Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Great Websites

My sister-in-law recommended this great website to us:
It has videos of famous actors reading fun books. My daughter loves it and keeps requesting the "stripe story" featured above. She just watched it a minute ago so I could go put the baby down for a nap. Go check it out.
Got a site to recommend (for the kids or the moms)?

Making Clean-Up Less of a Chore

Even very young children can help out with clean-up. The truth is it's easier for you to just do it yourself, but it helps them feel independent and proud to have helped and learning to contribute is important. These pictures represent one way I've found to make clean-up time a lot easier. I have crates and plastic drawers with pictures on them so every set of toys has a place and it's easy to put away. You can also cover cardboard boxes with fabric or construction paper. Even my two-year-old knows where everything goes and can clean up quickly. I also like it because when other kids come over to play they can put toys away too. I also put up a peg board to hang dresses and purses. Clean-ups at our house are so much faster now. Another thing I do to keep messes to a minimum is to have them clean up the toys before moving on to a new activity. If they want to go in the yard, have a snack, watch a movie, get a game, I tell them to clean up the basement first (the playroom where we keep the toys). So they clean up several times a day, but it helps keep the mess from becoming too overwhelming (usually) and teaches them responsibility.

What are your clean-up tricks? Got a great organizing tip, game, or rule that helps your kids pitch in? Share your ideas in the comment section! Or if it's better explained with a picture, send it to my e-mail and I'll include it on the post.
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Friday, July 18, 2008

Best Sleep Advice

You love every minute of sleep you can get so it's hard to understand why your little one is so resistent to it. I realize eveyone has their own rules when it comes to what they will and won't do when it comes to their children's sleep, so I'm going to stick to the expert's advice that has helped me. I found this article years ago that really made sense to me and I still refer to it often (mostly the sleeping chart). I used this method with my son and he is a great sleeper! Keep in mind that the lady who wrote this article has a 10-month-old and is consulting an expert, so this is geared toward her 10-month-old but most of it can work for younger babes (and should be introduced much earlier). Here are the highlights:

-"If a child doesn't go to sleep at the physiologically appointed time, his brain will say, 'Fine stay up then,' and secrete a chemical called cortisol to help keep him awake. As result, it takes him longer to go to sleep when you finally get him to bed and thanks to residual cortisol in his brain, he'll wake up earlier than usual the next day, be overtired, and have trouble napping. It's a downward spiral. Sleep deprivation is cumulative-the less you sleep, the less you sleep."

-"Why can't I get my baby to sleep or back to sleeping through the night? The answer is simple: I'm not supposed to be getting him to go to sleep-he should be putting himself to sleep. All that nursing and rocking and back rubbing is not only useless, it's also detrimental. Putting yourself to sleep is a learned skill."

Babies should:
1. take naps in their cribs, not the carseat (this is hard for me). This teaches them that cribs are a place to sleep

2. be drowsy but awake when put down, fall asleep on their own, and if they wake up during the night, be able to drift back off without help

Babies need:
1. a room of their own while learning to sleep. Then teach siblings good "sleep manners" if they're moved back in.

2. room-darkening shades and insulation from household noises (white-noise machine or fan) are helpful

3. one true lovey (security object)-a blanket, doll, or stuffed toy to make the transition to sleeptime. Have an intended object of affection on hand while nursing and encourage baby to squeeze it instead of you. (for my boys this is their "woobies" little knit blankets my mom made. They snuggle them and wrap their fingers through the holes. For my duaghter it's "Sam Bear")

4. a consistent routine that will cue their brain that it's time to go to bed. Have the same series of things before every nap and at bedtime. The entire nursing and bedtime routine need to take place in one spot/room. Do not let them fall asleep while nursing; if they start to drift off , it's time to put them down.

