May 28, 2015

Sunburns and Summer Fun

Summer is officially here and that means it’s time to ride bikes, go camping, play baseball/softball, host BBQ’s, go swimming and enjoy any other outdoor activity that you can! It’s pretty safe to say that summertime is probably the most looked-forward to season by adults and children alike. After all, school is out, the weather is warm and America’s favorite pastime is in full swing! What’s not to love?

While we should all find ways to get out and enjoy the summer weather with our family and friends, it is also important that we remember how harmful the sun can be when we aren’t prepared for it. This is especially true for those of us with children. Children are more susceptible to the heat and the harmful rays that beat down on them from the sun.

I’m sure that most of you have experienced a sunburn at some point within your life. I know that I sure have. However, I’ve got to say that the times when I did burn wasn’t until after I had reached my teenage years and wasn’t in the presence of my mother. My mom was incredibly good about making sure that my brother and I always put on sunscreen before we went outside to play or over to a friend’s for a pool party.

I have to admit that when I was a kid, I was always irritated that mom insisted on sunscreen because it took more time to do. Now, as a mom myself, I am experiencing the same attitude from my 6 year old but, just like my mother, I am determined to get the sunscreen on him! I’m sure most of you out there feel the same way I do about this topic.

While you may be putting sunscreen on your kids regularly, there are actually a few mistakes that can be made regarding it. Below are some sunscreen tips to ensure that your little ones are fully protected this summer!
  • Apply Daily – Did you know that the majority of sun exposure comes from activities such as sitting by a window, walking the dog, driving, playing catch, etc.? Therefore, it’s important to make sure that you’ve got some type of sun protection on your children daily…even on the days when they aren’t going to a pool party or won’t be outside for long periods of time. When it comes to the sun, time is time so be prepared for it!
  • Reapply – While you definitely get points for putting on sunscreen before the kids head out the door to go swimming, you don’t get an “A” for effort unless you remember to reapply the sunscreen after swimming has commenced. I know they make “water resistant” sunscreen, but that doesn’t mean that it won’t come off in the water. Therefore, make sure you reapply the sunscreen after swimming. Also, reapply it if it has been on for several hours too.
  • Apply Liberally – Sunscreen can be expensive, but that doesn’t mean you should skimp when applying it. If you don’t put enough on then the skin isn’t fully protected, and isn’t that why you bought the stuff in the first place? Also, when you skimp on the application, you may miss spots and that is definitely not what you want to do.
  • Cover All Areas – While applying sunscreen to the arms, shoulders, torso, cheeks, legs and feet all need to be covered in sunscreen, there are other areas that need to be remembered too during the application process. The nose, ears, around the mouth, back of the neck and the top of the head (for kids/adults with little hair) all need to be covered.
Again, summertime is such a fun time of year for everyone to enjoy, but a bad sunburn can put a damper on the activities planned. Therefore, make sure to apply sunscreen liberally and correctly before you and your kiddos head outside!

Bringing Home Baby: The Clothing Essentials for Newborn Babies

While I am officially done having babies, I am still very much in “baby” mode as I have two cousins and a best friend who are all expecting their FIRST baby within the next few months! Although it has been over six years since I gave birth to our first baby, I still remember the excitement that I felt as I prepared for his arrival. For first time parents, everything during that pregnancy is new and exciting, but perhaps the most exciting thing is getting to register for the baby shower.

Decades ago people didn’t go to a store and actually register for baby items, instead they welcomed the gifts that their guests brought to them and then went and purchased the items that they didn’t receive. Today, the whole process has been made very simple as guests can now look and see exactly what the expectant parents need when they look at the registry. However, it is easy to get carried away and register for items that you don’t need. If you have ever visited a baby store then you’ve seen how many baby products are out there!

