Sunday, June 29, 2008

Saturday is a Special Day

Confession: I'm not an expert on the subjects I've been posting, I just post a few ideas I've picked up over the years in hopes that you may find them helpful and want to contribute to the discussion. This topic, however, I have more experience with and have claimed some authority on. When we moved from Las Vegas to Georgia my husband had to come out three months earlier for work while I stayed in Vegas with our three small children to sell our home. My youngest was only six weeks old and my other son barely old enough for nursery (20 months). So the idea of getting ready for, getting to , and staying through 3 hours of church alone with my three children was terrifying. But I learned great wisdom in the primary song that says, "Saturday is a special day, it's the day we get ready for Sunday." I used to think that song was about doing your physical labors on Saturday so Sunday was a day of rest, but now I understand that it's a day of preparation. Preparing your physical needs, so that you can be open to the spirit. Saturdays I would give my kids baths, lay out their church clothes (complete with shoes and socks), put rollers in my daughter's hair, shave my legs, touch-up my nail polish, lay out my clothes (and do any ironing), pack the diaper bag (diapers, wipes, toys, snacks, and cups), and prepare anything I needed for a lesson. Then when Sunday came things ran more smoothly and we would be on time for church without the chaotic rush that can drive away the spirit. Okay, so the first week the baby spit up on my blouse as we were leaving the house, but for the most part things ran pretty well. This weekend my husband's out of town but I'm trained now and we made it to church 15 minutes early for our 9 o'clock sacrament meeting, giving me enough time to get my kids settled in and prepared for the meeting. This is not to say that this is always the case but whenever I commit myself to it, it works. I use the same philosophy for other outings that we need to be on time for. If I have a doctor appointment in the morning, I get everything ready the night before.

Share your secrets for getting out the door. How do you help your kids and yourself be ready on time for church, school, or any outing?

Placemat Settings

Here's an easy and fun way to teach your kids how to set the table (and keep the table clean). I bought extra large sheets of construction paper for the placemats. Then I used our own plate, cup, and silverware to trace and cut (a necessity for OCD kids like my daughter who need it to fit just right). After gluing, I laminated the placemats. Learning is Fun had the best deal in Las Vegas for laminating because you do it yourself (very easy). Some places only laminate 8 1/2 x 12 paper so call and check before going. The laminating will allow you to wipe the mats with a sponge, but don't submerge in water.
Note: Seeing this is the Real Moms' blog I decided it was okay to have some crumbs on the table and toys and clothes in the background for my picture. Oh, and my daughter's hair is starting to fall out of her ponytail. Yeah, that's real life. I'm not perfect, I'm a mom :-)
Posted by Picasa

Friday, June 27, 2008

Food Storage

What do you do when life gives you flour? Make waffles. Food storage isn't just for emergencies when you are desperate and a meal of Spam and dried apples is acceptable. You should be storing things that you'll actually eat and use regularly. For me, peanut butter is a great food storage solution. I have no problem rotating this item. Other staples I try to keep up: honey, corn, diced tomatoes, tomatoe sauce, mac n' cheese, peas, powdered milk oats, flour, sugar, graham crackers, cereal, Goldfish, Ramen, cream of chicken, pasta, and canned chicken. I also throw canned veggies into my food processor for baby food. I'm slowly building up my supply and always looking for good recipes to use my items. Here's a couple I like:

Whole-Grain Waffle Mix
I love the hearty, homemade flavor of these and make them for dinner often. I put out spiced pears, applesauce, bannanas, strawberries, jelly, whip cream, yogurt, butter, and syrup for topping selections. I use my pizza cutter to cut up bite-size pieces for the kids. I love that I don't have to worry about adding fresh buttermilk. I put the mix in a ziplock bag and use a permanent marker to write the remaining ingredients.

4 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup toasted wheat germ
1 cup toasted oat bran
1 cup buttermilk blend powder (next to powdered milk in grocery store)
3 tablespoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
Additional Ingredients:
2 eggs
1 cup water
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons honey
Combine the first eight ingredients. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 6 months. Yield: 8 1/2 cups mix (about 4 batches)
To prepare waffles: Combine eggs, water, oil and honey; stir in 2 cups waffle mix just until moistened.
Yield: 5 waffles (about 6 inches) per batch.

Spiced Pears (serve on top of waffles or as a side)
1 (15 ounce) can pear halves or slices with syrup
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Drain syrup from pears into saucepan. Combine with brown sugar and spices and heat to boiling. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered about 10 min. Stir frequently. Add pears and simmer another 5 minutes or until heated through.

