Tuesday, November 3, 2015

7 Signs that You Need to Toughen Up

I remember the day vividly when I realized I needed to toughen up.  I was working full-time and I had two small kids and my husband was working all the time.  They both suddenly came down with the stomach flu.  I had several light bulbs that needed to be replaced and I hadn't bothered to do it because I needed to get a ladder out of the garage.  Suddenly a spider came out of a towel and my daughter yelled, "A bug!  Where's Daddy?"  It occurred to me then that I needed to take control and toughen up.

I killed that spider and marched out to the garage for the ladder.  It felt wonderful.  Then I took some probiotics to ward off the stomach flu decided I just wasn't going to get it.  I just couldn't.  And I didn't.  And from that day forward, I felt like a new woman.

Now, 5 years later, my daughter comes to me when she finds a scary bug.  Or she takes care of it herself, since she's also a mini-scientist and loves to catch and collect all kinds of bugs.  When she grows up and is a young Mom, I have no intention of her living in a dark house, filled with spiders the way I did, because there is just no reason to.  Of course, I love my husband, and we are a good team, but being tough and independent is one of the most rewarding changes I have ever made in my life.

Here are 7 signs you need to toughen up:
1.  You don't change your own bulbs, especially the high-up ones.  That's right ladies, don't be afraid to go get a ladder.  There's no reason to leave it for your husband.  Take charge right when you realize it's burned out.
2.  You go to your husband when you find a bug that needs to be killed (or caught and released, depending on your point of view).  They're not that scary.  In fact, you could help your kids collect disgusting spiders, cicada shells, and preying mantis (see below, every summer we collect these and I find them all over the house in plastic bags).  AND you can put the worms on the hook yourself.

3.  You are afraid to take on house-hold projects, even small ones such as adding extra hooks to the swingset or hanging pictures.  There is no reason to leave pictures sitting by a wall for weeks on end just because your husband hasn't had time to hang it.  We live in the world of HGTV.  And, some women are ready good with their hands.  I'm not, but some are and if you're a lucky one, you could tackle some paint jobs and help with the bigger jobs like tile or building decks.
4.  You hate going places by yourself.  You often pull the, "I don't want to drive there by myself," routine, especially if that means a road-trip or an airplane ride with the kids by yourself.  Get yourself a DVD player for the kids, and hit the open road.  You will survive.  If I can do it, you can.
5.  You don't take out your own trash.  Sometimes husbands have early meetings or just forget.  You have strong arms, so putting them to use should be no problem for you.
6.  You never take care of yard work.  But what happens if your husband forgets to water those baby trees?  You can pull weeds, you mow the yard.  (Okay, I admit my husband doesn't let me mow the yard because he says it doesn't look terrible when I do it.  But I do everything else.)
7.  You won't shovel your own snow.  Give the kids a shovel and get 'er done!

Of course, I'm not 100% independent.  I still make my husband throw away dead mice and squirrels, but I do my best and I'm proud to show my kids that being fearless is possible.

Independent Moms

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Thursday, October 29, 2015

Our favorite Halloween tradition - Dry Ice?

I wanted to share with you our favorite Halloween traditions.  My husband started it when our kids were really small, and honestly at first I thought it was pretty crazy and extreme.  But our kids beg for it every year and I know it's something they will remember forever.

It's pretty simple really.  We get some dry ice from our grocery store, then fill our cauldron with Kool-Aid (just follow the directions on the package) and then add the dry ice, one small rectangle at a time.  It bubbles and hisses and smokes and they love blowing the smoke around and watching all the craziness!  We put it right in the middle of our newspapers while we are carving pumpkins and it adds a lot of fun.  Plus, they love the super cold Kool-Aid!  Whenever it starts to get too tame, we add another rectangle of dry ice to the cauldron.  We re-use the same cauldron every year, it's just a little cheap one we got from Target.

** Note, dry ice can be dangerous, so watch the kids closely and never let them put their hands inside the bowl.  

And tell me, what is your favorite Halloween tradition?


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Monday, October 26, 2015

3 Sure-Fire Ways to Get Better Sleep and Stop SNORING

Quit Snoring

My husband has always been a poor sleeper, but lately it's gotten out of control.  He is having a lot of stress at work, and this has caused him to start sleep-walking.  I don't love the idea of installing top-notch baby gates just for his safety.  On top of that, he snores like a man who is lost in the woods and the only hope for survival is to grunt at other animals to communicate.  Seriously, sometimes I want to pinch his nostrils, but I fear for his life if I do.