One of the areas where new parents tend to overspend is on the baby clothing. I know from experience how easy it is to give into the, “this outfit is just too cute…I have to buy it,” mentality. One of the great things about newborns is that they don’t care what they’re wearing. All they care about is eating, sleeping, being held and pooping. Seriously. So, save your hard earned money and only buy the must-have articles of clothing for your newborn. There are so many other things that you will need to spend that money on (car seats, a crib, monitors, etc.). To help you out, I’ve created a list of clothing essentials for the newborn:
  • Sleepers & Mittens – Both of these are a must. There are variety of sleepers available that include zippers, buttons or are open at the bottom. The point is that the baby is warm while sleeping, but when it’s time for the 3 am feeding and diaper changing session, it’s convenient for mom and dad. Some sleepers come with built in hand mittens to keep the baby from scratching him/herself as they sleep, but if you don’t get any of these make sure you buy some of the little mittens separately in case your little one scratches as he sleeps.
  • Onesies and Stretchy Pants – I have to say, onesies were a favorite of mine for both of my boys. I loved how easy they were to put on and I didn’t have to worry about their little bellies showing every time I picked them up. Therefore, make sure you get plenty of onesies in both short and long sleeve styles. The stretchy pants are the easiest to put on, especially on newborns. The great thing about them is that they stretch, so your little one isn’t going to grow out of them as quickly as a pair of jeans…plus, they’ve gotta be more comfortable for the little one too!
  • Socks – While those little baby shoes are super cute, the truth is that there really isn’t a need for them until the little one starts walking. This is especially true now that they make adorable socks that look like shoes! If you really want to get some baby shoes, then by all means do, but just make sure that you have more baby socks on hand than you do baby shoes…you will use the socks much more.
  • Dress Up Clothing – Okay, this is where so many people over-spend on babies, especially those with baby girls. (My husband is lucky that we had two boys, because if we had a girl I’m sure that I would have over-indulged in the clothing department for her too.) Try to refrain from going overboard here because the fact is that your little one is going to be growing at a rapid rate for the next couple of years. Therefore, he/she isn’t going to be able to wear each formal outfit very many times before moving on to the next size. While you do need formal clothing for your baby, try to keep the number of outfits on hand to 10 or less. The bulk of your baby’s clothing should be for the everyday stuff that you won’t stress out over if milk, spit-up, baby food, etc. gets on it.
  • One Jacket & One Coat – Jackets and coats are also expensive items for babies that are easy to crazy on. Sure, it’s nice to have a jacket/coat to match every outfit, but is it really necessary? Again, think about how fast your little one will grow and whether it’s really worth it to buy multiple coats and jackets that will maybe last 4-6 weeks.
  • Receiving Blankets & Bibs – You will need several good receiving blankets for your newborn as most newborns like to be swaddled to sleep. They are also great for covering their heads when walking outside on a windy or rainy day. As for the bibs, make sure you have plenty of these. My favorites were the cloth and Velcro bibs as they were easy to wash. Anyways, stock up on bibs because you will be amazed at how quickly you go through them…seriously, I think I went through more bibs daily then I did change of clothes with both of my babies!

Hopefully, the list above has helped you narrow down the essential clothing that you will need for your newborn versus the “cute, but not essential” items. While shopping for newborn baby clothes is fun, it is an area that is hard to justify (at least for me) when the baby doesn’t really care one way or another about what he/she is wearing as long as he/she is comfortable. So, save your money and stick to the essentials. When the little one is old enough to appreciate his/her clothing, then buy the more expensive and non-essential stuff.  

April 30, 2015

Mother’s Day 2015 Gift Guide

Mother’s Day 2015 is just around the corner! Seriously, it’s going to be here before you know it. Have you and your children prepared anything special for the special lady?

As a mother, I know that a lot of times we tell our husbands and children not to worry about getting us anything for Mother’s Day but, while we do mean it, it’s also nice to be surprised too. The great thing is that we don’t need much to be surprised and feel special. All we really need is for our families to show us that they have thought about us and have tried to make our day special.
However, I know that it can be hard trying to find the perfect gift for Mother’s Day, especially in 2015 when there are so many great things to choose from. So, I’ve put together a little gift guide to help you find the perfect gift – regardless of your budget.

Personalized Jewelry: Jewelry is always a hit with most women, but many are under the impression that it has to be expensive to be special. For mothers, this is not true! Personalized jewelry is one of the most thoughtful, and often inexpensive, gifts that can be given on Mother’s Day. This is especially true if you like to shop on Etsy.com. A few ideas include: Charm Bracelets, Lockets and Birthstone Rings/Necklaces. Another great suggestion, if you have a daughter, is a Mother/Daughter necklace. This is a necklace with two chains that separates and mom gets one and daughter gets the other. It’s perfect because both mother and daughter get a new piece of jewelry that can be worn with a variety of outfits, but especially those summer dresses!

Handcrafted Anything: If you have an artistic child who enjoys arts and crafts, then let him/her make something special for mom. It may be a card or a drawing, or it might be something a little more time-consuming like a bracelet or cross-stitch picture, etc., but what it is, how much it cost or how great it looks won’t matter as much as the thought, time and love that went into making it. Handcrafted gifts are definitely favorites for moms to receive on Mother’s Day!