Taco Soup
This soup is very easy and yummy. I cook a few pounds of beef all at once, spread it on a cookie sheet and freeze, then store in freezer bags. I keep the cans and seasoning in stock and fall back on this meal on busy days.
1-1/2 pounds ground beef
1 envelope taco seasoning
2 cans (15 1/4 ounces each) whole kernel corn, undrained
2 cans (15 ounces each) ranch-style or chili beans, undrained
2 cans (14 1/2 ounces each) diced tomatoes, undrained
crushed tortilla chips and shredded cheddar cheese
In a Dutch oven or large saucepan, cook beef over medium heat until no longer pink; drain. Stir in taco seaoning, corn, beans and tomatoes, Cover and simmer for 15 minutes or until heated through, stirring occasionally. Top with cheese and chips.

Share your food storage solutions! You could also include finding storage space, best prices on items, ways to store, items we never thought of, meals only from food storage, best way to rotate, or other helpful ideas and suggestions.

Potty Time

What kind of parent site would this be without a potty training discussion? Every kid has to go through it and most parents fear it even (and sometimes especially) when they've already trained a child. I've trained my daughter but now I have to venture into new territory, training a boy. This brings up new fears and technicalities I'm not sure I'm prepared for. So, here's what I've read and tried in this great obstacle of childhood:
1. Every expert will tell you to wait until they're ready. Unfortunately kids don't hit milestones on our schedule, as convenient as it may be. Training will be faster and less painful for everyone if you take your child's lead.
2. Don't start before a major change in your child's life (ie new baby, move) Every pregnant mom dreams of having her toddler out of diapers before baby comes along (who wants to change two bums), but for the most part any progress you may have will likely be out the window when baby comes (baby gets lots of attention with all those diaper changes). However if your child is the one who decides it's time to train, then you may live the dream.
3. Reading books will both help prepare your child for the potty and provide an activity to encourage longer sitting on the toilet. If you have space in your bathroom consider putting a small shelf or box by the toilet to put books in/on. You can find a lot of great books at the library but may want to buy your own because potty books are read on the potty (see comments for a list of books).
4. For my daughter we talked up being a "Potty Princess." You can even decorate your potty and make a crown (add a jewel for each success). I also painted her toenails while she sat.
5. Some people love mini M&Ms for rewards. To cut back on sugar, I poured real juice into ice cube trays and stuck toothpicks in each cube for mini pops.
6. Sticker charts are fun visuals for some and you can give a reward after completing a row. You can also decorate your child with stickers so they can show Daddy how many stickers they got that day.
7. I've heard several people (including myself) attest that skipping pull-ups and going straight to underwear really got the message across. Pull-ups feel too much like diapers but underwear makes them feel big and are more uncomfortable when messy. Let them pick out their own underwear. Keep the pull-ups for outings and bedtime though to begin with. In fact when you first start, try to stay home a few days and strip your child down to the bare essentials for real success. Summer's a great time to train, less layers to deal with.
8. For boys, toss some Cheerios in the toilet and play "sink the Cheerio" for target practice. My mom trained 4 boys and said this game made her boys easier to train than the girls.
9. Put a couple of drops of blue food coloring in the toilet bowl and watch it turn to green when your child "adds the yellow." You can also use a blue marker to make a spot on a tp square to float in the bowl.
10. To teach good hand washing skills sing a favorite song to be sure they wash long enough.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Oh what do you do in the Summertime

Now that all the kids are home all day long, the days seem extra long (especially with the sun going down late)! If you have young kids, they are not interested in the lazy days of summer, they need entertainment.
Let me first recommend visiting the Go City Kids site. You can put in your city and they'll tell you all the events and attractions for your area. They'll give you ratings, maps, and calendars and if your a cheapskate like me you can dig up all the free things available.
Some movie theaters will offer free summer kids movies in the morning. Not only are they free but you don't have to worry about your child disturbing the peace, they're all kids. And if you ultimately have to leave, you don't feel you've wasted your money. Great way to test your child's theater stamina.
Find a fountain/splash park
in your area. Some public parks have a sprinkler area with rainbow fountains, mushroom misters, etc for kids to run through and "beat the heat." With three little ones, including a baby I choose this over the dangerous depths of a pool any day. Bring a picnic and eat on the grass.
Water balloons and squirt guns are always winners no matter what the age group. For older kids start a game of water balloon volleyball with stretched towels or use boxes on a tennis court for Battleship.
What do you do with your summer? Please enter comments to share your ideas.