Here's the steps the author took:
Days 1-3
: After reading and nursing, put him in crib and sit right next to it while he cries for however long it takes to go to sleep. You can talk to him and pat him through the slats, but you can't pick him up.
Days 4-6: Move chair halfway between the crib and door and reassure him verbally from there.
Days 7-8: Sit right by the door and talk to him
Day 9: Leave the room as soon as you put him in crib.
(me personally, it's easier to leave the room right away from day 1, than to torture him by sitting in there not holding him, but I understand why that's hard on some people)

How much sleep does your child need?

age *night sleep hrs. #day sleep hours ^daily total
1 week *8 1/2 #8 (4 naps) ^16 1/2
1 month *8 1/2 #7 (3 naps) ^15 1/2
3 months *10 #5 (3 naps) ^15
6 months *11 #3 1/4 (2 naps) ^14 1/4
9 months *11 #3 (2 naps) ^14
12 months *11 1/4 #2 1/2 (2 naps) ^13 3/4
18 months *11 1/4 #2 1/4 (1 nap) ^13 1/2
2 years *11 #2 (1 nap) ^13
3 years *10 1/2 #1 1/2 (1 nap) ^12
4 years *11 1/4 #0 ^11 1/4
5 years *11 #0 ^11

Hope you find this helpful. I didn't follow this religiously, I had to adapt things for our house and family circumstances. As I mentioned, this writer started this when she was struggling with her 10-month-old but it is recommended that you start much earlier than that. Newborns can't be spoiled. They need to eat at night and take awhile to learn when it's nighttime. But once they turn 3 months they have the memory to be spoiled and know how to work mom. This is a good time to start teaching them how to sleep before they start developing bad habits you'll have to break. If you wait until they can stand up in bed it becomes even more difficult for them to learn to sleep on their own (you lose the advantage that they're already laying down). It may sound mean, but they'll learn much quicker earlier and it will be a lot less stressful and healthier for both of you! Feel free to enter a testimonial or completely disagree with this.

P.S. I had this lined up nicely but it decided to center on it's own and I can't do anything to change it's mind. Sorry. If you would like the nice-looking chart e-mail me and I'll send it to you, then I won't feel bad I took the time to make it only to find it wouldn't post.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Stuck at Home

My first post on this blog was about what to do in the summer. I talked about fun and free places to take your kids. One reader however brought up a good point: What if you can't go places and have to entertain your kids at home? If you're a one car family and it's too hot outside to go anywhere, the day's can get long and mundane. Her situation can be particularly boring at times because she only has one child (no playmates but mom). I know, I've been there. We have one car and my husband's work is about 45 minutes away, so not like I can just drive him there. So what do you do to keep your sanity when you're caged up?

(I'll post my ideas as a comment, you do the same)

Monday, July 14, 2008

Being Pregnant with a Toddler

Okay, so this isn't really about women who are carrying toddlers in their bellies, but it feels that way sometimes so I left the title. I'm talking about carrying two babies, one on the hip and one in the belly. I remember being pregnant with my daughter and loving pregnancy! Felt great, got rest, didn't get too big, ate when I needed to, didn't push myself (much), and didn't feel any contractions until an hour after my water broke. Then comes the second pregnancy and you've got this toddler in addition to the baby you're growing and pregnancy is a whole new story. You know, what I'm talking about, most of you are there right now or have been recently. So how do you balance the needs of your toddler and those of your unborn child? Toddlers need to be held, hugged, changed, carried and sometimes dragged just as much but as a big pregnant lady it's exhausting and strenuous. Tantrums become an especially difficult challenge during this time too. Not so easy to pick them up and take them away. So short of sending your toddler to live with Grandma for 9 months, what can you do to take care of your babies and yourself? Well, I'll mention a few things I did but I really want to hear your thoughts because God has a kind way of making you forget your pregnancy and labor trials.

1. Stay Home- This may sound like a joke but for me it's serious. I didn't go out more than I needed to. For my second and third pregnancies we were living in a second-story condo so trying to get my tired, pregnant self and 1-2 kids to and from the car was tiring enough just to think about. I spent time at home getting things ready for baby and getting in my last one-on-one time with my current baby. Then if there was a tantrum I could just walk out of the room and not be publicly embarrassed.

2. Preventative Measures- I'm all about planning and preparing in advance (see my "Saturday.." post). If you are going out bring what you anticipate you and your toddler needing-snacks (for both of you), sippy cup, toy, diapers, anything to lower the risk of stress and fits. Don't go during nap times or other cranky times. Know what type of things upset your toddler and avoid when possible.

3. Take it Slow- Toddlers move (and pregnant ladies for that matter) at their own pace and don't like to be rushed. Schedule yourself accordingly. Don't pack your schedule, it'll wear you and your toddler out.

