December 23, 2012

A Puppy for Christmas?

Today I heard one of my friends talking about possibly getting her five year old a puppy for Christmas. She had a number of reasons why she felt like this year was the perfect year to let her son have the puppy he’s been asking for. Are you thinking about doing something similar for your child(ren) for Christmas or some other special occasion?

I’ve thought about it myself, but after doing a little bit of research, I have decided against it. Below are just a few things to think about before you bring home that little puppy on Christmas morning.

1.      How responsible is your child? If you are purchasing the puppy (or any other live animal) for your little one, and giving it to him/her as his/her own pet – then you need to take an objective look at how responsible your child is. At five, is your little one really old enough to care for a puppy like it should be cared for? And remember, a puppy doesn’t stay a “puppy” for long. They grow and get bigger and at a much faster rate than your child will, too. If you are still having to remind your child to brush his teeth, put clothe in the dirty clothes hamper and pick up toys before bed, then he/she probably isn’t ready for the responsibilities associated with caring for a puppy.

2.      Have you researched dog breeds? The worst thing you can do is call about an ad in the paper listing puppies for sale. Even if they are Golden Retriever pups, that particular breed may not be right for your family. Buying a family dog is not something that should done on a whim. To ensure everyone in your family loves the dog and that the dog will find it’s “forever” home with you and your family, you need to make sure you find the breed that’s right for you and your family. Visiting is a great place to start your research.

3.      Have you found a reputable breeder to buy from? Again, don’t answer an ad in the local paper advertising puppies for sale. Once you have determined the breed that will fit your family’s lifestyle the best, you need to find a reputable breeder to buy from. The national club for the breed you’ve chosen will most likely have reputable breeders listed on their website. These are the people you should buy from because they are breeding with the intention to better the breed. Your “backyard” breeders (like those who place ads in the newspapers) are just breeding to make money. When you purchase from a reputable breeder, you will most likely be placed on a waiting list. You should also expect to pay several hundred dollars, or more, for a dog. That might sound high, but it’s worth it knowing the dog is of sound breeding, decreasing the chances of serious health problems in the future.

As you can see there is a lot to consider when thinking about purchasing a puppy for your little one for Christmas. And, unless you have done your research and can answer the questions above in a positive manner, you should probably wait a while before adding a new(four-legged) member to the family. Sticking to gifts such as toys, new dresses, video games and books are probably more suitable.

December 20, 2012

Christmas Spirit

The Christmas season is one of my most favorite times of the year. Why? I love shopping for others. In fact, when my husband and I first got married, my husband got irritated with me because he thought I bought gifts for too many people. In his mind, we only had to buy gifts for our immediate family members and that was it. Well, it’s not that I love spending money or that I feel like I HAVE to get gifts for all of my family, friends and co-workers…it’s just something I like to do.
To me, that is what the spirit of Christmas is all about. It’s not about the things I think I need, but it’s about going out and looking for that special gift for the people I hold dearest. Thankfully, my husband has gotten a lot better about this over the past decade. Five years ago, we had our first child and in the last few years (since he’s been old enough to understand), both my husband and I have worked hard to show him what the spirit of Christmas is all about. If you’re wondering how you can help teach your young children what Christmas is all about, consider implementing some (or all) of the following ideas.
1. Talk about Santa, but keep the focus on giving. Most parents don’t want to take the magic out of Christmas for their kids and choose to incorporate Santa into their holiday traditions. I’m not any different. I remember believing in Santa and how exciting it made Christmas Eve, wondering if I would be up when he arrived or not. I want the same for my son, however, I don’t want him to only think about the things HE wants for Christmas. Therefore, my husband and I do talk about Santa (and take him to visit Santa too), but we always keep the emphasis on what Santa does…he gives to others because he gets great joy in bringing happiness to others.

2. Make a shopping list for others. Instead of focusing so much time and attention on writing a letter to Santa outlining all of the things our son wants for the holidays, we help him create a list of ideas for the types of gifts he can get other people. Since our son is only five, we keep the list pretty short: mommy, daddy, baby brother and grandparents.

