September 25, 2013

Cleaning Tips for Busy Moms

I am good at a lot of things, but sadly, cleaning is not one of them. Well, let me rephrase that. I am good at cleaning – it’s keeping up on it that I am not good about. When I was younger, my mother cleaned houses professionally. So, that meant that in the summers my brother and I were the lucky ones who got to go with her.

Therefore, I KNOW how to clean. My husband gets irritated with me because when I say I’m going to clean, I mean that I’m going to clean. I will spend an entire day cleaning because I’m the type of person that can’t do something half-way. If I’m going to clean, I’m going to clean. The only problem with my cleaning method is that I tend to put off the cleaning and save it all for one day…and who likes to spend an entire day cleaning?
The truth is that I’m busy. I’ve got a 5 year old boy – who is constantly on the go and I’ve also got an almost 1-year old who is into everything! It’s easy to put the cleaning on back-burner! I doubt I’m the only one out there with this problem, so I’ve compiled a list of cleaning tips for busy moms to help us get it under control!
1.      Give the Kids Responsibilities – This one is hard for me because I am able to do jobs faster than my 5-year old. However, I have found a few jobs that he can do that helps out a lot. Simple things like emptying the trashes, folding towels, picking up toys, unloading the dishwasher (silverware) and vacuuming his room. Of course as he gets older, the tasks will get bigger. I can’t wait for the day when he can clean his own bathroom!  By giving kids responsibilities, we are raising quality kids.
2.      Do Something Every Day – In addition to the normal daily activities I do, I am trying to do one thing every day in respect to cleaning. For example, I usually clean the kitchen every night because I can’t go to bed knowing the kitchen is dirty. In addition to that, I am trying to add one extra cleaning chore to the list. I may dust the living room, mop the bathroom floors or do a load of laundry before I head to bed. Doing something every day should keep the house in order and reduce the workload on my scheduled “cleaning day.”

3.      Multi-task – I know, moms are generally masters at multi-tasking, right? I know that I do a lot of multi-tasking throughout the day. However, most of my multi-tasking doesn’t involve cleaning. It generally involves something with the kids. One of the ways you can stay on top of your cleaning is to make it a habit to multi-task while you are on the phone. For example, whenever you get on the phone to chat with a friend, pick up a rag and start dusting. If I can make it a habit to clean every time I get on the phone, my house won’t have time to get dirty!

September 23, 2013

Helping Children Deal with the Loss of a Loved One

I have had to deal with my share of ups and downs throughout life, just like everyone else has, however, I was very fortunate in the fact that I didn’t experience the loss of a close loved one until I was a teenager. As a parent, now I can appreciate how big that blessing was for my parents. Dealing with the loss of a loved one is hard, but helping young children deal with the loss is even harder as they don’t have the ability to fully comprehend the situation and what it means.

About two years ago my grandmother  passed away, making my son only three at the time. While he didn’t know his great-grandmother extremely well, he knew her well enough that I had to help him understand the situation as best as I could. Below are a few tips that I have for anyone with young children who have (or may in the future) experienced the loss of a loved one.
1.      Answer their questions. Sometimes it can be hard to answer all the questions our little ones “throw” our way, but in the event of the death of a loved one, it is important for parents to patiently answer their kids’ questions. A lot of young children don’t understand that death is final and they don’t realize that they won’t get to see their loved one again. Therefore, do not get frustrated if your kids ask you when you will get to visit this loved one. They may ask this question on a daily or weekly basis for a month or two – or however long it takes them to fully understand what it means to pass away. Just be patient with them and answer their questions.  

2.      Suggest writing a letter or drawing a picture. If your little one is having an especially difficult time understanding the loss of a loved one and misses them terribly, then suggest writing a letter or drawing a picture for the loved one. If this happens before the funeral, you can request that the letter/drawing be placed in the casket with the loved one to ensure he/she will receive it. Or, you can take the letter and promise to mail it to heaven for your little one. While the loved on won’t really get the letter, your little one doesn’t have to know that. Writing letters and drawing pictures often helps children deal with the feelings they’re experiencing when they don’t have the words to verbally express themselves.
3.      Talk about the special memories made with the loved one. As time passes, it’s easy to stop talking about a loved one who has passed away. For many of us, it’s how we deal with the loss because sometimes it can be painful to think about all the memories we have with the loved one. However, for children, it’s important that they feel comfortable talking about these memories. This helps children feel close to the person again and keeps the memories “alive,” which is especially important for children who have lost a parent, sibling or even a close grandparent.
Death is never an easy thing to deal with, but it’s something that we all have to deal with at one time or another. When young children are involved, it’s important that the adults in their lives take the time to help them heal too. Children grieve just like adults do, but they often don’t have the ability to express their feelings. Therefore, we need to help them.

September 21, 2013

Halloween: Costume Shopping Tips

Here we are already in the middle of September! The weather is beginning to cool off (in many areas of the country, some of us are still experiencing high 90s and triple digit temps) and the leaves are going to be changing colors and falling off the trees before we know it. School is back in session and the kids are beginning to talk about what they are going to be for Halloween.

While you may be thinking that you have plenty of time to get your child’s Halloween costume put together, it’s important that you get a jump start now or you risk the possibility that the costume your child wants won’t be available…or the materials to make it may be scarce.
As some of you may know, this November, my family is taking our first Disney cruise together. On the fourth night of the cruise, Disney puts on a big pirate party for the passengers to attend. I’m told that guests are encouraged to dress in character. As a result, my 5 year old (a BIG Jake and the Neverland Pirates fan) has decided that he is going to be a pirate for Halloween so he can also use the costume for the big pirate party on our cruise.
My youngest son, who will be 14 months come Halloween, really doesn’t care too much about Halloween, but I know that now is the time for me to dress him up because when he gets opinions of his own, I won’t have much of a say in what he wears for the holiday. He is going to be a baby shark…I couldn’t resist the Pottery Barn infant shark outfit.
I’ve already gotten both of the Halloween costumes purchased for my kiddos, which has naturally taken a little bit of stress off my shoulders because it’s one less thing that I have to worry about. I know that most of you have children and are going to be rushing around trying to get costumes put together, so below I’ve compiled some helpful Halloween costume shopping tips that should help you with the process.
1.      Listen to what your kids want. While our kids need our help in creating the perfect Halloween costume, they most likely have a few costume ideas of what they want to be for Halloween. The hard part for parents is letting the kids choose. After all, there are just so many cute costumes out there, right? I learned a few years ago (when the oldest child was 3) that it’s useless trying to get my son to wear something he doesn’t like. I’m guessing your kids are probably the same way. Therefore, ask your kids what they want to be for Halloween and then help them create the vision. They will have a lot more fun if they are able to choose their own outfit. (This is why I’m taking advantage of my infant’s age and dressing him up in what I want…I can’t do that in another two years or so.) 

2.      Take the time to shop around. While I found my infant son’s costume in the Pottery Barn booklet that I received in the mail, I didn’t rush out and order it from the store immediately. That particular outfit at the store was $39 and I wanted to make sure I couldn’t find it for cheaper elsewhere. Therefore, I went online and browsed a variety of sites. Ebay is one of my favorites for stuff liked this and would you believe that people were listing the EXACT same costume for $49 and $59! That’s more than Pottery Barn! I ended up buying it at Pottery Barn because I couldn’t find it cheaper anywhere else, which made the purchase a guilt-free purchase.  

The flip side of the story is that Pottery Barn also had a really great pirate costume for my oldest son, but it was listed for $69…which I think is a little nuts. So, again…I shopped online to make sure I couldn’t find one cheaper. Although it wasn’t the same costume, I was able to find another great-looking pirate costume for only $16 on eBay! I ended up purchasing a wooden sword for him to complete the look, but I still saved over $30 by shopping around on these two costumes. Therefore, take the time to shop around before you purchase the first costume you come across.

3.      Take inventory first. Another thing you should do before you buy a Halloween costume is to look through your home inventory first. For instance, if your child wants to be a zombie for Halloween, you may be able to create a pretty realistic costume with some leftover face paint, an old ratty wig and some old clothing (think holey/stained shirts, ripped pants, etc.).  

On a brighter side, maybe you have a little girl who has her heart set on being Princess Sofia this year. You could go a purchase a cheap looking (not priced) Princess Sofia costume from your local Wal-Mart or Target, or you could go through her “old” formal dresses she has in the closet and purchase a tiara, some sparkly shoes and a faux amulet to finish off the costume.

4.      Purchase 2-in-1 outfits. What? Depending on what your child wants to be, you may be able to create a costume using regular clothing. For instance, if your little girl wants to be a princess and you still haven’t found a holiday dress for her, buy a dress like this one and use it for her princess costume as well as formal events this holiday season! 

5.      Order early. Finally, start shopping early for the items your little ones need for their costumes and not just the costumes themselves. For example, I need to go and find my baby boy some grey pants for his costume and my 5 year old some black pants and pirate boots. I need to get that done now before the stores are out of these items. Likewise, if you know you are going to order your child’s Halloween costume, order it early because stores (both local and online) do sell out.

September 18, 2013

Inappropriate Toys for Young Children

My son has just recently started getting birthday invitations from his friends at school. I honestly didn’t realize just how many people throw birthday parties for kids this young until he collected about 15 invitations within one school year. To be fair, I’ve told him that he can’t go to his friends’ birthday parties until he is six because that is when we are going to have the first “friend” birthday party.

This morning I got online and did a little browsing to catch up on what has been going on around the country and came across a tragic story out of Kentucky. A little five year old boy received his first gun (yes, I said gun) for his fifth birthday. He got the gun to play with when his mom stepped outside for a second. That’s when it went off and killed his two year old sister.

My heart breaks for this entire family, especially the mother. I cannot imagine what she is going through because I know that if I were in her shoes, I wouldn’t be able to forgive myself for stepping outside or leaving a loaded gun where my son could get to it. While this story is incredibly tragic and heart wrenching, to me, it brings up the bigger issue of giving inappropriate gifts to young children.

I come from a small farming town where young kids are given dangerous toys at a young age, so this isn’t an issue that I’m not familiar with. A lot of my friends were given “toys” for their birthdays that had the potential to hurt them or someone else. Things like fully powered four wheelers, sling shots, potato launchers, guns and other similar items were often given as birthday presents. And, until I became a mother I didn’t see the harm in those things.
However, as the mother of a five year old boy, stories like the one I read today scare me to the core. Yes, kids do need to learn about guns and gun safety, but giving a five year old a .22 caliber rifle for his birthday is not the right time. Maybe he is mature enough for a BB gun, but not a real rifle. No five year old child is.

I guess the point of this blog post is to raise awareness of giving age appropriate gifts to kids for their birthdays. Sure, a four wheeler would be a lot of fun for the child to ride on, but chances are that it is still too powerful for them to fully control at 5, 6 or even 7. Even a sling shot can be a dangerous gift if the child isn’t old enough to understand the full potential of the sling shot.

So, this year as you buy birthday gifts for your kids and their friends, be conscience about the gifts you consider. Make sure they are age appropriate because the last thing you want to do is give a gift that could be used to harm another person…or even the little birthday boy/girl.

September 17, 2013

Responsibility and Independence in Young Children

Have you taken the time to look at young children lately? Perhaps you have noticed, like I have, how the majority of young children don’t display much responsibility and independence like they used to? I don’t necessarily think this is the children’s fault, but more the parents fault. And, before I offend anyone, I am guilty myself.

There is no doubt in my mind that my five year old son could do more on his own. The problem is that my husband and I both tend to do things for him…more than we should for his age. With that being said, below are a few ways that parents (including my husband and I) could help build a greater sense of responsibility and independence in their young children.

1. Preparing breakfast. Obviously, I am not going to let my five year old son fix eggs and bacon for the family on Saturday morning. But, he is old enough to fix himself a bowl of cereal or a piece of toast. All I need to do is fill a cup half way up with milk and leave in the fridge and he can pour it in a bowl with some cereal…or, set the toaster out by the loaf of bread for toast. Not only will allowing him to fix his own breakfast help him, but it will also help my husband and I as we won’t have to get up at 7 a.m. on Saturday morning to feed the little guy.

2. Getting dressed. This is another issue many parents choose to ignore, choosing to believe that their little ones need them to pick out their clothing and get them dressed until they go to kindergarten. However, most children are able to dress themselves by the time they are 3 ½, so why not let them? It makes them feel good about themselves and is one less thing we have to do.

3. Homework. This is for those who have children in school (above pre-K). I have several friends who teach elementary school and they are all constantly talking about how many parents do their kids’ homework for them. Now, am I saying that you shouldn’t help your child with homework? No. I am saying, though, that you shouldn’t do the work for them. Let your kids sit down, alone, and work on homework. When they are done, review the paper with them and then help them figure out the correct answers for the problems they weren’t able to do or answered incorrectly. Then, when they receive an A on their assignment, they will experience a real sense of accomplishment because they did it themselves!

4. Keeping track of personal items. This is the one that irritates me the most. Kids are constantly asking their parents where they left a toy, cell phone, pair of shoes, etc. And, what happens if something gets lost? Mom and dad go out and buy a replacement. This doesn’t teach kids anything but instead promotes irresponsibility. Therefore, when the kids are young let them lose their favorite toy and don’t buy another one if it gets lost. This is the only way kids will start being responsible for their things. And, if it’s taught when they are young, they won’t have a problem when they are older.