Essential Oils: In case you didn’t know, essential oils are the craze right now. Almost everyone I know has started experimenting with essential oils to help with almost anything. Things like allergies, the common cold, migraine headaches, relaxation, stress….you name it and there’s probably an essential oil for it. The reason people are starting to use essential oils is because they provide an all-natural solution for common ailments. So, a starter kit or a couple more of her favorite essential oils (if she already has some) will make a unique and thoughtful gift. If she is new to essential oils, then you might also consider a diffuser.

Relaxation Basket: Consider making a gift basket with her favorite things in it to help her relax. The basket might include things like a book, chocolate, bubble bath/bath salts, manicure/pedicure gift card, a movie and popcorn, etc. Basically, you and the kids will get some of her favorite things and create a thoughtful “relaxation” basket with them.

Breakfast in Bed: What would a Mother’s Day gift guide be without breakfast in bed? As mothers, we do so much to care for our families that we often neglect ourselves. For example, many moms get up early to make sure the kids have a well-rounded breakfast before heading out to school or going wherever they have to go, but they eat breakfast on the run (protein shake, granola bar, banana, etc.) because there isn’t enough time for them to sit down an eat. So…why not get the kids up early, let mom sleep in, and make her a scrumptious meal that she can enjoy while in bed?


Hopefully you have found something on this list that will help you make Mother’s Day 2015 special for the special woman in your life whether she is your mother or wife and mother of your children! If you have any additional ideas, please leave them in the comment section so our readers can gather more great ideas!

January 17, 2015

New Year Health Goals: Getting Started

It’s that time of year again…the time of year when everyone sets new goals for themselves. Most likely, the most popular goal among adults (I know I’m guilty) is to improve our health in some way. If this wasn’t true, then we wouldn’t see a slew of weight loss advertisements everywhere we look at the first of every year!

Whether you are looking to improve your health because you have an important event coming up (wedding, reunion, vacation, etc.), your medical needs require it or you just want to look and feel better when summer rolls around, chances are that you are going to have to address your daily diet and exercise routine.

At Kids Formal, we actually see a lot of people come through our doors who are in the process of achieving their health goals. After all, why do people come and buy formal wear for their children? Usually, it’s because there is a special event coming up and they need to look their best. And, when the kids need to look their best, a lot of time so do the parents. Special events have a tendency to give people the motivation they need to start focusing on their health.

While it’s great to set a goal to improve your health, even if it’s just because you want to look better, you aren’t going to be able to accomplish anything if you don’t have a plan in place before you start. Below are a few things you can do to ensure you start on the “right foot.”

1. Consult with a professional. While a lot of people go out and hire a personal trainer to help them accomplish their fitness goals, that isn’t necessary when you’re just getting started. Please don’t misunderstand me, if you prefer to work with a personal trainer, then go for it because these are professionals who will be able to help you. However, if you aren’t wanting to spend $90+ an hour, per week, for personal training, you can still consult a professional and get the help you need.

The health and fitness industry is one that’s full of easily accessible information! Take a little time to Google personal trainers, bodybuilders, fitness competitors, etc. to find a professional who has accomplished what you are trying to accomplish. Read through various forums and online articles because you will find some of them mention names of people who helped them achieve their goals.

If you are pressed for time, a great place to start is with Bill Phillips. He has two books out that will help you tremendously: Body for Life and Eating for Life. Both of these books will help you develop an immediate plan for achieving your health goals through diet and exercise.

2. Buy a food scale. You might think it’s a little obsessive to weigh your food before you eat it, but if you want to accurately measure your macros (protein, carbs and fat) then you have to have a food scale so you know the right amount of macros. You can find a good food scale for around $25, but you can definitely find them for over $50 if you want to get one with all the “bells and whistles.” Regardless of how much you spend on one, you will need it.

3. Plan your meals. You aren’t going to be able to get away with eating whenever the urge strikes you anymore. This can lead to overeating and, believe it or not, not eating enough – both will hinder your fitness goals. So, take the time to plan out when you will eat your meals the night before the day in question. You should be eating something at least every 2-3 hours to ensure your metabolism is running at its best.

4. Cook ahead. Obviously, if you are going to plan your meals ahead of time you will need to start cooking ahead of time too! I like to set aside an evening on the weekend (usually Sunday) for cooking. I will cook all the meat and veggies I need for the week. It probably seems like this will take up a lot of time, but the truth is that it actually saves time during the week because I spend about 5 minutes preparing my dinner (and my family’s) each night. And, before I head out for the day, I simply pack a lunch with enough food so that I can eat every 2-3 hours. The best benefit for cooking and preparing meals in advance is that I don’t give in to cravings or make bad choices nearly as often (I’m human, so it does happen occasionally) when I’ve got my food ready to go!

