Thursday, October 29, 2009

Leftovers are encouraged

Mommy Tip of the Day: To save time at dinner make a double batch of a meal and freeze half. Then you can just reheat it on another night when you need a quick dinner.

I am always looking for a quick way to get dinner on the table without calling Pizza Hut. One of my standards, for quick dinners are Rachael Ray's 30 minute meals. She is fun to watch and has some great food. I highly recommend that if you don't have one of her cookbooks....or several of her cookbooks that you head out and get one right away. At the very least you should really check out where you can find some of her recipes and lots of kid friendly recipes.

Another one of my favorite ways to make a quick dinner is to eat leftovers. Now, I am the first person to admit to an aversion to left overs. Thankfully my Husband take care of the clean out the fridge meals on a fend for yourself nights. The left overs that I am talking about is to make a double batch of something and then freeze half of it for another night when I don't feel like cooking. All that I have to do then is reheat, and it is only a little more work to make a double batch the first night.

Some of the easiest meals to freeze are chili, and spaghetti sauce. Lasagna always makes SO much more than we can eat, that it really is best to make in 2 small batches that I freeze half. Since I am such a Rachael Ray fan, I love her mini chicken cannelloni bake . This recipe makes enough to feed an army. You don't even have to double it to have enough for 2 meals especially if add a green salad and some warm crusty bread.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Sticker Rewards

Mommy Tip of the Day: Stickers are a great, affordable, low calorie way to reward positive behavior and motivate kids to do what you want them to do.

Right now we are at the stage where my daughter thinks that every small accomplishment justifies a "treat". If it were up to her, every treat would be candy. Thankfully she also accepts being able to watch a show, or have mama read her a book, or my favorite, a sticker.

I really like stickers for a few reasons. First of all, they are fast. I can pull out the sticker book give her a reward and continue on with the task that I really want to be doing with them. She is happy because she gets to see the sticker and it reminds her of her good behavior.

I love that there are no calories in stickers. I really struggle with a balanced diet for myself and work very hard to teach my girls better eating habits. Although it works, and I do provide the occasional reward of candy, I don't want her to get a bunch of empty calories every time that she does something well.

I am also a big fan of positive reinforcement. I absolutely believe that you catch more flies with honey than vinegar. I know that I get better results and decrease my chances of a melt down (from both of us) if I praise my daughter when she does things right, instead of yelling at her for negative behaviors. The other component of positive reinforcement that people often forget about is that you have to work at it. You have to provide praise throughout the day, not just once. Kids are easily distracted and they remember your last action. So we need to make sure that we are giving lots of praise so that the last thing that they remember is the praise and not the time that you had to correct their behavior.

I really like the stickers because they are a good reminder that just like the stickers fall off and are forgotten as the day goes on that our praise is also forgotten as the day goes on and kids need lots of positive reinforcement for things to stick with them. My daughter does not get a sticker for every good thing that she does, but if I don't see a sticker on her, it is a good reminder that it is time to dole out some praise.

Of course you can over due it.

This little girl must have had a REALLY good day.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Mommy Tip of the Day: A house that smells fresh gives the impression that it is clean and tidy. Sprinkle baking soda on your carpet before you go to bed to absorb any odors in your home. Then vacuum in the morning for a fresh smelling home

Not a picture of my house.
(I never let pictures be taken in my house when it looks this bad. LOL)

I would much rather be sewing or playing with my kids than cleaning my house. Surely I am not the only one. I learned a long time ago that there are only so many hours in the day and the first thing that had to go was keeping a spotless house.

Yes, it feels GREAT on those days when I feel really productive and get my house all cleaned up. I love to have everything in its place. (Now if I could just figure out where that place is.) Unfortunately those days are few and far between.

We have started to make cleaning up the floor and putting all of the toys away part of our night time routine. We have our "clean up " song that we sing while my daughter picks up her toys. Then the floor is clean when we go to bed. It is ready for the baking soda and then it smells fresh and clean in the morning.