His sleep issues cause him all kinds of problems, and they worse they get, the more tired and stressed he gets.  The poor guy.  He even got super expensive and invasive surgery a few years ago, and they called it "the snore-cure".  They took out his adenoids and tonsils and snipped his Uvula (the thing that hangs down in the back of the throat).  He was snoring again within a few months and actually it's worse than ever.  We've tried snore spray, we've tried sleep pillows, we got a fancy, expensive bed, and nothing seems to work.  So, imagine my surprise when I found something that actually works.

Here's what happened.  One night my husband was snoring so loudly it was shaking the bed and I turned to him so I could get him situated to his side, which usually solves the problem for awhile.  To my surprise, HE WAS ALREADY ON HIS SIDE!  Now I had no recourse left and decided I needed to try something drastic.  My friend has been telling me about these Essential Oils for a long time, how she uses them to ward off colds, uses them to make a natural eye cream, and much more.  She told me there is an oil called Valor II that is specifically designed for snoring and sleeping issues in general.  I really don't usually buy into this kind of thing, but if he was going to snore on his side and walk around the room all night, what choice did I really have?  I ordered her starter oil kit, along with a few other oils she recommended for me.  My friend then told me to put a drop of oil on each of his big toes right before bedtime.  You should have heard my husband, "What kind of voo-doo are we doing?  You want to put SMELLY OIL on my TOE?"

He succumbed anyway and in the morning I asked him how he slept.  He smiled sheepishly and said, "Well, I have to admit that's the first time I have slept through until 5:45 without waking up in as long as I can remember.  I guess your voo-doo worked."

It's been a few weeks now and he is still sleeping great.  I have noticed he is hardly snoring at all anymore, even when I wake up in the middle of the night to deal with one of the kids.

I am sleeping better too, especially when combined with a few other tricks I tried:

1.  Drink lots of water early in the day.  I find that if I'm dehydrated, I don't sleep well, but if I drink water late in the day, then I'm up all night peeing (am I the only one whose bladder never fully recovered from those pesky pregnancies?)
2.  Get the temperature right in the room.  Scientifically, it has been shown that air temperature can greatly affect the quality of sleep, and not everyone has the same magic number.  We have experimented and found we need a high fan and/or a temperature of 65 degrees or less for optimal sleep.
3.  Experiment with Essential Oils.  My husband used Valor II to help with his snoring, but I find that a different one, Cedarwood, works better for me.  I never thought I would be recommending something like this, but truly, it has made such a difference for us!

Feel free to get in touch with me if you have any questions about these oils.  I am still learning a lot, but I have a lot of resources at my fingertips and can help you find what you need.  You can reach me at katiefnorris (at) yahoo.com.

Disclaimer: I have been blogging for over four years and in that time I have never directly sold any type of product.  However, I have finally found one that I am passionate about, so I have decided to become a direct distributor.  I do receive a commission on any oil that is sold through my webpage, but all opinions on the oil and their effectiveness are completely my own.  I do not claim to be a medical practitioner. I do not diagnose, treat or prescribe any medical treatment or advice. You should always discuss treatment of medical conditions with your medical practitioner before using any alternative therapies, natural supplements, or vitamins. The following safety precautions are guidelines only. You should consult with an aromatherapist about essential oil usage and always inform your primary care physician what you are using as they may not be conducive with his/her prescribed therapy and medications.  

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Thursday, October 22, 2015

I’m not a Work-Out Mom, I’m not a Career Mom, so what kind of Mom am I?

We moved across the country this summer, and this meant my kids would be the new kids at school, so I began to have a one track mind on getting them assimilated quickly.  I made playdates with neighbors, I signed them up for soccer and Girl Scouts, but at Back to School night something funny happened.  When we walked into the school, I realized this was also about us as parents, and more specifically, about me.  I needed to meet the Moms too.  Now I felt like the new kid myself and something struck me.  There were Moms dressed in their fancy career clothes, there were Moms dressed in work-out clothes (at 7pm), and there were the PTA Moms.  The problem was, I didn't fit into any of those categories.

