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Saturday, August 31, 2013

Puppies and Preschoolers

Preschoolers and puppies...ever thought of the similarities between the two?  Both need to be taught how to control their bodily functions :), learn basic manners (no biting!), and how to come when called.  It's that last point that I want to talk about today.

Did you ever think how important it is for your child to come when called?  If a mom calls for her child, she probably has a good reason.  It could be that she can't find him.  She could perceive some kind of danger.  She might need him for something.  Whatever the reason, she doesn't need to go through the panic of searching for her hiding child, or chasing him as he runs away from her.   She needs him to obey

Back to the puppy analogy.  If a puppy doesn't come when called, he could end up getting hit by a car.  He could lose his freedom.  He could lose his owner's trust.  The frustrated owner ends up taking him to obedience school in the hopes of rehabilitating him.

Frustrated Mommy's also have to work with their little children to train them.  What you want to be able to do is call your child's name and have them respond by saying, "Coming" not saying, "What?" or worse yet, respond by being silent.  You don't want to have to yell across a room or parking lot as you explain what you want from your child.  You want them to come to you.  In the case of danger, there might not be time for explanation.

Try working with your little ones and teach them how to respond when you call them.  Tell them that it's important to come when they're called.  It's not time to tease Mommy.  Be patient but expect them to obey.  They'll learn.  You'll save yourself many a panic attack.

If puppies can be taught to come when called, your children can learn too  :)

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Thrifty Thursday - Monitor automatic bill paying

When automatic bill paying became available for the majority of my monthly bills, I enthusiastically signed up.  No more writing out checks, buying stamps, or seeing that the bills got sent before their due date.  Everything is done automatically.  And, in general, I still love paying my bills that way.

However...I think I became too complacent in monitoring those automatic payments (or NOT monitoring those payments!).  I admit to going several months without even paying attention to them.  Until yesterday...and imagine my surprise when I discovered that one of the regularly occurring bills had jumped from $63.00 to $86.00 a month without notice!  I followed the payments back several months and sure enough, the company changed the terms of the service and increased their costs by $20.00 a month.  The "service" I'm paying for isn't worth that kind of money and isn't a necessity so I'm going to cancel today.

If I had been paying attention, I would have saved myself several hundred dollars over the course of a year.  So, do yourself a favor and keep track of the bills you pay automatically.  If there are any discrepancies, you can deal with them immediately and save yourself from overspending.  I learned my lesson.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Traveling with little children

You'd think that a family vacation would be great fun.  Well, don't get your hopes up if you have preschoolers or babies.  While the rest of the family enjoys the change of scenery and visiting friends and family, little ones only know that they're not at home and their routine is disrupted.

You know he's thinking of something devious  :)
Babies younger than six months usually do fairly well.  All you need to do is make sure they're well fed, have clean diapers and have a comfortable and safe place to sleep.  As soon as they begin to crawl however, everything changes.  If there is ANYTHING even potentially dangerous where you are visiting, they will find it first.  And try confining an active baby in a portable crib and they will let you know of their displeasure loud and strong.

Toddlers and preschoolers aren't much easier.  They don't understand the majesty of the Grand Canyon and don't appreciate the expensive theme park you waited you whole life to visit.  They are heavy to carry (and they get tired easily!), picky about their food, and crabby when they don't get their naps.  They take one look at your favorite uncle and scream in terror.  To them, all they see is a scary stranger who wants to hug them.

Does this mean that you have to put off traveling with little kids for at least five years?  No, of  course not.  What you DO have to do is readjust your expectations.  Preschoolers still love the consistency of routine and familiarity.  As much as possible, working within those parameters will help everyone have a better time.  Familiar food at familiar times, nap times if possible and their favorite security blanket or stuffed animal will help them cope with unfamiliar territory and people.  Not forcing them to give Great Grandma a kiss (when they're scared to death of her!) and letting them make the first move with unfamiliar relatives will relieve tension for all.

Kids don't intend to spoil your long planned vacation.  It's just that their idea of a fun time might not be the same YOUR idea of fun.  Traveling with kids does get easier the older they get (generally) and little kids can be pleasant if you plan ahead and don't expect too much from them.  Remember...routine and consistency. 