3. Take him/her shopping. Next, take your little one shopping so he/she can pick out the gifts for the people on his/her shopping list. And, don’t worry if your child starts asking for toys for him/herself…mine does it on every trip. However, when we are shopping for others at Christmas, I do not let him get anything for himself. I always remind him that we are shopping for someone else and we need to think about what that person would like.
Believe it or not, those three little things have done a lot to teach my son what the real spirit of Christmas is about. He actually enjoys going to the store and picking out gifts for his family members. One of his favorite things to pick out is jewelry for his grandmothers…I just know that his future wife will love this trait! So, if you’re looking to help teach your little ones about what Christmas is all about, consider trying the ideas listed above.

December 14, 2012

Dieting during the Holidays

How to Maintain Your Weight Throughout the Holidays

For years I couldn’t figure out why people wait until January 1st to go and get a gym membership. Why not just get started on your weight-loss goals when the idea first strikes you? Well, because most of us think about losing weight around the time the holidays roll around because we start thinking about how much food we’ll be consuming at all those holiday gatherings. And, it’s easier to say, “I’ll just work it off after the holidays and losing weight can just be my New Year’s Resolution.”

I never used to worry about my weight during the holidays and enjoyed all the holiday goodies I wanted. However, once I became a mom that stopped. I had baby weight I had to get off, but I didn’t want to miss out on all the holiday treats so for three years I said, “I’ll start dieting on January 1st and by this time next year I’ll be back to my pre-pregnancy weight.” Yes, you read that right…for three years I did that before I really started losing weight.

It wasn’t the fact that I finally got serious about fitting into that little black dress or that I received a wake-up call from my doctor that caused me to start losing weight. It was actually the fact that my husband got a new job that required him to be away from home for up to two weeks at a time that sparked it. Again, I didn’t try to diet…I was just depressed about my husband being gone for so long. When I get depressed, I don’t eat much so the weight started to “fall” off. Then, when my husband was able to find a job closer to home, I made the decision to continue losing weight.

Naturally, this happened a few months before the holidays, but I was determined to keep losing weight. All I was doing was counting calories. I did The Biggest Loser method of taking my weight and multiplying it by seven (7) and that was the amount of calories I was allowed to eat. That’s it…no exercise. I actually lost about 35 pounds doing that. However, after losing all that weight, my husband and I got pregnant last November so last year, the holidays were again fun. I was pregnant, so that gave me a free pass, right?

Anyways, so here I am dieting again during the holidays. Only this time, I’m doing it the right way and including exercise into my regiment. I’m back to my pre-pregnancy weight, but the challenge is to maintain my weight during the next month after all the holiday parties are over. Are you in a similar situation? Well, here’s a few tips for how to maintain your weight, and not bust your diet, during the holidays.

1.Don’t skip the gym. This is a big one for me. It’s so easy to skip going to the gym due to all of the holiday activities. However, going to the gym actually keeps my body’s metabolism up and burns calories, which means it won’t be detrimental if I eat more than usual at a holiday party.

2.Keep track of what you eat. It sounds a little extreme, but find a way to keep track of everything you eat (and drink) each day…even on the days of the parties. Studies have proven that we tend to eat less when we keep a diary of what we’re eating each day. The My Fitness Pal app for iPhone and Android is a great way to do this.

3.Give yourself a cheat day. Finally, give yourself a cheat day where you allow yourself to eat 500 or so more calories than usual. If you know you have a holiday party coming up, work really hard seven to ten days before the party to stay under your calorie goal and then make your cheat day the day of the party. And, don’t feel bad! Giving yourself a cheat day each week actually keeps your metabolism going!

As you try to lose weight, you should be learning how to change your lifestyle so once you reach your goal weight, you can maintain it. In order to do this, you have to learn how to manage your weight during the holidays when all of those fattening foods are around. It’s okay to indulge when it’s done in moderation.

December 7, 2012

Holiday Food Fun with Kids

When many of us think about Christmastime, we immediately start thinking about Christmas dresses, holiday plays and parties, how many Christmas gifts we have left to buy and a host of other things that have to get done (or attended) during this crazy time of year. However, while we’re worrying about everything we have to do before the holiday season is over, those of us with kids often forget that this is a magical time of year for them.

The three or four weeks leading up to Christmas are filled with excitement for kids. So, why not take advantage of this excitement and use it to create fun, lasting memories with your kids? One of the most fun ways to do this is by gathering together in the kitchen and making yummy treats the entire family can enjoy. Shoot, why limit it to family? Why not share the treats you make with your friends and/or neighbors? Below are some fun holiday food suggestions that you can make with your kids for a little additional holiday fun.