I love this tip because it is a quick cheat. ( I can find time for those.) It helps my house to feel fresh and clean even when I don't always have time to keep it that way. I especially love this in the winter time when it is too cold out to open the windows and air out the house.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Sing a Song

Mommy Tip of the Day: Make up silly songs about your child's live/day and sing them to common tunes.

I remember reading somewhere that kids love to hear all about themselves. Personally, I don't know if my life is interesting enough to hear stores about after I have lived it, but this is my daughter's current favorite game.

I find this especially helpful when I am trying to get her to accomplish a task. When I want her to accomplish something that she is procrastinating about it is amazing how "me" in the story is able to quickly and efficiently do the task the first time that mommy asks. She is soon able to do the same thing.

Even before we got to the storytelling stage, my daughter has always loved to sing. Since she was little I would make up songs about what was going on, or things that she had done and sing them to common tunes. Yes, for the record, this was partially because too many years had passed for me to remember the actual words. I thought that I would share a few to get you started. Be aware....once you start, she may never let you stop.

"Baby Kat Went to the Zoo" to the tune of "Old McDonald Had a Farm". This one is great for teaching animals and animal sounds just like the original. It is also a great way to "read" a picture book.

When it is time to sleep, especially when she was little, I would sing Brahms Lullaby to the lyrics "Go to sleep....Little Girl...go to sleep now, your tired...go to sleep now, baby girl...close your eyes now you are tired."

There are also some great songs that I learned from youtube videos.

I love the elephant song. We make up our own animals now. This one can keep her entertained for a good 15-20 minutes most days.

Here is another song that we adapt to whatever objects catch my eye. If I need to burn off some of her energy, I will have her run and touch the object before we can sing the next verse.

I hope you guys have fun singing with your kids. And remember they NEVER care if you are in pitch.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Zucchini is your friend

Mommy Tip of the Day: Zucchini is your friend. Shred Zucchini very finely and add it to all kinds of meals to boost your veggie content.

Lots of moms have a hard time getting their kids to eat vegetables. Thankfully that is not my problem. My girls will eat all kinds of plain vegetables. Never mixed in a salad or casserole, but plain, they will gobble them up. In my house, Mom and Dad are the ones with the problem with veggies. Actually we have a problem eating well in general. Not that we don't like them, it is just that our schedules don't work well to sit down and make a "real" dinner. The girls only want plain food which is easy enough to make, but I usually don't eat dinner with them. So this one is for the moms with picky eaters, or anyone else who wants to eat a little healthier.

I thought that I had a picky eater. It turns out that she will eat lots of things, she just wants them plain. Before I realized this, I was looking for all kinds of ideas on how to get her to eat more variety. One of the things that I found was a book called The Sneaky Chef. She suggested the idea of adding veggies in purred form and hiding it in foods that they already eat.

The most versatile veggie that I have found to "hide" is zucchini. It is really great to add into Spaghetti or chili. Shred it finely and add it when you are cooking the meat and/or onions. You will never know that it is in there.

My favorite recipe is for Chocolate Zucchini Muffins. I bake a bunch, then freeze them and bring them out for breakfast. (If they last long enough for me to freeze.) Here is the recipe that I use. I hope you enjoy it.


Mix together: 1 c. white sugar 1 c white flour, 1 c whole wheat flour, 1 c wheat germ 1 tsp. baking powder 1 tsp. baking soda 1 tsp. salt 1 tsp. cinnamon 4 oz. grated Hershey bar 1/2 c. mini chocolate chips

Mix separately and add to dry ingredients the following: 3 tsp. vanilla 1 c. oil 1/2 c plain yogurt 3 c. grated zucchini 1/2 c. nuts

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Fill muffin cups 2/3 full. Bake at 425 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes. Makes 2 dozen muffins. For bread: Bake at 350 degrees. Makes 2 loaves. Bake for 1 hour.