5. Find a great protein powder. If you do the math and figure eating every 2-3 hours a day, then you realize that you will be eating about six small meals a day. Not every one of these meals needs to be a traditional meal. You just need a healthy blend of protein and carbs. This is why two or three of my meals every day are protein shakes/smoothies. All you need to do is find a great protein powder. I prefer to mix mine in plain almond milk, but some people use water and others use low-fat milk – it’s really what works best for you.

Hopefully, you’ve found these tips helpful and feel like you are a little closer to achieving your health goals then you were when you started reading it. Just remember, you’ve got to have a plan in place before you can expect to reach your goals (this is true in anything, not just health and fitness).

Good luck in achieving your health and fitness goals in 2015!

December 25, 2014

How to Save Money on Fall and Winter Clothes for the Whole Family

I know I’ve talked about how you can save money on the kids when it comes time to clean out their closets and update the outgrown clothes, but I haven’t talked about how you can save money when shopping for the entire family as fall and winter approach. And, as you know, clothing expenses aren’t just limited to the kids. After all, adults like to freshen up their wardrobes from time to time too!

So, how can you bring some new styles to your closet, as well as the kids’, this fall/winter without breaking the bank? Here are a few ideas:

  1. Sell the clothes you don’t wear anymore. While we all know the time and effort behind hosting a garage sale, the truth is that garage sales are still excellent for helping people get rid of the stuff they don’t need anymore…AND make money. If garage sales aren’t your thing, then consider selling the clothes that are in good condition on eBay. You will be surprised at how easy it is to sell unwanted items (including clothes) on that site. Regardless of which method you choose, you will get rid of the unwanted clothes and make money that can go towards new clothes this fall/winter for the entire family.
  2. Be savvy and shop online for everyone. If you’ve read this blog for long then you know that I’m a huge supporter of shopping for kids’ clothing online, but I’ve just recently started to shop for my own clothing online. It isn’t because I can’t find good deals online for myself or my husband, but instead it’s because we are the ones to sacrifice as we’re always replacing our kids’ clothes due to their growth spurts. However, there are times when we need (and deserve) to add a few new items to our closets too and I’ve found that I can actually save a lot of money by shopping online. I like to watch the discount sites like zulily.com and shoebuy.com as they run a lot of sales for adult clothing. (Tip: don’t order anything that isn’t on sale…)
  3. Take advantage of card discounts. Finally, make sure you take the time read the store flyers about upcoming sales and specials for their customer card holders. While I’m not one who likes to charge up my credit cards, when it comes to saving additional money on things we need and are going to buy anyways, I do it. I just make sure that I take the money out of my checking account and set aside for the credit card immediately when I get home so I don’t get surprised with a big balance later on.
Hopefully, you’ve found these tips helpful. We all need new clothes from time to time…especially mom and dad in the fall and winter, but that doesn’t mean we have to go into debt in order to do it. What are some of the ways you save money on clothing?

December 4, 2014

Holiday Formalwear Guide for Kids

If you weren’t ready for the holidays a few weeks ago, now is the time to get it together as the holidays are practically here! At my house, this is the craziest part of the year! We have school programs, holiday parties, holiday baking, caroling, decorating, gift buying and much more to do all within a few weeks. Finding time to rest and relax is hard to do at this time of year. In fact, I feel pretty good when I’m able to get about 4-6 hours of sleep during the holiday rush!

While all of the holiday festivities are fun and enjoyable, they can be stressful. This is especially true when you go to get the kids ready and discover that they’ve outgrown their formal wear! This is exactly the reason why you need to make sure your kids have properly fitting formal wear in their closets right now. If they don’t, then you need to go out and get them some holiday clothing pronto.

Below you will find a holiday formalwear guide to help ensure you don’t forget anything and your kids are ready for all the upcoming holiday festivities!

Boys

1. Vest Set/Suit: One of the best things about having boys is that they’re pretty easy to shop for when it comes to formalwear! All you need to have in their closet is a properly fitting vest set or dress suit. Vest sets and suits generally come with the dress shirt, vest/jacket, dress pants and a matching tie. Nothing like getting it all in one stop, right?!

2. Dress Shoes and Socks: Next, you just need to make sure you’ve got a good pair of dress socks to match the dress pants he will be wearing. Then, complete the outfit with a nice pair of dress shoes. Dress shoes come in a variety of styles and finishes, making it easy to find the perfect pair regardless of whether you need a casual or formal pair of dress shoes.