4. Structue/Routine- Don't pack your schedule but do have one, and make it routine. Toddlers need structure and routine. Naps should be about the same time and length every day and bed time routine the same. Okay, so you don't have to pencil in coloring time , but the things that are done daily need to be the same. This will help relieve stress for both of you and help a ton when baby comes.

5. Don't give into Tantrums- I once heard that you don't need to explain your children to anyone-anyone that has children already understands, and anyone who doesn't won't understand. If your kid throws a tantrum they're looking for attention (even negative). You can wait or just walk away if necessary (okay don't leave them in a store but you can peek around the corner from the next aisle).

6. Hire Daddy- I use to wait until my husband got home to do my shopping (or sent him). My child got Daddy time and I got quiet time at the store. Sometimes I'd wait until after their bedtime so I didn't feel bad for my husband.

7. Lots of Love- In addition to gearing them up for baby, show your toddler how much they mean to you and will always mean to you. This is a rough time for them too and they need lots of hugs, kisses, and time from you. Find things you can do with them that you think you'll still be able to do with them when baby comes. Stories are a great way to spend toddler time while nursing.

Well, you probably knew all that already, so what has helped you during the pregnant/toddler stage?

Our Favorite Stories

This is Alfie and Sam Bear. They are my kids' bears they named after their favorite stories (the one shown and Green Eggs and Ham). My kids love books! In fact, this post is made possible because my kids are in their room reading stories to each other. I taught elementary school and have a great love for children's literature (it's about my attention span :0) ). I love hitting thrift stores and finding great titles in good shape for 10 cents a piece. But libraries introduce your kids to a world of stories and we keep a library box by our couch to make them easy to return. I noticed a "Top 100 Children's Books" poster at our library and think we'll make that our summer reading list. Here are some of our favorite titles right now:

Pinkalicious; Good Night Alfie Bear; Hooray for Grandma Jo; Where the Wild Things Are (my two-year-olds absolute favorite); Chicka Chicka Boom Boom; Lilly and the Purple Plastic Purse (and other Kevin Henkes books); Bernstein Bears; David Shannon books; If You Give a Pig a Pancake; Click, Clack, Moo Cows That Type; Goodnight Moon

Parents magazine "Best Children's Books by Age"
Got a book (or list) to recommend? Leave a comment and share the joy of reading!

Frugal Shopper

This post was submitted (at my request) by my friend Megan. She has two kids and her husband's a teacher so they are pros at budgeting and value shopping. If you want to learn more ask through the comments or I can forward her through my e-mail. Thanks Megan!

I like to think that I have three jobs. I'm a stay-at-home mom; I teach voice lessons two to three hours a day and third I buy healthy food for my family at DIRT CHEAP prices. I cringe when the person in front of me at the grocery check-out pays twice as much for their small pile of groceries than I do for my over-stuffed cart. Just the other day a lady was in front of me who paid around $200.00 for a cart that was about ¾ full of food. I only paid $125.00 for my two over-stuffed carts (my husband was there to help push the second). My third job makes me feel like I am saving my family tons of money (which makes my husband and I very happy), but it is a job and it does take time and if you are willing to sacrifice a little to save a lot then here are my suggestions for getting started.

1. Create a monthly grocery budget and don't go over it!! My husband and I buy all of our groceries, diapers, house supplies, and food storage on a budget of $150.00 every two weeks. To stay true to your budget write down all the prices of what you put into your cart as you are shopping. Then add up your total BEFORE you get to the register. It never fails if I am lazy and don't add up my total before I purchase my groceries then I almost always go over.

2. Create a menu for the days you will be shopping. I go shopping every two weeks so I plan for two weeks of Dinners, Lunches, Breakfasts and Snacks. I then post the menu up on the fridge so if my family wants a snack or to fix their own breakfast they know what is available to them.