I work out a little, but I don't love it.  I used to be a big career Mom, but I quit when we moved to Colorado, since we were only going to be there for a year, so while I still remember vividly what it was like to be a working Mom, as far as everyone else is concerned, I am a stay at home Mom.  I'm not a trendy Mom either, or a shopping Mom.  Suddenly I felt panicked.  Where would I fit?  What kind of Mom was I going to be?  Would I go back to work?  Would I get super involved in school?  Would I join a gym?

I shared my insecurities with my Mom and my husband.  They pretty much thought I was a crazy person.  Why did I care where I fit in?

I tried to get over it by telling myself I was being silly.  I just needed to be myself and all would be well.  But I did care.  I went out and bought a fancy tennis skirt.  Then toyed with the idea of going back to work.  I joined the PTA.  I was sure something would feel normal soon.

Then one day my kids came home from school and for about the fifth day in a row, they were all upset about something that happened on the bus.  The bus company kept changing drivers, and changing pick-up times, and seating arrangements, and I realized this bus situation was causing them a tremendous amount of stress.  They said they loved the bus and truly there were a lot of advantages.  Everyone in the neighborhood takes the bus so they get to socialize a lot.  They got to trade Pokemon cards, which they loved.  Even I loved the bus because they looked so cute getting on and off and plus then I didn't have to fight the car line every day, but I knew it wasn't working.  I made an impulsive decision and decided to pull them off the bus.  They were sad about it at first, and I could tell everyone thought I was a bit crazy about the whole thing, but I decided to give it two weeks.

Two weeks later, I was amazed.  They never complained about school anymore.  They were happier.  There were no more tears at night.  The bus truly had been causing all the angst, they just didn't know it.  That's when it hit me: I'm not Gym Mom, I'm not Soccer Mom, I'm not Career Mom.  I'm Flexible Mom.

Since I'm not working I can change our schedule if we need to.  I can babysit my nephew if my sister in law needs a break.  I can get my husbands tire fixed for him on a whim.  I can go with my Mom on a crazy two hour drive to look at a horse she wants to buy, because I am flexible.

It's good to have an identity.  I think that's why Stay at Home Moms struggle so much, because sometimes just being a stay at home Mom isn't enough of an identity for us.  But for now, I'm content to be Flexible Mom.  Because someday, I might find something I'm really passionate about, and I can be flexible enough to jump on it.  And in the meantime, I'll just keep trying my best to be a good Mom, and I'll keep trying to live in the moment and savor every moment of my flexible life.

Please consider trying out my book, The Happy Mommy Handbook: The Ultimate Guide to Keeping Your Toddlers and Preschoolers Busy, Out of Trouble, and Motivated to Learn!

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Thursday, October 1, 2015

10 Retorts to the Question, "The Kids are in School all Day, What do you do all Day?"

I quit working over a year ago and it was a bit of a rough transition.  I went through every emotion under the sun and I have categorized my transition into 5 phases:

  • The honeymoon Phase - I was so delighted to be able to go to the pool anytime we wanted and not have to deal with needy customers on a daily basis.  This phase lasted for approximately two weeks.
  • The "This is really my new life?" Phase - Once I got over the lure of the pool, I realized how hard this was going to be.  Since it was summer, I had to drag the kids with me anytime I went to Target or the drugstore.  They always complained about going, and I found that Amazon Prime became my new friend.  Suddenly, there was nothing new to look forward to.  There were no big deals that would close soon (and bring a big commission check with it).  This phase lasted for about 1 month.  I began taking a lot of naps during this phase because it helped me cope with my new life.
  • The "I've got to find something to do" Phase.  - During this phase, I started doing freelance work at a frenzied pace.  I began yearning to have conference calls and I wanted a paycheck.  I even did work for free sometimes, just to have something to do.  I NEEDED to use my brain.  This phase lasted for about 6 months.
  • The "Okay, my kids really are fun" Phase - This is where things really got fun.  I began to really appreciate staying home with the kids and my freelance gigs didn't seem as appealing anymore.  I learned to cook.  I began to realize how fun life could be when home with the kids.  This phase lasted about 3 months.
  • The "I can rock this job the way I rocked my other job" Phase.  This is where I am now. I began to really think about what I could do to make my husband's life better.  I could keep the house as clean as possible, I could cook super yummy meals, I could make as many memories as possible.  This is when life really started to get amazing.  Unfortunately for me, the kids also both started full time school, and I became incredibly sad that my special time with them was over.  
That being said, I began to document all the things I do during the day that makes my family stronger, happier, and less stressed.  I wouldn't be able to do these things if I were working full-time.  And that makes me feel wonderful.  So, when someone asks what I do all day, here are some things I can say:

