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?

August 7, 2014

Attending Summer Activities with Toddlers

I’m not sure about how things are going for you and your household, but the activities at our house are definitely starting to pick up now that the weather is getting warmer and summer isn’t too far away. In fact, just a couple of weeks ago, my oldest son started t-ball practice! Where is the time going?
 
We did t-ball last year, but this year it is going to be just a little different for our family. The big difference is that our youngest is now a toddler whereas last year he wasn’t fully mobile. He was perfectly happy sitting on a blanket or on our lap for the duration of the practices and games. This is definitely not going to be the case this year.

After a couple of weeks of practices, I’ve finally figured out a few tricks for how to survive these events with a toddler in tow. I’m sure as we work our way throughout the summer, I will acquire a few more tips for my “tool bag,” but these are what I have so far. If you have toddler that you will be toting around for your older kids’ activities this summer, feel free to give a few of these a try!

Bring a variety of snacks. Toddlers burn a lot of energy, especially once they really start getting around good. While it can be a little tiring digging for the snacks, when you are at summer activities, these snacks serve two purposes: 1) they re-energize the kiddos and, 2) they take up time. Getting toddlers to slow down is definitely a game and providing them with a variety of snacks is a good way to do it. This is especially true when you pull them out at different times throughout the event.
Go for a walk. Sometimes, no matter how hard you try to get a toddler to sit still, nothing works. This is when I take the little one for a walk. If we are at t-ball practice, we walk around the edges of the field where I can still see what’s going on and how big brother is doing, yet little brother has enough space to explore. When the little guy gets irritable and he’s fed up with sitting still, a change of scenery usually does the trick.
Bring “special” toys. Recently, I went to the Family Dollar store in search of some small, inexpensive toys that would hold my toddler’s interest when attending his brother’s summer activities. These toys are our “special” toys, meaning that they stay in a box in the back of my SUV and only get to be played with at his bubba’s activities. This keeps the toys interesting and easily helps me keep him distracted for about 15-20 minutes.

Do you have, or have you had, a toddler that you’ve had to take to an older sibling’s activities? Do you have any additional tips for surviving these events with a toddler? If so, please share!

August 6, 2014

Help NICU Babies with Your Wedding Dress

In just a couple of months, my husband and I will be celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary. It’s hard to believe that it’s already been ten years as I can still recall our wedding day perfectly. Aside from the pictures and our personal memories from that day, the only thing we have left from our wedding is my wedding dress. 

While I love my wedding dress, I have been ready to part with it for a while. Originally, I was saving it in case we had a daughter and she wanted to use it for her wedding. However, after having our two boys, my husband and I have decided that our family is complete so there is really no need for me to continue saving the dress.

I’m not really a sentimental person and don’t see a need to continue to store it, especially since we have an assortment of wedding pictures to look back at. At one point I tried to sell it. There wasn’t any interest then, so I’ve just been holding on to it..

Perhaps, you or someone you know is in the same situation. While they love their wedding dress, they don’t want to continue storing it any longer when it could be used elsewhere? While I have been at a loss for ideas of what to do with my dress for a couple years now, the other night I was on Facebook and saw an article about the NICU Helping Hands organization.

This organization was started to create a support system for families who are going through pain of having a newborn hospitalized in the NICU. Here families can find the support and educational tools they need to help them through this difficult time.

While the technology today is amazing and many babies in the NICU do grow strong enough to go home and live a long life, there are still those who don’t ever get to go home with their loving families. It’s these babies and their families that you can I can help with our wedding gowns.

In the past, the babies that passed away in the NICU were wrapped in a thin hospital blanket before being given to their families for burial. What the volunteers behind NICU Helping Hands are doing now is taking donated wedding dresses and turning them into beautiful “angel gowns” for these precious babies to wear for their final photos and burial services. By the way, the angel gowns are given to the families free of charge.

I cannot imagine the pain (and hope that I never have to) that comes with losing a child, and while I know nothing can take away this pain, I feel like this is a way for me to help. NICU Helping Hands has stated that they can make up to a dozen angel gowns out of one dress and they will send keepsake pieces back to the owner of the donated wedding dress, if desired. Additionally, they will also send a receipt for the donation back to the owner so you can deduct the donation on your taxes as well.

If you are like me and think that this sounds like a great thing to do with your wedding dress, you can find all the information you need regarding the donation process here.