3. PRICE MATCHING!!! This is a HUGE key for saving money. I could probably write a whole blog just on price matching and how it works so I will be as brief as possible in this section. I have not bought any of my meats, cheeses or fruits full-price for over a year now because I live by this principle. Every week the local grocery ads magically show up in your mail box. DO NOT THROW THEM AWAY! THEY ARE YOUR NEW FRIENDS!
a. Look through them and make a list of the sales that fit your needs.
b. Compare different store ads then find the cheapest sales
(a lot of the stores will have the same items on sale at the same time)
STORES. If you don't have a store like this sorry you will have to drive a little
more to get the deals. For those of you in the Las Vegas area the Wal-mart
Neighborhood Market on Warm Springs and Eastern will match ALL store
ads INCLUDING the Hispanic Market ads that always have dirt cheap prices
on their meats, vegetables and fruits (i.e. I just bought 8 lbs. of oranges for $.99
original price at Wal-Mart was $.64 an orange. I also bought these ribs originally
priced at $10.54 for $3.50). You don't ever have to buy your meats or
produce again for regular price!! (Megan has also told me to make a list of your price matches to read to the checker and bring the ads if they want to see them)
4. Look out for HUGE SALES! If you live in Utah or Nevada around every General Conference Smith's has Case Lot sales that are perfect for buying canned goods for your food storage at extremely low prices. Some stores will have 8 hour sales that are to die for as well. Check out for more ideas on saving money at the grocery store or elsewhere. If you have any other questions you can leave a comment or have an e-mail forwarded through

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Baby Food Solutions

With five in our family to feed I hate going to the baby aisle and buying the baby his own specialized food at higher prices so I do what I can to incorporate our food into his diet. Here's a few things I do:

1. Buy large jars of no sugar added applesauce (not baby food jars). Great for breakfast mixed with baby oatmeal or other homemade foods. My older kids like applesauce too so we keep this stocked.

2. My wonderful mother-in-law bought me a food processor one Christmas. A gift I never knew I needed but LOVE! Not only does it help make meals quickly but I use it all the time for making baby food. I buy the plastic, stackable baby food containers (Parents Choice-Walmart now has some) and then wash them after they've been used. Throw some canned veggies (no sugar or salt added) into the food processor and fill up 3-4 containers and refrigerate. I also buy the large bags of baby carrots at Sam's Club (Costco), great snacks for the rest of us. I cook some, throw them in the food processor with some applesauce (for taste and texture) and he loves it.

3. Mash ripe bananas with water. Good way to get baby use to texture. Mix in some rice cereal or oatmeal to thicken.

4. Munchkin brand sells a "fresh food feeder" with a mesh pocket to allow babies to eat whole foods on their own. It can be a pain to wash but when you're desperate for hands-free time and your baby's craving independent feeding, it can be a life-saver. When my baby's crying for food and I'm trying to make dinner I toss him in the highchair with this contraption. Bananas are easy (killer clean-up though). I also like baking a sweet potato and cutting off chunks to throw in the feeder (if you bake instead of boil, the skin peels right off).

5. Make your own Zwieback Toast by toasting bread until crispy and slicing into strips. When my daughter refuses her crust, I just hand it to the baby (as long as it doesn't have honey, pb, or strawberries on it).

6. Cut fruit, cooked veggies, and hard cheese into tiny pieces for baby to self-feed. My 9-month-old wants real food now and has little patience for the spoon anymore, so this is how we compromise right now, while he eats his tidbits I sneak bites of baby food in (when he opens his mouth for his fistful I stick the spoon in).

7. If I'm trying to get baby to eat a food he doesn't care for (or something new) I give it to him with something I know he loves. So if he has pured turkey I'll serve it with peaches. I alternate bites so he keeps his mouth open in hopes for the peaches. Or I scoop up a little turkey then peaches in the front of the spoon.

What's your baby-feeding secrets? Got a favorite "recipe" or trick?

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Picky! Picky! Picky!

Kids are funny about what they choose to put in their mouths. They have no problem sampling dirt or Play-doh but won't touch the delicious casserole you spent an hour preparing. My daughter's favorite food was chicken pot pie for a couple weeks and now she won't even take a bite. My boys are great eaters and will eat just about anything you put in front of them (or steal it from you if it wasn't put in front of them). My daughter, on the other hand, is very particular about what she'll eat. And of course her preferences change week to week. So what's a mom to do? There has to be some balance between making their favorites and putting your foot down. On one hand I think, "Deal with it, kid. You eat this or you skip dinner." Then I think, "wait a minute, as an adult there are foods I don't like and don't eat. Shouldn't she be allowed to have some choice." So, here's "Dealing with picky eaters according to Gina- random thoughts on kids eating habits."