  1. I can read to the kids in the mornings while they're eating breakfast because I’m not rushing off to get ready for work at the same time and I can clean up the kitchen after they leave.  This makes nights easier because the pressure if off for reading to them for the required twenty minutes.
  2. I can take the time to work out and make my body healthy and as de-stressed as possible so I can treat everyone as nicely as possible.
  3. I can run errands during the week so I don't have to drag the kids with me on the weekends and I can focus on family time.
  4. I can make healthy meals from scratch while they are at school and have them ready to put in the oven when they get home.  Plus they're yummy, which make my husband happy after a long stressful day at work.
  5. I can make our home look nice and I have time to get it as organized as possible.
  6. I can be the one who is responsible for paying the bills and keeping the house running so my husband doesn’t have to worry about it at all.  We divide and conquer.  He makes the money, I make the house run perfectly (well, okay, it's not perfect.  Sometimes we have ants and sometimes I forget to turn on the oven.  I'm only human)
  7. I can take naps so that when everyone gets home I have plenty of energy to listen to all their troubles, put everyone to bed without being impatient, and I can help my husband navigate his stressful day and have the energy to listen effectively (something I couldn’t do when I was working).
  8. I can get caught up on the non-urgent but very important things like keeping up to date with our photo albums so that as they grow up they can easily look at memories and find photos for school projects.
  9. I can be attentive to the kids when they are home sick and not just put them in front of the TV while I am on the phone all day on conference calls.
  10. I can make the most of days off and early release days so we can make memories even though they're in school most of the time.  

I know that one day, probably soon, I will get back to work.  But for now, I am thriving and taking pride in every single thing I do for my family.  It's important.  My family is important.

Also, check out my book!  It's about making the most out of the time with your little ones!

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Tuesday, July 14, 2015

5 Things Efficient (and Happy) Moms Do Every Day: Part 1

There is no reason that Moms can't run their households like a very efficient workplace.  They are very similar.  Both at home and at work we must prioritize our time, plan for the future, and check things of our to-do list.  I find that the more efficient I am the more free time I have, both for me and for my kids.  Not only that, I'm much happier.  With this in mind, I have worked hard to come up with ways to save myself time at home, just as I did when I was working at a Fortune 500 company, and you can do it too!

Get an Email Organization System
Get a system for your emails.  I recommend using Outlook (if you need help setting that up, check out this old post I did with lots of great information).  The trick is setting up folders and filing away things you have done so that you can use the in-box as a to-do list.  Then spend 15 minutes per day organizing and going through emails.  You can even set up rules within Outlook so that all those annoying emails from Gymboree go straight into the "Coupon" folder so you don't have to see them in your in-box but they are there if you need them for your next trip to the mall.  Here is an example of my folders (notice how many coupons I have accumulated!  That's over 5,000 emails that I never had to sort.  They just went straight to that folder for future reference)

Get a blue-tooth Headset
Purchase a head-set for multi-tasking.  You can fold laundry, work on dinner, organize files, clean out your purse, all while you wait on hold for the cable company or catch up with your Mom!  I use mine every single day, and it is so much better than using the speakerphone.  Here is the one I use.

Wake up Early
At a minimum, wake up thirty minutes before the kids do, so you can get your day organized, wake up in the peace and quiet, and take a shower.  If you can even wake up early enough to get a little bit of exercise, even better!  You will feel so amazing if you give your body a little time to get some endorphins first thing in the morning.  Buy a cheap treadmill from someone on Craiglist for the basement and the kids will never even know you're awake.  Then take a few extra minutes to sort your emails so you have a fresh slate for the day.

Review your budget
Moms should run the budget for a couple of reasons.  First, we won't overspend if we know what our goal is.  Second, we are the ones who make a lot of the decisions on what to get for birthday parties, clothing, etc., so again, it makes sense for us to take control of the budget.  The trick is looking at it every day.  I like to use Mint.com.  It's free, and easy to set up.  You can set up monthly budgets and then link to your credit card and bank accounts so you can make sure you are sticking to your budget each month.

Use your Phone for Notes
Make lists on your phone like books you want to read, music you want to download, birthday ideas for kids, etc.  I like to use the "Notes" feature on my iPhone, that way it's always handy.

