October 21, 2015

Making it Feel Like Fall

Not too long ago we passed the first official day of fall. Isn’t it crazy how fast this year is flying by? It seriously seems like yesterday that I was decorating our Christmas tree!

Well, as many of you already know, I love this time of year. I don’t do a whole lot of holiday decorating throughout the year, but I do decorate for fall and Christmas. I just feel like adding some themed decorations makes it feel more like fall. It’s important where I’m from because I’m originally from the Midwest (Oklahoma) and our “fall” weather consists of temperatures that are still in the 80s and 90s. We don’t begin to cool off until late October to mid-November…and there are even years when we aren’t experiencing fall like temperatures until mid- December.
Therefore, decorating for the fall and winter seasons has always been important to me…it gets me “in the spirit,” I guess! Additionally, now that I have children, it has become more important to me because I can still remember the excitement I felt when my mom would start decorating for fall and winter…it meant Christmas was coming! So, this is something I want to carry on for my children. I want them to experience the excitement that I did at this time of year.
In case you are looking for ideas, below I have a list of things you can do to make it feel like fall around your house, too.
  1. Make/Buy a Wreath – Some of you are probably pretty crafty and can turn the most boring materials into adorable pieces of art! I am not that way, but if you are, then why not go to the closest craft store and buy the items needed to make a fall wreath for your front door? If you aren’t crafty (like me) or are short on time, then purchase a finished wreath and simply hang it on the door when you get home.

  2. Go Pumpkin Shopping – Nothing says “fall” like pumpkins do. They are my favorite thing to decorate with, especially outside my house. I always buy about 8-10 pumpkins of varying sizes at this time of year and strategically set up on my front porch to create a beautiful fall display. Sometimes I get real ambitious and bribe my husband into helping me make a straw man for the porch, as well.

  3. Burn Fall Scents – It’s amazing how certain smells actually affect us! I can be in a grumpy mood and walk into a bakery smelling of cinnamon rolls and instantly feel my mood lighten. The same is true when I come home and it smells like “fall.” Personally, I use Scentsy warmers and burn the fall scented bars from late September through November…then I switch to the winter scents to prepare for Christmas.

  4. Watch Football – Finally, there’s nothing that announces the approach of fall like football! Whether you are going to a game or watching it on television, just being around a football game will make it feel more like fall!

July 14, 2015

Back-to-School Shopping Tips

It’s hard to believe that in just a few short weeks many of our children are going to be heading back to school. For me, the summers usually go by slowly, giving us plenty of time to enjoy the long warm (and hot) days, but this summer flew by so fast that I’m still wondering where I was when it was here!

In fact, I’ve been so laid back this summer, not paying attention to the days as they came and went, that I just now found out when my son’s school is back in session. I’ve got about 3 ½ weeks to get ready for it! That may sound like a long time, but these next three weeks are crammed full of activities. Thankfully, over the last couple of years I’ve learned a few ways to same time (and money) in regards to the back-to-school shopping.

1. Don’t shop the day you get “the list.” When my oldest started the 3-year old program at our local school, I was so excited about shopping for his supplies that I went to Wal-Mart, grabbed the supply list, and jumped right in with all the other excited moms. While I got most of everything I needed, it took me longer than it should have and I left tired and frustrated after fighting all the people. Ever since then, I get the list and take it home where I can look it over and come up with a back-to-school shopping plan of attack! (I take the time to look through store flyers and make several lists for the stores that have various items on sale.)

2. Don’t go with the kiddos. If you are shopping for young children, then consider getting the bulk of the shopping done when they aren’t with you. Sure, they will want to pick out things like their backpacks and lunch boxes, but for the other stuff like crayons, glue, paper, etc. they don’t have to be there. I’ve found that it’s easy to get the school shopping done when my kids aren’t there distracting me. Therefore, I go when my husband is home from work in the evening and it goes MUCH faster.

3. Shop online. While I’m a huge fan of shopping online, I’ve actually never purchased school supplies online before. However, I have a friend who did it for the first time this year and she raves about how simple it was for her to do. She did it one evening when the kids were in bed and a few days later the box showed up at her front door. I am seriously considering this option this year just to save myself the time and frustration back-to-school shopping usually brings. Plus, sometimes you can find better deals when you shop online than in a store.

Those are the ways that I save myself time and money during the craziness of back-to-school. Do you have any additional tips you’d like to add?

May 28, 2015

Sunburns and Summer Fun

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

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

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

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

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

Bringing Home Baby: The Clothing Essentials for Newborn Babies

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

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

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

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

April 30, 2015

Mother’s Day 2015 Gift Guide

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

January 17, 2015

New Year Health Goals: Getting Started

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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