Girls

1. Formal Dress: Your little princess will need at least one formal dress in her closet for the holiday season. More than likely she will be attending a school program, formal holiday party or a special Christmas church service before the season is over. Thus, requiring her to wear a formal dress. Depending on how many formal events you and your family will be attending you may need a couple formal dresses, but one is definitely a must-have.



2. Casual Dress: It’s also a good idea to have a casual holiday dress on for her to wear to semi-casual holiday events. Things like holiday family gatherings, holiday pictures, sleigh rides, caroling, etc. are all events where a festive casual dress can be worn.



3. Leggings: Your daughters may not see the importance of them now, but in the cold winter air they will certainly come to appreciate leggings and the warmth they provide. The great thing about leggings is that they come in so many different colors, patterns and styles, making it easy to find a pair to go with every outfit!



4. Closed-Toe Dress Shoes: A pair of closed-toe dress shoes is a must for little girls at the holidays. They will ensure her little feet stay warm while completing her winter ensemble.



5. Bolero Jacket: Finally a good bolero jacket is another must-have for little girls at the holidays. Boys don’t really care too much if they have to wear their heavy winter coat over their suit/vest set to stay warm, but girls don’t want to hide their beautiful holiday dresses behind big and bulky coats. The solution is to get them a bolero jacket. These are dressy, warm and stylish – making them perfect to pair with holiday formalwear!



Hopefully, you are already stocked and ready to go for the holidays, but if you find that your children have outgrown their formalwear, the list above should help you get them ready for the holidays…even if it is at the last minute!

All of the above items can be found at KidsFormal.com.

September 20, 2014

Keeping Love Alive in Marriage

Just a few days ago, I was browsing through my Facebook page and came across this little ditty about marriage:
 
You and I both know there is no such thing as an actual “marriage box,” but I do think the point that the author is trying to make with this is that if a couple gets married and become complacent in their love for one another then they start to take one another for granted and the love they once had will suddenly be gone.
 
In other words, keeping the love alive in a marriage is hard work. This is probably why more than 50% of marriages end in divorce. The marriages that make it through the course of time most likely involve couples who have figured out how to keep the love alive. Below are a few things that you can do to help keep the marital fires burning:

Make a big deal about anniversaries. I know a lot of couples who have been married for several years and, as a result, they have started to treat their anniversaries like any other day. Sure, they get their spouse a card and tell them “Happy Anniversary,” but that’s about it…unless it’s a “milestone” anniversary. Don’t do this. Each and every anniversary you reach with your spouse is a big deal. It takes a lot to stay married these days and every year brings new difficulties for married couples. Therefore, when your anniversary rolls around, celebrate the fact that you two have made it through another year of trials together!
 
Don’t stop doing the little things for one another. It doesn’t matter who we are talking about, there isn’t a person alive who doesn’t like feeling loved. Like the marriage box blip from above stated, “there is no love in marriage,” love is something that individuals bring to their marriages. One of the easiest ways to keep the love alive in marriage is to never stop doing the little things for your spouse that you know he/she likes.
 
For example, most women love to receive flowers or chocolates at work from their spouse. We also enjoy things like, shoulder rubs/back scratches, impromptu cards/notes/letters, surprise date nights and other similar things. Men enjoy things like golfing with the guys, home cooked meals, watching sporting event on television instead of HGTV, sex, etc. While the lists above are examples of common likes for men and women, the fact is that each individual person is different and it’s up to their spouse to take note of what little things make them the happiest. And, just because you may not think that the things your spouse likes are important, they are important to him/her. Continue to surprise your spouse with the little things and you’ll be amazed at the results you get from it!
 
Take weekend trips without the kids. Now that I’m a parent and my oldest son is starting to get involved in school activities, I understand just how hard it is to find time with just my spouse. While kids are great, they (and their activities) can be draining as well. And, if couples aren’t careful (my husband and I included), they can easily get so wrapped up in the kids and everything they’ve got going on that they leave little time (and energy) for their spouse. This is why I believe it is so important for couples to carve out time for each other and take at least one weekend trip each year, without the kids. The time you and your spouse are able to spend alone together are precious because they give you the ability to reconnect with one another. It’s important that you stay connected to your spouse because one day your children will move out and it will just be you and your spouse…you don’t want to find that you’re living with a stranger.

