The Breast Milk Baby doll - What will they think of next?

This morning I saw an article about a new baby doll...called the Breast Milk Baby.   Yes, it imitates the suckling sounds and motions of a breastfed baby when the little girl (presumably) puts on a special halter top with attached nipples/petals.  (The "nipples" have sensors that activate the doll's response.)

How do you feel about that?  I have conflicting emotions about the whole thing.  While I believe that breastfeeding is the best option for babies (I breastfed all 8 of my children),  I"m not sure that children need to have dolls that are quite so realistic.   Baby dolls already can drink, wet, burp, crawl, and who know what else but do children derive more pleasure and enjoyment out of those dolls than the basic simple doll?  Do we need to have a doll that gets diaper rash, fevers, throws up, spits up, has a runny nose, and drools?  If we want children to have a realistic experience with their dolls, do the dolls have to do more?

Personally, I think we should let our children use their imaginations with their dolls and toys.  They are creative naturally and don't need us to concoct imitation experiences for them.  I remember most of my children "feeding" their baby dolls by clutching them to their chests.  They didn't need a special halter top to simulate the experience.  I am rolling my eyes as I type this  :)

Again, remember that this is just my opinion.  If you want to know more about this doll (if only to creep you out) you can look up the manufacturer's website,  To its credit, the doll is quite cute.  But obviously, this is not an endorsement or paid testimonial.  :)  If you want a high quality baby doll, choose one by American Girl or Corolle.  No batteries, no weirdness, just lovable doll.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Thrifty Thursday - Confusion

It's that time of year again where every store is competing for your business.  Beware.  Don't be fooled by advertisements that seem too good to be true.  Before you get all excited about a great deal, look around and make sure that you are really getting the best price for your money.

But Mom, she's 20 percent off!
Example - Target sells women's fashion scarves for $14.99.  That is their everyday price.  Shopko sells comparable scarves for $29.99.  BUT...Shopko is advertising a whopping 50 percent off!!!  Hmmmm....are their scarves REALLY worth $29.99 or did the store mark the price up so they could give a deep discount?  You decide.

There are many stores that use this ploy to bring uninformed customers into their stores.  Stores that regularly have big sales where everything is 30, 40 or 50 percent off are probably not giving you that big of a bargain.  Their bottom line is to make a profit, not to sell you things super cheap.  Keep that in mind when you are out shopping. 

There are legitimately good sale prices out there but just because something is advertised 30 percent off or 50 percent or whatever, doesn't mean that it is a real bargain.  Know your prices so you'll know a good deal when you see one. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Post election

Well, the election of 2012 is now over.  Half the country is jubilant and half the country is bitterly disappointed.  I can't remember a time when the choices were so clear-cut and (pardon the expression) black and white.  But whatever happened yesterday, today is a new day and life goes on.  More than ever, it is our responsibility as mothers to instill the values we think are important for our children to learn and set a good example for them. 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Tidy Tuesday - The end

Every project or activity we (or our children) do has a beginning, a middle and an end.  That would seem to make sense, wouldn't it?  Yet how often do we forget about the last part...the end?  Don't know what I'm talking about?   Here are some examples...
You plan a sewing project.  You get out the sewing machine and all supplies, spend the day sewing and don't bother to put away the supplies or gather up the scraps and throw them away.
You make a wonderful dinner.  It was well received and delicious.  You don't clean up afterwards.
You decide to paint a bedroom.  You prep the walls, paint them and neglect to wash the brushes and rollers.
Your kids have a great time making pictures with markers.  When they are finished, they leave everything on the table and disappear to make a mess somewhere else.
You go grocery shopping.  You lug all the bags into the house and leave them on the put away later.

Don't forget to put the markers away when you're through...
Do you see what's missing?  The key part of every activity that is just as important as the beginning...the cleaning up, the putting away, the ending.  No project is completely finished until every tool, every supply, every piece of equipment, every toy, every piece of trash is put in its home.

If we could just teach our kids this and do it ourselves, it wouldn't be such a big thing to clean up our homes and keep them that way.  Is there something waiting for you to put away?

Monday, November 5, 2012

Conflict resolution policeman style

Have you ever been pulled over by a policeman for speeding?  I have...but that's not the topic of this post :).   What I want to talk about is conflict resolution.  Policemen are an excellent example of how to deal appropriately with disobedience and we can learn from the way they do it.

So, you were speeding down the road and you notice the lights flashing behind you.  Darn!  Caught!  You safely pull over to the side of the road and go over in you mind what you did.  Mr. Policeman slowly walks over to your car window and politely asks if you know why you are being pulled over.  You either come up with a lame excuse or are honest and tell the truth.  Either way, Mr. Policeman then describes the facts as he saw them.  No arguing, no emotional diatribe.  He asks for your ID and registration, takes them to his vehicle where he checks them against his records.  When he returns, he either gives you a warning about following the laws or he writes you a ticket.  Again, he's totally in control and calm.  Then he gets back into his car and drives away.  No yelling, no lectures, no threats.  As you drive away, you vow to be more careful and not go over the speed limit.