*you can substitute 3 cups white flour for the white flour, wheat flour and wheat germ.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Give them a choice

Mommy Tip of the Day: When disciplining your child, give him the choice between 2 options that you are ok with. You get the result you want every time because he can't make the wrong choice.

This one works on the toddlers through the teenagers. Everyone wants to have some control in their life. Imagine how frustrated you would be if you never got to make a decision, and how much more relaxed when you are in control and getting to decide what happens.

The same is true for kids. Giving them the power to make small decisions about their lives goes a long way towards stopping power struggles. I don't know about you, but I definatly believe the world would be a better place without temper tantrums.

This works the same way if you are dealing with teenagers or toddlers. The only thing that really changes is the thing that they want.

For my toddler....She really likes to be in my sewing room when I am working. The problem is that she also has a few toys that a really big and loud and not the best for using in a smaller space. (Thanks again, Grandma) Of course there are times when she wants to play with this annoying toy in my sewing room when I am trying to work. This is not a good combination. I could take the toy away from her and put it away, but that would just start the melt down. Burning it in a fiery abys is something that would rather do many days, but she really would miss the toy. So that I can keep my sanity, still be productive, and keep a happy child, I give her a choice. I let her decide if she wants to play with a calm quiet toy in the sewing room (look at a book, play with stuffed animals, etc...) or she can go into another room and play with the loud noisy one. I am happy with either decision she makes, so she can't make a wrong one.

For your teenagers...say they want to stay out late on a school night to go to a haunted house after it gets dark (or any other late event) I would give them the option to go to the haunted house after dark on the weekend when they may have a later curfew, or to go earlier so that they can be home before their curfew. This option puts the control in their hands. They get to make the right decision because they only have right choices to choose from. Because teenagers tend to be a bit stubborn and really want things their own way, I may offer an 3rd option if they want to argue with the 2 choices. The third option is that they are not allowed to go at all.

Not only does giving your kids a choice help give them some control and diffuses arguments. It also helps them learn decision making skills which is an invaluable skill to master.

Next time you find yourself in a power struggle try this and let me know how it works.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Let Them Cook!!!

Mommy Tip ofthe Day: Let your toddlers "help" you cook in the kitchen. Give her a drawer full of her own cooking supplies (pots, pans, spoons, etc...) She will have a blast helping you cook and will stay entertained so that you can cook.

Dinner time is such a frustration for me. I tend to hover a bit more than I probably need to, but I always want to know what my girls are doing and hope that they are not getting into things that they are not supposed to.

It is hard for me to hover at dinner time. I am not always the best at multitasking, especially when I am trying to multitask in separate rooms. I have pretty good hearing, but often a blender or sizzeling pan will hamper my mommy ears. I find that I am the most sucessful when I let the girls play in the kitchen with me.

I always worry when I let the girls play in the kitchen that the younger one will play in the kitty food. Who are we kidding....I am worried that she is going to eat the kitty food and ruin her appetite. My older one loves to help, but often that means that she wants to hand me the knife or pour the entire container of salt into the recipe or find some other way to be "helpful". I FINALLY learned that if I let the girls "cook" together that they will entertain each other, stay out of the kitty food, and have a great time.

When I am really adventurous, I even let them cook water soup :)

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Getting a great smile

Mommy Tip of the Day: To take a great picture of your child, have them talk about something they love while you are taking their pictures. This way they will be thinking happy thoughts and won't have to force a fake smile.

I have noticed that a lot of kids have a hard time giving a natural smile. or...maybe it just runs in my family. I hope not. I hope that I have not passed on some defective gene that makes it difficult for her to give a natural smile, but I will tell you that I have a hard time feeling natural and relaxed when I smile, especially when I am holding that smile for a long time until someone finally flashes the picture and I can at last relax.