Monday, August 26, 2013

Why we decided to homeschool

Things might have been different if my oldest child had been born in the spring or summer.  As it was, she was born two weeks after the cut-off date for the beginning of kindergarten in our school district.  Being a conscientious parent, I was concerned about how that was going to affect my little girl.  She was a bright and curious four year old, having taught herself to read, do simple addition and subtraction problems and was eager to learn more.  I scheduled an appointment with the kindergarten teacher to discuss the options for her (hoping that she'd suggest that we try to petition the district to allow her to enter kindergarten early).  The teacher was not very encouraging.  She said that if my daughter already knew the basic learning skills taught in kindergarten, she'd just have to wait until the other children caught up.  That was not an acceptable option.

I began to research other options.  All I wanted was for my daughter to retain her love of learning and find a suitable school for her.  There were a few private schools but they were expensive.  Then, one day I was at the public library and while browsing the titles, a book practically jumped out at me.  Written in bold white letters on a black background, the book was titled, Teach Your Own.  I had never heard of such a radical idea.  All children went to I thought.  I checked out the book and began reading about a totally foreign option to public school...homeschool.  How very strange, yet intriguing.  Our school district didn't want to work with us, my husband was getting ready to take on a year long computer job in California and this book was telling us that we didn't have to put our child in school.  We could teach her ourselves.

So began the journey into the world of homeschooling. We knew that we'd be away from home for a year and thought we'd try it for that year and then re-evaluate.   It seemed like a perfect solution.  Our little girl could learn at her own pace and we'd get to explore a new city together and we'd see how it worked out, never realizing that we'd just ventured into a whole new way of living for our family.  This little "experiment" lasted through eight children (K-12) and prepared each of them to enter the world of higher education upon "graduation".

We encountered difficulties and challenges along the way but each year the pros outweighed the cons.  Homeschooling isn't for everyone but it worked for my family.   It was totally worth the time and commitment to see it through.

More on homeschooling next week...

Friday, August 23, 2013

Educational Options

Always learning
Children are different.  No surprise there.  They also have different learning styles and different developmental growth. That is why I am so thankful for the educational options that are available to families.  Finally, all children aren't expected to conform to one particular style, regardless of their unique circumstances.

When children have trouble fitting into traditional educational styles, there are other options to consider.  Each state is different in their laws concerning schools and age requirements but most are flexible and work with parents and children, as long as parents are willing to work within the law.

I have friends whose children are in the local public schools, in charter schools, magnet schools, online public and private schools, Montesorri schools and homeschool.  Each family made their decision based on the needs of their children and their family lifestyle.

Our children's education is one of their most important responsibilities growing up.  From the approximate age of 5 until 18 (and beyond), they spend most of their time in school.  Knowing that there are options will help families make the best educational fit for their children.

The next post I write will be about why my family decided to homeschool.  Until then...

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Non-specific tasks

Don't you hate it when your husband comes home and asks you what you did all day and the best you can come up with is "uhhhh...I was busy but can't think of anything unusual." or "uhhh, housework?" That sounds so lame but what probably took up most of your day is what my daughter calls non-specific tasks. 

All those little things take up time even if they don't seem worth mentioning.  Things like making and returning phone calls, taking out the trash, clutter control, pet care, budgeting, meal planning and preparation, returning library books, reorganizing shelves and drawers, emptying the dishwasher, cleaning out the car...and this doesn't even start to cover tasks associated with child care or outside tasks like gardening or the big projects. 

It would be an interesting exercise to actually write down what you do in a "normal" day.  I think you'd be surprised.  Those "little" things contribute to the smooth running of your home and family and are are you.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Learning with Lilly

Lilly's mom is teaching Lilly how to read.  Today she held up alphabet flash cards for Lilly to identify.

Mommy (holding up a flash card with the letter B and a picture of a bird), "Lilly, what letter is this?"
Lilly, "It's a B!"
Mommy, "That's right and what sound does B make?"
Lilly, "Ba ba ba ba"
Mommy, "And what is the picture?"
Lilly, "A chicken!"