Helping Moms stay organized and efficient is a passion of mine!  I will be continuing this train of thought with a 2nd post about 5 more ways to make the most out of your days.  I will also begin consulting with Moms on getting organized, so if you're feeling overwhelmed with budgeting or emails or anything else, let me know!  I can help!

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Tuesday, July 7, 2015

15 Fun Ways to Work on Letters and Sight Words

My daughter finished Kindergarten this Spring and her teacher advised us to work on sight words every day this summer so she doesn't forget everything.  We prefer to spend our time outdoors playing in the sunshine, so this seems a little daunting.  However, I know it's important, especially since we will be moving to a new school next Fall, so I made a list of all the fun ways we have worked on letters in the past.  I hope this will help you this summer too! 

  1. Egg Hunt for Letters and Sight Words - Write words or letters on small pieces of paper and leave place them in eggs for a fun hunt!

  2. Make Letters with this Easy Home-made Play-Dough
  3. Write letters to friends or family or create a Pen-Pal
  4. Matching Game - Write letters on several different sheets of paper.  Use Play-Dough to create shapes and then ask your child to match each shape to the correct letter.  Such as matching "Star" to "S".  Have your child physically place each shape on the correct letter.
  5. ABC Activity Using Dot Markers 
  6. Rock Letters
  7. Hunting in sand for letters
  8. Using glue and Christmas sprinkles for fun sensory letters and words
  9. Letters with Home-Made Puff Paint
  10. Play Bingo, either by making your own, or buy this cheap one from Amazon!
  11. Play Scrabble Junior - It's a lot more fun than than we thought it would be!
  12. Do "Homework".  Make letters on a page and have them circle each letter as you say it (This works especially well if kids have an older sibling and you can tell them they are doing "homework")

  13. Cut out objects from a magazine and spread them on the table.  Tell your child to pick out every object that start with "s", and so on.
  14. Letter Tree - Make a large tree and make sight words on "leaves".  Have your child glue the sight words to the tree and let them hang it in their room so they can see it often.

For more ideas on engaging your children and keeping them busy, please consider buying my book, co-written by an amazing Kindergarten Teacher! We give you lots of fun ideas on ways to work on fine motor skills, reading, math, science, and lots more.   The Happy Mommy Handbook: The Ultimate How-to Guide on Keeping Your Toddlers and Preschoolers Busy, Out of Trouble and Motivated to Learn.

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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The 10 things my kids say all day (every day)

Well, it's 4th of July week and I'm guessing that most of you are off enjoying fireworks, BBQ, and sunshine.  In honor of that, I will keep my post short this week, since you have far more important things to do.

I thought it would be fun to do a round up of the most common phrases I hear all day...I suspect they are similar to what you hear in your own house.  Do me a favor, and tell me what are some things your kids say to you all day long too!

1.  Please Mom, can I have just one more chance?
2.  Please Mom, can't you wipe me just this once?  I'll do it next time, I promise! 
3.  Mom, can you find me the bug jar?  I found another roly-poly!
4.  Mommy, I'm hungry!  Can I have something to eat?
5.  Please Mom, I PROMISE I won't do it again!
6.  But Mom, he/she started it!
7.  But Mom, why????
8.  Can I play a game on your phone?
9.  Just one more minute?
10.  Mom, do I really have to take a rest today?
So, Happy 4th of July!  I hope you have some wonderful family time!  

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Thursday, June 25, 2015

Super Yummy Stuffed Zucchini

As you might have read, after 10 years of struggling in the kitchen, I have finally turned things around!  And here is one of my husband's favorites!

Stuffed Zucchini
2 or 3 Large Zucchini
2 Tbsp butter
1/4 cup chopped yellow onions
4 slices Turkey Bacon (or regular, your choice)
1/2 cup shredded cheese
1/2 cup bread crumbs
Dash of cayenne pepper (optional)

1.  Set oven to 400
2.  Cut zucchini in half and scoop out zucchini flesh.  I have tried this several ways.  I tried using a melon-baller.  I tried using a spoon.  The best and fastest way is to use a steak knife and carefully cut out the flesh.  Every other way is just too slow for me.
3.  Cook the bacon (I prefer microwave)
4.  Chop the flesh and place the shells into a 9x13 Pyrex, sprayed with Pam
5.  Melt the butter and add the zucchini.  Cook for 3-5 minutes and add onions.
6.  Continue cooking for another few minutes, until tender.
7.  Meanwhile, cut up the bacon and tomato
8.  Add the bacon and tomato to the pan and cook for 1 minute
9.  Pour all ingredients in a bowl, along with bread crumbs, cheese, and a dash of cayenne pepper for a little extra zing (we like things spicy)
10.  Fill zucchini shells and cook uncovered for 8-10 minutes

Active time: 15 minutes
Total time: 25 minutes

Tip: You can prepare this early in the day and cover with foil until you are ready to cook.  I paired this with pork tenderloin and it was a great meal!