Since I plant to take a lot of pictures of her, I had to come up with a way for her to be happy and relaxed without having to force a smile that scrunches up her face. My daughter is beautiful. What mom would not say the same thing about their daughter? However, my daughter, left to her own devices, was not blessed with the photographic gene. When you ask her to smile, she shows you all of her teeth, scrunches her face and closes her eyes. In no way is this the picture of her that anyone is trying to capture.

Since I am adding a new line of doll slings to my Snuggy Baby products, it is only natural that I would have her model them for my pictures. Unfortunately this is not the face that will have everyone recognizing her natural beauty and talk about the cute girl playing with her doll. Instead I am afraid that they will be wondering what horrible thing she was smelling or just why in the world would she ever make that face.

My daughter loves to tell stories. Well actually she wants me to tell her stories about her daily life, but I have her fill in all the details. So to get her to smile and relax, I started talking to her. We had a conversation about her friends: who they are, what do they do together, what does she like to eat, listing all of the people who live her, etc.... I kept asking her about everything that she likes. We will even sings songs together when I am trying to get her picture. Anything that I can think of doing that she likes, that keeps her relatively still, and that keeps her engaged with me instead of trying to wander around the backyard and away from the backdrop.

Now by no means am I a professional photographer. I cannot give you tips on getting the best lighting for your pictures or choosing the best angle or how to make the most of a picutre with photoshop. I am just a mom who takes pictures of her little girls, and hopes that she does well enough to not turn people off when they look at pictures of her Snuggy Baby products. My timing is still off as to when to snap the picture, because a split second before and after each of these pictures she was looking right at me. But I think that these pictures still show her personality and she does not have a scrunched up face where she is smelling something very bad.

Now if I can just figure out how to get her to get her to stand still, not wander away from the backdrop and to keep her hands out of her mouth, then I will be set.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

New Toys for Free

Mommy Tip of the Day: Rotate some of your child's toys into a closet and out of site. Then trade them out again after a few weeks. It keeps your toy area more manageable and it is like getting new toys every few weeks.

Thanks to garage sales and my husbands fascination with the Amazing Animals, my daughters have more toys than they need. I TRY to contain them all in a small area of our house. I say try because of course, my daughter drags them out through the whole house. One of the ways that I try to keep "Magic Toy Land" under control is to limit how many toys go back there. I have a closet in another room that I don't use for much, but I keep a box in there that I rotate toys into.

I take some of the stuffed animals, and some of the dolls, and some of the amazing animals, just any old assortment really. Some days there is no rhyme or reason other than the first 10 things that I get my hands on. They all go into the closet for a couple of weeks. When they come out, my daughter is excited to see them again and a new set goes away for a while. She never seems to miss the "Friends" when they are "on vacation" and it is a special treat when they come out.

I try bring the "friends" out when she has earned a special treat, or even better when I need to get something done. When I need a chunk of time to get a set of slings made, or to finish some other Snuggy Baby project, I will bring out the toys and I get a good 30 minutes to an hour where she is completely entertained and I get lots done.

What mom couldn't use 30-60 minutes of uninterrupted work time?

Monday, September 28, 2009

Getting rid of the vomit smell

Mommy Tip of the Day: To get the vomit smell out of your car, cover the area with a thick layer of baking soda, let dry and then vaccum the mess away.

Saturday was my cousin's wedding. As with any social event that has a set starting time, we were running late (at least we thought that we were). Under the best of circumstances, we would have been running late. This however, was not the best of circumstances. Twenty minutes before we were supposed to walk out the door to drive to the wedding, my oldest daughter was still at the park on the other side of town with her grandma who had not gotten the message about the wedding.

So when she got home and was rushed through a clothes change and potty time, I just assumed that her crankiness was due to being rushed. When she almost fell asleep in the truck on the drive down, I assumed she was cranky because she was tired. That one really did not make sense because Grandma had reported that she had taken a 4 hour nap already.