Say encouraging things to your spouse on a regular basis. The world is a harsh place to live in right now. It just seems like people today are so negative towards others. While there is nothing we can do about this outside of our homes, when it comes to our family, we can control the amount of negativity coming out of it. This is especially true in regards to our marriages. Very seldom are two unhappy people living in a happy marriage…it’s really impossible when you think about it.
Therefore, keep things positive by looking for ways to build up your spouse instead of being negative and critical towards him/her. Give compliments and encouragement daily. If you know your wife is down because she has gained a few pounds, tell her how great she looks and how attracted you are to her in the mornings. Ladies, if you know your husband has been stressed about work, tell him how proud you are of him and how thankful you are that he continues to go to work to support his family. These words of encouragement/love keep the bond between spouses strong.

Talk through your differences. My husband and I have been married for 10 years this June, and this is something we still work on. While we have gotten much better about it over the years, there are days when we argue and we want to be mad for a while. Talking through our different views is not something that we necessarily want to do…and sometimes we put it off for a day or two. But, for the most part, when we have an argument we make a point to work through it right then and there. We may get angry with one another and our tempers may be strong, but that’s okay, because at least we are communicating with one another about our feelings over that particular issue. This allows us to move past the “I’m right, you’re wrong” stage and work together to find a solution…which is often a compromise for both of us.
Working through your problems as a couple is vitally important to keeping your love alive because when you don’t take the time to express your feelings and come to a resolution, resentment builds. And, resentment can be a marriage killer if you aren’t careful.  
What are your thoughts regarding this? Do you have any additional tips for how to keep the love going within a marriage? Please share!

August 13, 2014

Fun Ways to Instill Good Work-Ethic in Kids

As parents, we have so many responsibilities on our shoulders. Not only do we strive to make sure our kids know that we love them, but we are also focused on making sure their needs are met and that they grow into responsible young adults who will be a value to the communities they live in. For me, that last one is one of the biggest.
 
Yes, it is very important that my children know how much I love them and of course I do everything in my power to ensure their basic needs are met and that they are protected. However, I believe that it isn’t my job to give them everything they want. There is a difference between wants and needs. And in order to make sure my children grow to be respectable, hard-working, responsible young adults, I have to make sure that I don’t just hand them everything to their heart’s desire. That is a sure-fire way to raise a spoiled, arrogant child who will grow into an arrogant young adult who expects the finer things in life without having to work for them.
I know that the majority of adults feel like the younger generation is the “entitled” generation. Meaning it’s full of kids who feel like they deserve the finer things just because. The issue is that parents today seem to think kids just naturally grow into responsible young adults with good work-ethic and they don’t. Having a strong work-ethic and the drive to achieve goals are both learned behaviors. It’s not something kids are naturally born with.
I believe that parents need to start working to instill these traits when their children are little. However, when working with young children, parents have to look for ways to make it fun. Below are a few fun ways to instill good work-ethic and responsibility into children.
 
      W4-H when children turn eight, they can get involved in their local 4-H program. This program is designed to focus on Science, Health and Citizenship and teaches children what it means to set goals, work hard to achieve them and how to become a value to their community. Hard work, responsibility and respect are just a few of the values children learn through the 4-H program. To learn more about this amazing (and fun) program, click here
 
      One Lemonade Stands, Chores, Etc. - one of the easiest things to do is to give in to the constant, “Mommy/Daddy, can I have this?” when you go to the store. It’s not like we don’t have the money and we know it’s something that they would enjoy. However, when kids don’t have to work for anything, they don’t have a respect for the things we do give them. In other words, our children will value the items they work and save for more than those that are given to them.
 
Therefore, find ways to help your children earn money for the things they want. For example, when your child says, “Can I have this?” Say, “No, but you can earn it.” Then help them earn the money. Working for money doesn’t have to be boring either… it can be fun. Young children often enjoy working lemonade stands and baking goods to sell. They also like to go through their toys and select the items they don’t want to sell in a garage sale. Additionally, chores like taking out the trash, cleaning out the flower beds and vacuuming the floor can be fun when they know they will be receiving money for them when they’re done.
 
      Animals - One of the best ways children can learn responsibility is by helping take care of the family pet. For instance, our oldest son knows his job is to get up and let our dog outside to go potty. He also helps with the food and water for her.
As a country girl, I grew up around animals and when I was old enough to participate in our local 4-H program, my parents bought me a pair of show pigs. While my parents helped me work and train them, I was responsible for feeding and watering them every morning. As I got older, I started clipping them for the shows. I can’t tell you how much responsibility I learned during these years. The experience was honestly priceless. While my first two show pigs were provided by my parents, all of my show animals after were paid for by the proceeds I made from the proceeds made off the previous year’s show animals. In addition to the hands-on responsibility learned from taking care of the animals themselves, I also learned how to keep a track of a check register, how to write checks, what it meant to monitor the food for the animals (if I ran out of food for the animals it was my fault) and so much more. Therefore, if your children show any interest in animals, strongly consider getting them involved in 4-H and the animal science projects they have.
 