Gotta love it!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Are you ready for school?'s that time of year again
For some of you there's a sigh of relief.  For others, it's a sigh of regret.  Whichever it is, there's no hiding the fact that summer is almost over and school is about to start.  There's a subtle change in the air, the days are noticeably getting shorter and the stores are stocking fall clothes and Halloween decorations.

Are you ready for a new school year?  Are your kids ready?  What have you done to show that you value education for your children?  Do you have a quiet place set aside for them to do their homework?  Do you have bookshelves and other resources dedicated to their educational materials?  Have you set expectations for them?

There is so much you can do to help them have a successful year.  Showing that you think education is important by making a place for them to work and setting rules to balance schoolwork and recreation (and then reinforcing those rules!) will be a good start.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Lilly's makeover

Creativity at its finest.  :)  It's amazing what kids can do with crayons and marking pens.  At least it wasn't the Sharpie!

Just when you think you've put away all the things the kids can get into, they surprise us with their ingenuity. 

Friday, August 16, 2013

Follow through

As if it isn't enough work to determine rules and boundaries for your children, you then need to follow through and see that the stated rules and boundaries are obeyed.  Wouldn't it be nice if you said to your child, "You must brush your teeth every night after dinner" and magically, your child never misses his nightly teeth brushing.  You and I both know that that is an unrealistic dream.  And yet, many moms seem surprised that their little darlings needs daily reminders.  If you want your child to brush his teeth every night, you have to remind him, supervise him, cajole him (sometimes), and then check to see how thoroughly he complied.

I guess that following through aspect of our jobs is what gives us job security.  :)  We are needed every day to reinforce the family rules, for without checking up on our children, rules are meaningless.

Seeing that rules are obeyed consistently will help our children learn how to function well in society...whether it's in preschool or law school.  We do our children a disservice when we ignore their bad behavior and disobedience.  They need us to be conscientious parents and follow through.


Thursday, August 15, 2013

Thrifty Thursday - Choice and Accountability

There are two words that will help you conquer the headache of money management.  Those two words are choice and accountability.  So many times the problem isn't how much money we bring into our family, it's how we choose to spend it.  Then when we have no money left before the month is over, we find excuses and justify our expenditures, taking no accountability for our choices.

That isn't to say that there aren't legitimate emergencies that strain even the most generous paycheck.  Illnesses, accidents, home emergencies, family crises can all take us by surprise and hit us where it our wallet.  But in general, our money woes are of our own making.

The fact is that you have a certain amount of money each month.  You can choose to live within your means, put some money away for emergencies and savings or you can live by impulsively spending that money (and more) on things of little worth and finding you have no money left for essentials. 

We have a choice.  If our income doesn't stretch enough to cover things like going out to eat frequently, taking vacations, having cable and smart phones, shopping at pricey clothing stores, and buying "toys", then those things shouldn't be bought.  Some might even consider those things luxuries, not necessities.  And if you're struggling to cover the necessities, then the luxuries can wait.  It's not a matter of deprivation, it's a matter of accountability.  We choose to live without certain things so we can have the things we truly need.  And we are accountable for those choices.

It's empowering to know that you have control over that aspect of your life.  By being responsible, you can pay down debt, meet the needs of your family and start building savings.  It's up to you.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

What's blending? Wednesday - Surplus Fruit Smoothie

Peach, cantaloupe, pineapple smoothie...summer delight!
Finding myself with a surplus of peaches and cantaloupe, I threw them into the blender, added some frozen pineapple and a scoop of protein powder and tasted it.  It was heavenly!  I've never tried cantaloupe in a smoothie before and it added a unique flavor and texture...very compatible with peaches.

I love trying out new combinations!

Surplus Fruit Smoothie
2 c. peaches, cut into pieces
2 c. cantaloupe, cut into pieces
1 c. frozen pineapple
1 scoop protein powder

Blend until smooth.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Tidy Tuesday - Household tips

 Just thought I'd share some household tips today.  Hope you can use one or two.  :)

The amount of laundry detergent your washer needs to clean clothes is actually quite small yet the measuring cup they provide is deceptively large.  By marking the correct line with a Sharpie marking pen, you won't waste detergent.  This is especially good if your kids wash their own clothes. 