1. Jello Jigglers – There’s really nothing to this fun treat. All you need is a small baking pan and some jello mix. Spray a very light mist of cooking spray over the baking sheet. Next, prepare the jello as directed on the box but DO NOT add the cold water. (Depending on the size of your baking sheet, you may need two or three boxes of jello) Once mixed, pour the mixture in the baking sheet. Place in the refrigerator for three hours or until the jello is completely set up. Finally, get out your favorite holiday cookie cutters and let the kids cut out jello jigglers. Not only is this a fun activity for the kids, but it also makes for an easy snack too!

2. Caramel Marshmallows -  This is another easy (and fun) snack to make with the kids. You will need a bag of Kraft Caramels, a bag of large marshmallows and a box of rice crispy cereal. Simply unwrap and melt the caramels in a large bowl (don’t forget to add a little milk to ensure the caramel stays soft and edible). Once melted, let the kids dip the marshmallows in the caramel and then the rice crispy cereal. Place dipped marshmallows on a baking sheet lined with wax paper. You can refrigerate these treats or, if they are going to be eaten quickly, leave them at room temperature. Just make sure the caramel has cooled before eating.

3. Cookies, Breads and Candy – Three of the most popular things to make during the holidays are cookies, breads and holiday candy. If you are trying to figure out a nice gift for the neighbors, make these three things and take to the neighbors in a cute festive basket…they’ll love it. Be sure to include the kids in the process in order to make holiday memories and encourage the spirit of giving. Sugar cookies, banana bread and peppermint bark are a few of the easiest holiday treats you can make with kids!

December 4, 2012

What You Need to Know Before You Bring Home Baby

Are you expecting your first baby soon? Congratulations! Babies are truly little blessings for anyone who comes in contact with them…especially their parents. While you are probably over joyed with the idea of how much your life is going to change in the months after you bring the baby home, you do need to realize that while babies are fun (and a blessing), they are a lot of work. Bringing home a new baby can be difficult and stressful when you have unrealistic expectations. Below are just a few things that are good to know before you bring home your new little bundle of joy.

1. It may take months to establish a “real” schedule. When I was expecting my first baby, I was determined that I was not going to be one of those new moms who ran around looking ragged because I was going to make sure my baby was on a schedule. Looking back (five years later), I actually laugh at myself when I think about what I thought life with baby was going to be like.

The truth is that it took at least three months (if not more) before my son settled into a regular schedule of his own. The most frustrating thing, for me, in regards to the newborn stage was that as soon as I thought I had him and his schedule figured out, he would throw me a loop and change it up. So, don’t expect to settle into a rigid schedule right at first. Your little one is going to be calling the shots the first couple of months. Luckily for us, they don’t remember the days they had “control” over the family, giving us the ability to easily regain that control.

2. There is such a thing as too many clothes. Buying baby clothes is one of the most fun things when planning for a new baby. At least it was for me…and I had a boy! I can’t imagine how much fun shopping for a girl would be with all the fancy bows, irresistible baby dresses and shoes out there for them! Sadly, you really can buy too many clothes for your infant. Why? Babies generally grow pretty quickly once they come home, making it possible for them to outgrow outfits before they are ever worn. Therefore, try to keep your baby clothing purchases limited during the first year. If you don’t, you may find yourself wasting a lot of money.

3. You can hold a baby too much. I understand that this statement goes against what many of us want to believe, but it’s really true. Five years ago, when I had my son, he was held for 18 hours straight at the hospital. As a result, when we came home all my son wanted was to be held. And, don’t get me wrong, I wanted to hold him. However, I didn’t get anything done when I held him all day and all that did was teach him that he was always going to be held when he was awake. I slowly had to limit the amount of time I held him (in one setting). This allowed me to get the things I needed to done around the house and also taught him that it was okay to sit in his swing or lay on the floor for a little while by himself.

The only reason I’m bringing this up is because I don’t want you to feel guilty for putting your baby down for a while. Take this example, I have a friend who had a baby a few months ago and because she would hold the baby anytime she cried, the little girl instantly starts screaming when she is put down now. (She’s 5 months old) In addition, she won’t let anyone else hold her aside from her mother without screaming. This has my friend beyond stressed and she has even admitted that she shouldn’t have held her little one constantly. Therefore, don’t feel bad for not holding your baby all the time. They really can get held too much and when that happens, it’s incredibly hard to “break” them of the habit.