      Not Hobbies - Not every child is interested in sports and there are some that have zero interest in animals and that’s okay because everyone has an interest in something. Maybe your child has an interest in hunting, fishing or guns? Get them involved in boy scouts or maybe help them find a group of kids with the same interests. Shooting competitions are getting pretty popular and there are a lot of youth gun clubs where the kids can work to improve their shooting skills through healthy competition.
 
Of course, there are other hobbies out there than those listed above. Horseback riding, building model airplanes/cars/trains, etc., art and design, sewing and the list goes on. Every one of these hobbies provide opportunities for parents to teach their children about hard work and responsibility in a fun way. Therefore, look for those opportunities and take advantage of them!
What is your take on teaching children about responsibility and work-ethic? Do you have any additional suggestions for how to instill these values in children, while still having fun? 

August 12, 2014

Easy & Healthy Meal Ideas for the Entire Family

While I absolutely love my life and enjoy being a wife and mother, I will openly admit that the job can be stressful and that I get a little overwhelmed from time to time. This generally happens right around summertime when our schedules begin to fill up more quickly. It just doesn’t seem like there is enough time in the day to get it all done.
 
Like many people, I’m often tempted to swing through a drive-thru somewhere and get dinner for everyone to save time. While there is nothing wrong with doing this occasionally, if we aren’t careful “occasionally” turns into two or three times a week. Not only is that expensive but it’s definitely not healthy for your family to eat that much take-out on a weekly basis.
However, I get that preparing healthy meals for the family takes up even more time in your already tight schedule. In addition, dishes are dirtied in the process and I imagine you are like me and hate having to leave dirty dishes in the sink because I didn’t have enough time to clean them up before running out the door again. While this may seem discouraging, it doesn’t have to be. Below are a few quick and easy healthy meal ideas to ensure your family eats a meal that’s good for them and that you still have plenty of time to prepare and clean up before heading out the door again.
      Baked Tilapia – We all know that the recommended intake of fish is three times a week due to the Omega-3’s and other important nutrients found in fish. I try to hit the three time a week rule, but fish can get pretty boring if you don’t learn how to cook it a few different ways. My favorite, as well as, all three of the guys living with me now (ages, 31, 6 and 1), is baked tilapia. All you have to do is melt some butter, brush both sides of the fish with the butter, season (both sides) to your taste and bake for 10-15 minutes at 375° Fahrenheit. For the veggies, simple steam a bag of frozen vegetables (they make those microwaveable now…super easy!) and you are ready to go!
 
Spaghetti – This is another great healthy dinner choice that’s easy to make. To make it healthier use 100% whole wheat spaghetti and the more expensive spaghetti sauces. Choose a sauce with only three or four ingredients – the more natural, the better! To make it a quick dinner with little clean up, prepare everything the night before except the pasta.  Aside from the noodles, everything can be reheated an still taste wonderful. It’s a fast, healthy recipe that everyone in my family loves!
 
Rotisserie Chicken Wraps – This is another favorite at my house that is pretty much a staple in the fridge in case we need a healthy meal on the run! All you have to do is buy a rotisserie chicken when you’re at the grocery store, take it home and shred it (do not save the skin) and store in the fridge until you’re ready to use it (within a few days, hopefully). Make sure you have 100% wheat tortillas, honey mustard and some pepperjack cheese on hand (and whatever else the family will like) and ready to get out. I simply spread a little honey mustard on the tortilla, topping that with 2.5-3.0 ounces of shredded chicken and then ¼ cup of Pepper Jack cheese on top. Microwave for about 30 seconds and you’ve got a fast, easy and healthy meal ready to be eaten.

As a mom, we are under a lot of pressure from our spouses, kids and other outside influences to keep up with everything. The last thing we should have to worry about is whether or not we have enough time to feed our families a nutritious dinner. Hopefully the meal suggestions above have given you some ideas for how you can achieve it all!

Do you have any favorite meals that are both easy to prepare and nutritious that you would like to share with us? Please do! 