One thing to consider when it comes to eating is that it's not just about taste, it's about texture. Maybe it isn't really the taste that offends your child, but the texture. I love yogurt but I can't handle strawberry or blueberry chunks in my creamy snack. I do love the flavor though if I can find smooth and creamy versions. Kids can be quite finicky about how something feels. Maybe the spaghetti sauce is too chunky, the squash too slimy, the onions too squishy. Try preparing things different or throwing a portion into the blender/food processor for a more consistent texture. Temperature plays a role too and may need to be adapted for younger eaters.

One big obstacle is finding ways to get your kids to eat their veggies. Carrot sticks and "ants on a log" (celery with pb and raisins) are great snacks. As a kid I loved frozen peas (just run them under hot water til separated). I use to thaw some frozen peas and carrots to give to my son. We would talk about the shapes and bounce the "balls" into his mouth. Tell your child to pretend to be a giant and eat the "trees" (broccoli). Try adding vegetables to their favorite dishes. My daughter loves alfredo sauce with peas and corn. Or food process the veggies and add to a sauce (hee hee, they'll never know). My mom adds spinach to her delicious smoothies.

Encourage them to keep trying new foods. Even if they didn't like it before they may grow into it. I've started a rule that you have to try at least one bite of everything on your plate and you can't whine and say it's yucky. I also give my kids small portions of everything and they have to clean their plate before they can have more of anything. You can take your child grocery shopping with you and let them pick out a new food to try from the produce section.

Give them healthy choices. If you have good food available and let them choose they'll learn good habits. Talk about "sometimes" (cookies) and "anytime" food (apple). If you're like me you may have to remind yourself of this often.

You can make it a fun, learning experience by talking about shapes, colors, counting, grouping, etc. My sister-in-law recommended talking about eating a variety of colors and reviewing what colors they've eaten. Read "Pinkalicious" to talk about what happens when you eat too much of one color.

Post your comment to tell us what you do to help your kids eat better! Don't be modest, if you have a good idea, share. And remember, even small and simple thoughts can help.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Kitchen Tips

Moms are busy but know that homecooked meals are good for the family and the budget, so shortcuts and tricks are a treasure! This is probably my favorite subject to collect ideas on. I love finding the boxes on the sidelines of cookbooks that give you helpful hints. So, I'm hoping for some comments here, but here's a few I've picked up:
1. Line measuring cups with saran wrap before filling with peanut butter or shortening- I hate the impossible to clean mess that these foods leave behind and was so excited to find this tip!
2. Leave a chopstick in your flour to level the top of your measuring cup
3. Cut up raw chicken into cubes and cook, then seal in baggies and freeze (I have a food sealer that is great). This way you'll have cooked chicken ready for quick recipes.
4. Cook ground beef, spread on cookie sheet and freeze. When frozen, remove the beef from sheet and store in bags.
5. Double the recipe when you make cookies and freeze the extras (individually) on cookie sheet, then store in bags. Then you can have warm cookies another day without the dirty bowls to wash (great for last minute visiting teaching). Note: Adjust the oven temp. and time when cooking frozen cookies. Crosshatch pb cookies before freezing.
6. Buy bags of frozen chopped onions for easy (tear-free) cooking- great discovery because I can't handle chopping onions
7. Wash Gerber 'lil Entree bowls and reuse for toddlers- normally my cheap self wouldn't pay for a namebrand product I can make myself but the plastic bowls have 2 compartments and are great for adding a side to meals.
8. Bibs with sleeves and ties- my toddler (like most) is a mess and pulls off velcro bibs. So I bought him one with sleeves and a tie so his whole shirt is covered and he leaves it on.
9. Those thin plastic cutting boards also work great as placemats for messy children and clean up easily.
10. Use a pizza cutter to cut bite-size pieces of anything (like waffles, pancakes, and noodles). So much faster.
11. Keep your plastic cups, bowls, and plates in a bottom cabinet so your kids can get their own stuff and help set the table.
12. Spray tupperware with non-stick spray before adding red sauce
13. After getting home from the store, wash and cut up celery and store in tupperware or bags for easy snacking. I also wash my grapes and pull them from the vine to store.

What tricks do you use to make your kitchen more effective and simplify your meals? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment.