December 30, 2013

Mothering 101: The Importance of Maintaining a Healthy Body Image of Yourself

As women, most of us worry about our weight and the current state of our figure. As the Trace Adkins song goes, “You want that body back you had a 17…” – I know that is true for me. I mean, really….what woman doesn’t want to look like she did in high school? Back when our skin was tight, gravity hadn’t affected us yet and we had no idea what a “muffin top” was.

While most of us worry about our appearance and work to get it back into shape (or the shape we used to have, anyways), for those of us with children, it is incredibly important that we keep a healthy perspective about ourselves and our bodies. Why? Those little people are studying us.

In fact, our children are better than spies. They watch everything. They pay attention to the things we say to people, about people and especially how we talk about ourselves. They learn what is right and wrong with the world by the things we say. Therefore, if we are constantly saying, “I need to lose weight,” or “I wish I looked like that,” then our kids are going to believe that we’re right and there really is something wrong with us because we don’t look like the models on the magazine covers.

For those of you with young girls, I can’t stress enough how important it is for you to make peace with your body. When mothers are so focused on the way they look, or appear to be to their daughters, this attitude will pass on to their girls. As the girls grow, they will begin to critique their own bodies and, if they aren’t happy with what they see, they could develop an eating disorder, low self-esteem or some other unhealthy habit.

While those are all bad, the worst is probably the fact that these girls will hold their self-value in their appearances. It won’t matter how smart they are or that they have a large group of friends who like them for their personality, all that they will focus on is their looks. I’m fairly certain that this is not something any mother wants for her daughter. Therefore, she needs to change the way she talks about herself in front of her daughter. Sure, we all have imperfections and it’s okay to work on those imperfections, but we shouldn’t focus on them to the point that we don’t see the beauty in anything else.

For those of us with young boys, it’s still important that we maintain a healthy body image of ourselves. Our little boys are looking to us, their mothers, to show them what qualities are desirable in women. I know that I don’t want my boys to grow up to be so shallow as to believe that the only beautiful women are those who are “skinny.” True beauty comes in all shapes and sizes and is much deeper than skin deep. That is what I want my boys to know as they get older and begin to date.

I don’t want them to date girls only because they believe them to be pretty on the outside. I want them to date the girls who they believe are pretty inside and out. And, believe it or not, it starts with me.

December 27, 2013

How to Save on a New Year’s Eve Dress

Although we often focus on Christmas at the holidays, Christmas isn’t the only holiday during this time of year. For most Americans, there are three holidays they celebrate within a 2 month period: Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s. The reason we are so focused on Christmas is because that is the busiest of the three holidays. It’s also the most expensive, which causes many people to look for ways to cut costs at this time of year and I’m one of them!

By the time we reach the day after Christmas, most of us are a bit relieved, but still feeling the financial strain the holiday placed on us. However, we have to press on in order to make it through New Year’s Eve. After all, what is New Year’s Eve without the customary celebration? It’s boring!

Okay, so you can’t cut a lot of costs of New Year’s Eve by eliminating the party, but you can save money when shopping for the New Year’s Eve dress with the tips below.

1. Wear an “Old” Dress - Gasp! know, I just suggested you reuse one of your holiday dresses for the New Year’s Eve party. Before you freak out about it, think about it rationally. Choosing a dress you already own for the party will save you a ton of money. And, when you accessorize it differently that you have before, most people won’t even realize that you are wearing the same dress! For example, wearing different jewelry, adding a bolero jacket and/or adding an accent belt at the waist are all simple ways to create a new look with an old dress.

2. Swap with a Friend – Another great way to save money on a New Year’s Eve dress is to exchange dresses with a friend who is close to the same size as you. Basically, you and your friend should take turns shopping for a dress in the other’s closet. Although the dress belongs to someone else, it is still new to you and everyone at the party!

3. Hit the sale Racks - I'm not sure why, but some women have a phobia about purchasing dresses from sales racks. Don’t be one of these people. If you have to have a new dress for this event, then shop the clearance rack at the stores. Most likely you will find the perfect dress for a fraction of what it would have cost brand new!

Remember that the amount of money spent on a piece of clothing is not what really makes a dress “great!” What makes a dress great is the woman wearing it. If she is confident about what she is wearing, then she will naturally be in a good mood. Therefore, don’t focus so much on money when it comes to the perfect New Year’sEve dress. Instead, look for one that makes you feel beautiful without breaking the bank!

December 19, 2013

Holiday Treats for Kids

We are right in the midst of the holiday hustle and bustle as Christmas is less than a week away! What does this mean, aside from the shopping and wrapping? It means that the kids are about to go on Christmas break for a couple of weeks!

I have to admit that sometimes I get a little apprehensive about the school breaks as it is hard to keep little minds busy and out of trouble. However, at the holidays, I do look forward to spending extra time with my school-age son and his little brother, together. One of the things that I make a point to do with my little “big” man is to get him in the kitchen with me so we can bake some of our favorite holiday treats.

These moments are precious to me because I know that my boys are going to outgrow the age where they enjoy cooking with their mom soon. Plus, we never know when our last breath will come so it’s important to make the most of the time we have with our children.  Anyways, if you are looking for some holiday treats that the kids will enjoy making and the whole family will love, here are a few recipes!

Pistachio “Christmas” Cookies

1 Pkg. Betty Crocker Sugar Cookie Mix

1 Box Pistachio Pudding/Pie Filling Mix

1.4 C. Flour

½ C. Melted Butter

2 Eggs

1 C. Shelled & Chopped Pistachio Nuts

½ C. Dried Cranberries

1.      Preheat oven to 350°.

2.      Stir cookie mix, pudding and flour together in a large bow.. Then, add the eggs and butter. Stir until mixed well.

3.      Fold in pistachios and cranberries.

4.      On parchment lined cookie sheet, place rounded spoonful about 1 inch apart and bake for 8-10 minutes.  (Makes about 2 dozen cookies)

Not Your Ordinary Peppermint Bark

Starburst or Jolly Rancher Candy Canes, Crushed (I use the strawberry, cherry and mixed berry flavors. Will need 1 cup of candy)

2 lbs. White Chocolate

2-3 t. Peppermint Extract

1.      Melt the chocolate in a double boiler or, if in a hurry, the microwave.

2.      Add peppermint extract and then fold in the crushed candy canes.

3.      Evenly pour/spread mixture on a wax-paper lined cookie sheet and freeze for 20-30 minutes.

4.      Break apart into pieces and enjoy!

Famous Kiss Cookies

1 C. Creamy Peanut Butter

1 C. Sugar

1 Egg

1 t. Vanilla

Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Cookies

1.      Preheat oven to 350°.

2.      Stir the peanut butter and sugar together until well mixed. It may appear to be “fluffy.” Next, blend in the egg and vanilla.

3.      On a greased cookie sheet, place cookie dough balls about 2 inches apart and bake for 10-12 minutes. (The tops should be slightly cracked.)

4.      Once the cookies are out of the oven, set cookie sheet on a wire rack and immediately press one Hershey’s kiss into the center of each cookie.

5.      Let cool. Enjoy! (Makes about 2 dozen cookies)

If you haven’t ever taken the time to bake with your kiddos at the holidays, try to carve out a small block of time this year. You and your kids will both make memories that will last a lifetime…and yummy treats that’ll last about 2 days (if you’re lucky!).

3 Cool Christmas Gift Ideas for Young Boys

Have you started your Christmas shopping yet? Last night, I finally got on the ball and did a little shopping via the internet (my favorite way to shop!) and “knocked off” three people from my holiday shopping list. They were all little boys…as the mom of two boys myself, it makes shopping for other boys much easier and they are usually the first ones to get scratched off the list.

However, just because I am able to get the little boys gifts before all the adults on my list, that doesn’t mean that I don’t have a hard time coming up with ideas for them. This is why I start shopping early for them. As a result of my online shopping trip last night, I actually found three cool Christmas gift ideas for young boys and I wanted to share them with you because I know that some of you are at a loss for what to get your little men this year for Christmas…and possibly even their birthdays?

1.      Heavy Duty Metal Trucks – It’s common knowledge that little boys enjoy playing with trucks. For the last 5 years, my son has continuously asked his grandparents, aunts and uncles for trucks for birthday and Christmas gifts. However, boys are ROUGH on those trucks and sadly, not many of them have withstood his rough playing habits. This year, my husband and I are going to get him a big truck for Christmas, but it will be a heavy duty metal truck that he shouldn’t be able to break. These trucks are more expensive (usually starting at $50 or so), but when you figure how much you (and relatives) will spend on cheaper trucks that break, the extra money is well worth it…and, at Christmastime, you can’t go wrong with the big trucks!

2.      Magformers – If you have a little man who enjoys building, then check out the Magformers. I just discovered these last night, but it is my understanding that they have been around for years. Magformers are building sets that consist of different shaped pieces (hexagons, triangles, pentagons, rectangles, squares, etc.) that are all magnetized so that they can easily connect together to construct three-dimensional items. While you may be concerned when you see the price for these sets, based on the reviews I have read, Magformers are great quality and keep kids entertained from as low as age two (2) to age fifteen (15). Plus, there are a wide variety of sets available at all different prices ranges and each set can be combined with other sets so they sound like a pretty good investment. I ended up purchasing three sets, one for my son and one for each of his two cousins.

3.      Etch A Sketch – I know, this is definitely a throwback for most of us, but do you remember how cool it was to draw something with an Etch A Sketch? For parents who are looking for creative gifts to help keep their boys entertained while using their imaginations (and not bouncing off the wall), an Etch A Sketch is a great option. Not only will it help boys concentrate, but it will also help young boys work on their fine motor skills and hand/eye coordination. 

December 16, 2013

Winter Safety Tips

I know the winter season brings a lot of anticipation and excitement for kids and adults alike. However, even though there are so many fun things associated with this season, we do need to remember that winter can also bring a lot of hardships to those who aren’t prepared. Frozen pipes, loss of electricity and hazardous driving conditions are just a few of the many problems that are often associated with winter. The good news is that these problems and those occurring as a result of these issues, can often be prevented with a little preparation. Below are some winter safety tips to ensure you and your family aren’t caught off guard when “Old Man Winter” comes knocking.

1.      Thoroughly Inspect the Heater and Its Components: If you haven’t already done so, now is an excellent time to go and check over your heater and all of its components to make sure everything is in good working order. Many people find that their heater malfunctions at the beginning of winter due to the fact that it hasn’t been ran in nine months or more. You can prevent any hardship resulting from this issue, by checking it out ahead of time. If it looks like a potential problem may occur, call in a professional to inspect it and fix any issues it has.

2.      Check Gasoline Levels in the Generator: It’s important that you keep your generator full of gasoline at all time because you never know when a serious winter storm is going to hit. Sometimes storms that don’t look bad turn serious very quickly and there may not be time for you to fill up the generator if the electricity goes out. It’s also a good idea to fire up the generator every so often to ensure that it is still in good working order.

3.      Replace Bad Tires: If the tread on your tires look like they are close to being dubbed “bald” then you need to get them replaced before the heart of winter arrives. When snow and ice get stuck to the road, you really need all the traction you can get from your tires to help keep you out of the ditch. If you live in an area where chains are used to help maneuver through these hazardous conditions, get them out and have them ready to go before any bad weather arrives.

4.      Keep a First Aid Kit in the Car: Even though you may have a newer car, new tires and are experiencing no car trouble, that doesn’t mean something unexpected can’t happen and leave you stranded somewhere in a snowstorm. Make sure that you have a first aid kit in the vehicle as well as a thick/heavy blanket and some non-perishable food items that you can get to in case of an emergency. It’s always better to be over-prepared than to not be prepared at all.

I am hoping that no one has to go through any winter hardships this year, but just in case something unexpected happens, it’s best to be prepared to soften the blow. The above list should help you with that. Are there any other winter safety tips that I have forgotten?

December 11, 2013

Bedtime Routines and the Holidays

What are your thoughts about bedtime routines for the kids? Before I became a parent, I didn’t really think a lot about them. I honestly don’t remember whether I was for or against them. However, now that I am the parent of two kiddos, one of whom is in Kindergarten this year, I can assure you that I am a huge fan of the predictable bedtime routine.

Why support regular bedtime routines? I believe that children need routines. Routines give children a sense of security in the crazy, fast-paced world that we live in. Why? They are routines, therefore, they are predictable. In other words, they’re safe and our kids feel happier when they feel safe.

While routines give our kids the security “blanket” they need in order to help ensure they have better, less stressful days, routines also help parents too. This is especially true around the holidays! How exactly do bedtime routines for the kids help parents during the holiday season.

1.      Provide extra time to catch up. I’m not sure about you, but I tend to be a bit of a procrastinator and it shows every year when the holidays run around. It’s literally all I can do to get all of the Christmas gifts bought, goodies made for the neighbors and parties, and the house decorated, let alone get the gifts wrapped before our Christmas celebration. This is why I love continuing the bedtime routines throughout Christmas Break…it gives me the time I need to get the kids’ Christmas presents wrapped.

2.      Happy kids make for happy adults. If there’s one thing that gets on my nerves faster than a fly buzzing around, it’s listening to whiney children. Not really so much other people’s kids, but when my kids are whiney, it really gets on my nerves…fast. I have found that keeping the bedtime routine throughout the long days of Christmas break actually keeps my kids in better moods because they are continuing to get the same amount of sleep (if not a hair more) than they were when they were in school. And, when they are happy and a pleasure to be around, I’m happier.

3.      Much needed “down” time. Another reason it’s important (at least for me) to keep the bedtime routines going during the holidays is because when the kids have a set bedtime, that means we have a set “down” time. You may not think that it’s important to give yourself a little “me” time, but during the holidays when the kids are home all day, every day for a couple of weeks, just knowing that there is a scheduled for when the questions and sibling fighting will stop, is enough to make me stay relaxed.

So, what are your thoughts about holiday bedtime routines? Do you keep them, lighten up a little about them but still try to stick to a “roundabout” time or just throw them out the window? Why?

December 10, 2013

Miscellaneous Holiday Tips

As we aren’t that far away from the holidays, I thought some of you may find the following miscellaneous tips helpful. These are just a collection of some of the random things I’ve found helpful that always seem to happen to me around this time of year, when I’m least expecting it. Hopefully, they will help you out too!
  1. Grocery Shop Early – It never fails, my holiday grocery shopping usually gets put off until the last minute and I wind up shopping with all the other crazy procrastinators out there. However, there have been a few times when I’ve actually ventured out of the house super early to do my holiday grocery shopping. I have to tell you, that is absolutely, without-a-doubt the best time to go grocery shopping right before the holidays. It will take will power as you will need to be up and out the door by 6 a.m., but I promise it will totally be worth it when you are back home, with the groceries put away before 8 a.m. – after experiencing hardly any wait to check out!
  2. Use this Homemade Recipe for Unexpected Spills, Stains and Smells – This is one I discovered a few years ago the day before Christmas dinner with my my house. My dog for whatever reason decided to jump up on my bed and relieve herself on it at the precise time when the sheets and mattress protector were both in the wash! As if that wasn’t bad enough, the mattress was only a week old and I was going to have a house full of guests the next day – some of whom were staying at my house. A quick search on google saved the day! So, if you ever have something similar happen like this, all you need to do is soak up the spill as best you can (however, this also works on dried spills) and spray a 75/25 mixture of vinegar and Listerine on the area. Make sure it’s saturated, then sprinkle baking soda all over the wet area and rub it in. Next, place a towel over it and let it dry. Once dry, vacuum it up and check it out! The vinegar helps remove the stain while the Listerine and baking soda work together to lift the offensive smell. It works on anything from carpet to mattresses to couches!
  3. Atomatic Timers are Awesome! For years, my husband and I put up Christmas lights and manually turned them on and off. Not that that’s a bad thing, but there would honestly be days when we would forget to turn them off. Talk about wasting energy! Then, my dad introduced us to automatic timers for the Christmas lights. Simply amazing! If you haven’t tried using holiday timers for your Christmas lights (indoors and outdoors) give it a try. I predict you will love them. They will make your life so much easier. You won’t have to worry about turning on the lights or when to turn them off – they will manage it all for you, giving you time to worry about the more important things surrounding the holidays.
Okay, so those are my top miscellaneous tips for the holidays. I hope that you have found them to be helpful as I know how crazy the holidays can get sometimes, especially when the kids get involved. Please share any additional tips that you feel we would benefit from during this time of year!