August 10, 2014

Wedding Travel on a Budget

The summer is almost here and for a lot of us that means that a wedding is about to take place. While we all love attending weddings, the out-of-town weddings can be a bit burdensome, especially for those who are trying to save money. Even if you aren’t actually in the wedding, traveling to attend one isn’t necessarily cheap. However, there are some things that you can do to help minimize the cost and ensure that the wedding is an enjoyable experience.
      Book Lodging Online. We all know that one of the most expensive parts of traveling is paying for lodging. I can remember when $60 would get a nice hotel room. Now, it seems like a decent room costs at least $150 per night, unless you know where to shop for your hotel room. My favorite place to book hotel rooms is on Priceline, but there are other sites like Travelocity and Expedia that are pretty similar. Basically, these sites help hotels fill rooms. They do this by offering “customers” rooms for a fraction of the price they would get by booking at the hotel…or their website. The cool think about Priceline is that you can enter in the amount of money you’re willing to pay for a room and possibly get one for that price. On several occasions I have booked a room at a 5 start hotel for $65! It’s worth it if you’re looking to save a little money while attending an out-of-town wedding.
 
      Leave the Kids at Home. If it is at all possible, leave the kids at home when you head out of town for a wedding. First of all, most children couldn’t care less about the couple in love and tying the knot and will therefore only be bored during the trip. In addition to that, kids are expensive. Some hotels charge extra for more than 2 guests in a room and there is the fact that the kids also have to eat, just like you. So, instead of spending $20 for meals, when you have the kids, you could easily spend $40+ per meal. So, if you are fortunate to have family living nearby who wouldn’t mind watching the kiddos, take advantage of them!
 
Car Pool. I know, this one sounds a little lame, but if you are able to find someone to take the kids for a day or two while you’re at this wedding, then consider car pooling with another (kidless) couple on the way to the same wedding. By agreeing to split the gasoline acquired during the duration of the trip, you could actually end up saving yourself anywhere from $60-$200, depending on how far of a drive the wedding is.
 
So, there are a few ways that you can save money when you head out of town for a wedding or any other big event. Do you have any additional suggestions? Please share!

August 8, 2014

Organizational Tools Every Family Needs

When my husband and I first got married ten years ago life was much simpler. We didn’t have to worry about keeping things organized because it was just us. There just wasn’t as much on our plate and our life together was really, pretty simple. Fast forward about five years after our first son started walking…things got pretty hectic and unorganized in a hurry.
I’m going to be honest with you guys, I am not a naturally organized person. It’s not that I lose things or forget to pay the bills or anything like that. No, my struggles are things like keeping the house nice and orderly, getting dinner on the table on time, washing/folding/putting away the laundry, etc. And, now that I’ve got two kiddos (ages 6 and 1 ½), it’s very important that I get this organization thing mastered before life gets any crazier.
 
Since I know that I am not the only mother out there who feels like she’s struggling to stay on top of things, I’m going to share with you some of the organizational tools that have helped me, and my family, keep it together.
Mail Bin: Every day when the mail arrives, I immediately tear up the junk mail and take the important stuff to our mail bin (it’s actually a little plastic desk organizer). The bills get separated and put with the “books” (our account ledger) so that they get paid on time and the stays in the bin. Once my husband gets home, he goes through the mail in the bin and sorts through it. This mail bin has really helped us out a lot. We used to have a terrible time keeping our mail organized. Some days it would get tossed on the desk in the office, other days it would be left on the bar in the kitchen and sometimes it even got carried into our bedroom. The mail bin has simplified this problem and works quite wonderfully for us!
 
Filing Cabinet: If you do not have a filing cabinet, it’s time you break down and buy one. You can find affordable ones in any office supply store (think Staples). My parents actually gave us a small metal one when they upgraded theirs to a wooden filing cabinet. This cabinet has had a HUGE impact on our stress level. We have a file for practically everything (credit cards, car insurance, homeowner’s insurance, the dog’s registration papers/vet papers, medical statements, utility bills, and the list goes on. For those important documents like your marriage license, social security cards, hospital birth certificates, etc…get a fireproof safe – they make those for files too.

Large Dry-Erase Calendar: In my office I have a large dry-erase calendar that I wipe clean at the end of every month and begin filling in for the new month. I fill in all the “to-dos” for that month with their corresponding dates. Dental appointments, t-ball games, lunch dates with friends, etc. I have started color coding my appointments, giving each member of the family a different color so I can look at the calendar and instantly know who has something going on for that particular day. My board also has a “notes” section, so it makes it easy for my husband or whoever to leave a note for me to see.
 
So, those are my top three organization tools that have had major impacts on my family’s organization lately. What are some of your  favorite organizational tips and/or tricks for unorganized families?