After leaving the house 20 minutes later than I wanted to, and driving faster than we really wanted to to make up for leaving late we were within minutes of the church when we heard the dreaded sound. No parent likes to hear that sound. There is nothing good that comes from that sound. We didn't even have to look. My husband just pulled over and I tried to clean her up as best as I could. Thankfully I had something in the truck capeable of cleaning up the bulk ofthe mess, but unfortunalty not the smell. I was really glad that it was a beautiful fall afternoon and we could drive home with the windows down.

After we got home I got some soap and water to clean up the mess, but again, I couldn't get rid of the smell. So I grabbed some baking soda. I always have plenty of that on hand for my diaper pail. I figured that if baking soda can control the diaper pail oders, it had to be able to help with this mess. Sure enough it worked! I just covered it with a thick layer of baking soda, let it absorb and dry, then came back in the morning and vaccumed it all up. The truck smelled so much better.

The real kick to this story is that after all of that rushing, which very likely was the cause of her getting car sick, we weren't even late. I had read the inviation wrong and we would have been 20 minutes early.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Ironing Buttons the Easy Way

Mommy Tip of the Day: To easily iron buttons on a shirt, iron it from the back side. The iron will glide right over the buttons and you won't have to iron around them.

When I became a mom, I should have just given away all of my shirts that need ironing. And any shirt with buttons is just a choking hazard because my dear angels think that buttons are too cool and want to pull at them till they come off anyway. But if you have decided to accept the challenge of wearing shirts with buttons that also need pressing, all I can say is, "Why?"

This morning as I was rummaging through my clothes, trying in vain to find something appropriate for this tricky fall weather (too cool for shorts, but too hot for pants) I finally decided to pull out a pretty wrinkled button up short sleeved shirt. Not at all what I would normally choose, but it was the best option that I had available. Normally I would look at this wrinkled shirt and decide one of two things. Either I would take the time to throw it in the dryer with a wet towel and try to get some of the wrinkles out; or more likely, I would just put the silly shirt on and hope that the wrinkles worked themselves out.

Today, for some unusual reason, it dawned on me that I had the iron already set up just a couple of feet away. it was waiting on slings to be pleated, but helping out this poor wrinkled shirt should make it feel useful, right? and surely it would only take a few minutes, right???? For the record, NOTHING only takes a few minutes with a 2 year old and a 9 month old running around.

This seemingly menial task that in my mommy fantasy was ONLY going to take a couple of minutes, ended up taking at least 10 between the screaming and chasing. Thankfully the buttons only took a couple of seconds, or I'm sure that I would have given into the screaming and chasing and just worn it wrinkles and all.

Wrinkles are the new black, right???

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Getting a toddler to eat

Mommy Tip of the Day: To get a picky toddler to eat more, turn dinner into a game.

Dinner time with a picky toddler can be a frustrating thing for any parent. I want my kids to eat well, even though I rarely manage to have the best eating habits. Thankfully I have been blessed with 2 beautiful girls who actually like to eat vegetables. (Sorry I don't have any great tips on getting kids to eat broccoli.) My problem is that my older daughter is a grazer. She only wants to eat a couple of bites of food and run off to play with her "friends" . There is just too much playing to be done to sit still and do anything as mundane as eating.

My DD loves to learn, so to get her to stay at the table longer and eat more, we have turned dinner time into game time. Her favorite "game" is to count each bite that she takes. We only start the game after she has stopped eating on her own, and now she can count to 20 in Spanish and English. She also likes us to make up stories about her and her friends which always involve big meals and lots of bites of food. (She has to take a bite of food every time one of the characters in the story takes a bite. )

It keeps her engaged. She doesn't get bored and want to run off to play. Best of all she gets to interact with us. I am sure that is her favorite part.

Don't get me wrong. I would love to have more time to talk to my husband (or any other adult for that matter) over dinner, but for now I will settle for getting my daughter to eat a few more vegetables.