 Binder clips ($3.79 for 12 at Office Depot) are great for closing bags (cereal, frozen food, chips, etc) and are extra sturdy.

I use a lot of fruits and vegetables and I love these compost container liners!  They are made from corn and decompose quickly in your compost pile.  Just throw the bag full of scraps onto the pile.  Hmmm...I wonder what they taste like  :)

You can buy wire racks at any store (like Target, Walmart, Home Depot) and they increase the usable space in your cupboards.  Great if your shelves aren't moveable.

Have a great day!

Monday, August 12, 2013


Some things are a high priority!
I learned a valuable lesson last week.  When you are overwhelmed, it's ok to let some things go until you're no longer stressed.  Whether it's having a baby, getting married, going through an illness, dealing with the death of a loved one, or anything else that's not your average run of the mill crisis, learning how to prioritize will save your sanity.

In my case, it was dealing with the marriage of my youngest daughter.  Because she lives in and married in another state, we had to travel to the wedding and then hurry back home to prepare for a reception here.  I thought I could handle all the various details as well as the other obligations I have on a daily basis.  Wrong!  The important things got taken care of but when I had a few minutes to tackle other projects, all I wanted to do was take a nap  :)  (By the way, naps are good.)

I feel bad that I didn't write a blog post in over a week but that was lower on my priority list at the time.  There were other things that didn't get the attention they needed (like picking zucchini and beans from the garden) but, oh well.

It would be nice to be a supermom but we can't wear our super cape all the time.  Sometimes we just have to pick the most important tasks of the day, do the best we can and let the less important things go.  Oh, and find time to take a nap.  :)

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

A match made in Heaven...or was it Utah? :)

What a wonderful day!
Well, it's over.  My youngest daughter got married last Saturday in a beautiful, simple ceremony on a gorgeous, sunny day.  Surrounded by family and loved ones, we laughed, cried a little, reminisced about growing up, and just enjoyed the moment. 

I love her new husband and his family is so loving and kind.  I know she'll be happy, getting to be part of his family, as well as her own. I do admit though, that I'll miss her!

My five daughters.  It's not often that they're all together at the same time!

Her marriage marks the milestone of all eight of my children now married and starting families of their own.  I know it's said over and over but the saying that "the time goes so quickly" is true, although you'll not realize it until it's actually happened. 

Friday, August 2, 2013

Mommy Brain

Visiting with two of my friends (who both have small children), one of them commented on how she keeps forgetting things.  Rest assured, she doesn't have memory problems. What she has is Mommy Brain.  :)  A combination of too little sleep, too little ME time, too many responsibilities, too many obligations and the constant demands of children, are the perfect combination to result in Mommy Brain.

This malady is unfortunately chronic but can be managed.  :)   Kids are demanding and that's probably not going to change for a while.  What you CAN change is you.  Awareness of your body's needs (sleep, good healthy food, an occasional break from the kids, setting limits) will go a long way towards keeping those symptoms under control. It also helps to start calendaring events and appointments and other things you don't want to forget.  I keep a small spiral notebook in my purse to help me keep track of things until I get home and put them on the big wall calendar.  That trusty little notebook is also handy to jot down ideas and "aha" moments.  Can't live without it.

Don't worry if you have Mommy Brain.  You're not alone.  :)

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Lilly's sad day

Getting 7 hornet stings is so painful!  Poor Lilly!
Poor Lilly!  Yesterday she was runnning happily in the back yard when all of a sudden she started screaming.  She had inadvertently run over an underground hornets nest!  Her Grumpy (grandfather) heard her screams and quickly ran to her as her mommy came running too.  Mommy took her inside to take care of her but she continued to hear buzzing.  There were hornets under Lilly's clothes and they were continuing to sting her! In all, she received 7 stings!  Poor little girl!

Thinking about it, I'm so proud of her mommy!  Mommy is super afraid of stinging insects and spiders.  But when her little girl was in danger, those fears disappeared and she beat those nasty hornets until they were smashed dead.  There is an amazing instinct that takes over when a mommy's child is in danger.

Thankfully, today Lilly is feeling better!