Can you see how this kind of response to disobedience can be useful in dealing with kids?  You are the voice of authority and when you respond in a calm and in control way, you have more impact than if you are yelling, screaming or threatening them with all kinds of bodily harm.  They can hear the message you want to give them because it's not hidden in all the emotional noise.

When a policeman pulls you over, his goal is to inform you that you are breaking the law and strongly discourage you from doing it again, either by way of warning or ticket (punishment).  The same is true with you as a parent.  When your child misbehaves, your goal is to inform him that he is breaking a law of the home and that it is unacceptable.  You enforce this by either giving him a warning or having him endure the consequences of his behavior.

Policemen have to learn how to reign in their emotions as part of their job and so do you as a mother.  It's possible.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Who are you?

You're not just a mother...
Who are you?  To your children, you are their mother.  But your identity is not only that of a mother.  You might also be a wife, daughter, sister, niece, granddaughter, cousin, friend.  In your quest to be the best mother possible, don't forget those other roles.  Yes, your children need you and depend on you for their upbringing and loving care and it is your responsibility and yours alone to be the mother to your children but to be a balanced person, you can't neglect the other roles that are yours.  It can be so easy to put aside the relationships you have with your husband, other family members and even yourself as you focus all your energy on your children.  But that's not best for them or you.  You will be a happier person, a better wife and mother and a more rounded individual if you make time for the other things that are important in your life. 

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Make time for humor

There are so many challenges and difficulties in our everyday lives that we sometimes forget the healing power of humor and laughter.  Studies have repeatedly shown that humor can lower blood pressure, improve our mood and even our overall health.   A well placed comment can defuse a tense situation.   A funny movie can help you forget your troubles.  A family joke can bring unity to a family.

So, how are things around your house?  Can you find things to laugh about?  Babies and little kids are naturally funny.  Listen to them and watch them for a while.  It's hard NOT to smile when observing their interactions. Older children are silly and goofy.  And teenagers?  Don't tell them but a lot of what they do is hilarious!  :) 

I asked my kids about funny things that they remembered in our family.  They all started laughing and telling me stories.  Most would lose much in the translation though. As one said, "Things that were funny at the time don't sound so funny when repeated."  She's right.  So, I'm not going to embarrass any of my family with our stories.  Well, maybe just the time when the girls "decorated" the boy's room with all sorts of girly stuff.  The boys were not amused but the girls thought it was funny. :)

There is plenty to be serious about but don't forget to take time to laugh a little (especially at yourself!) and enjoy the good times with your family. 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Thrifty Thursday - Nothing is as easy as it seems

It should have been a quick and easy project.  We are moving our pellet stove insert downstairs into the family room fireplace opening.  Unfortunately, the fireplace has no hearth (don't ask me why!) and to comply with building codes, it must have a hearth.  No problem, right?  A simple box frame, a few layers of cement board with some tiles on top, and it's done!  Hah!  It never works that way.

We have to have a hearth to put the pellet stove on...
We came up with a design and figured out the measurements exactly.  The hearth had to extend at least 6 inches beyond the front of the pellet stove.  We decided on 16 inch tiles, requiring 3 tiles to span the length of the hearth.  My husband measured the wood for the frame, cut it perfectly and screwed it together.  Then we measured the cement board, cut it carefully and screwed the layers together and attached them to the frame.  Then we set the tiles on top to see how it would fit.  It looked great!

Then my husband casually asked me how far the pellet stove extended beyond the fireplace opening.  Uhhhhh, I didn't think that was an issue.  It didn't seem to stick out very far upstairs.  I ran and got a tape measure and quietly prayed that it wasn't any more than 10 inches.  I held my breath and measured....12 inches.  Oh no!  Our beautiful hearth was going to be 2 inches off.  My husband kept his cool admirably and said he thought he could make an extension on the frame but we'd need to get 18 inch tiles.  Ok.  Not too bad but that will add time to the project.

Yeah sure...just score and snap. 
Next day, (today) my husband remade the frame.  I went to the local Home Depot and bought 3 new 18 inch tiles and returned the 16 inch tiles.  Now it was time to cut two of the tiles so they would fit in the space.  The guy at Home Depot said it would be no problem to cut the tiles.  Just score and snap off.  We could do that, right?  Wrong.  The tile broke.  Can we rent a tile saw?  Too expensive.   "Let's check Lowes", said my dear husband.  So off to Lowes.  There the nice sales clerk told us that he would be glad to cut our two tiles for free if we bought them at Lowes.  We picked out three new tiles (our third set of tiles!) and had the nice man cut them with his power saw.  Beautiful.
Now to dry for 24 hours...

We brought home our three tiles and in 15 minutes, I had them mortared to the cement board, all ready to dry for the next 24 hours.

Maybe eventually we'll get this finished.  I think the worst part is over now.  Updates next week.  Wish us luck!