Totally unrelated to cooking, but here is my book!  It is written by both a Mom (me) and a Teacher, and we give lots of ideas on ways to stimulate your child's brain with easy, fun activities, which also free you up to do things you need to do, like cooking!

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Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Terrible Twos? It Could be Gut Bacteria!

People never used to believe me when I told them that my son cried all the time, but he really did.  And I mean, All. The. Time.  One time he wanted to play with one of my shoes.  I politely took it away and he began throwing a fit.  And he proceeded to throw a fit for 65 minutes.  I know because I counted the minutes.  He followed me around the house, crying for an entire 65 minutes.  

Several months later we went on a trip and we didn't have access to a refrigerator and in an attempt to save money, I ordered water instead of milk for the kids for several meals.  All of a sudden, I noticed a different kid.  He didn't cry all the time.  He suddenly had normal, non-runny poops, and it began to occur to me that he might be lactose intolerant.  My husband thought I was crazy, but when I brought it up with my doctor, he immediately recommended we get him tested and voila!  We suddenly had to worry about Lactaid pills, butter-filled desserts, and pizza nights, but the great news was that life was so much better for our entire family!  My heart broke for him when I realized how uncomfortable he must have been those first two years of his life.  Along with taking away milk products, we started a daily Probiotic treatment and the combination made all the difference.

While lactose intolerance is pretty rare in kids, general stomach discomfort isn't.  Some new research just came out from Ohio State University Center for Clinical and Translational Science, that the microbiome of a toddler's gut may affect his temperament and behavior, particularly in boys.  The study carefully points out that there is a communication between bacteria in the gut and the brain, but also urges parents not to change diets just yet since they are continuing their research on the subject.  However, based on my experience, if your toddler is going through anything like the "Terrible Two's", I suggest that you strongly consider starting Probiotics.  It might make all the difference.  

Here is our favorite Probiotic Brand:

I hope you will consider checking out my book, The Happy Mommy Handbook: The Ultimate How-to Guide on Keeping Your Toddlers and Preschoolers Busy, Out of Trouble and Motivated to Learn.  I give lots of ideas on keeping your toddlers and preschoolers entertained and engaged, so that you can have a stronger bond and even get some work done around the house!

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Thursday, June 18, 2015

Confessions of a Mom at the Car Wash

It's not my fault that my car looks the way it does.  It really isn't.  For that, I place full blame on the tiny humans that live in the back of my car.

We pulled up to the car wash the other day and I decided to give it the full treatment.  I dragged out the incredibly powerful hose and began the grueling task that every Mom dreads: cleaning out the car.  As I did, I began to fully grasp the seriousness of the situation.  Crayons and popcorn were stuck in places that no one expected.  I found items long ago forgotten: the portable dog bowl we've been looking for since Christmas, the Easter tie from two years ago.  No matter how hard I tried, the dog hair just wouldn't budge.  The stickers stayed stuck to the carpet, and I realized what I really needed was a power-washer for the INSIDE of my car.

Then it happened.  I sucked up something and immediately I knew it was bad, just from the new sound coming from the hose, but the ear-piercing screaming is what really got my attention.  My daughter was acting like someone had poked a hot syringe in her eyeball.

"What's wrong?" I asked frantically.

"My mask!  You vacuumed up my Bat-Girl mask!!!"

The words sunk in and so many things came to my mind.  First of all, the vacuum is strong enough to suck up an entire mask?  Then why won't it get the rest of this stuff from my car?  Second of all, OH NO!!!  The beloved Bat-Girl Mask!  What does a desperate Mom do, especially when it is clearly her fault?

I ran to the man behind the curtain and begged him to help.  He began to dismantle the vacuum and we waited with baited breath.  After several tense minutes he produced a dirty, bedraggled Bat-Girl mask.  We were thrilled.  I could have kissed him (And probably would have, but he was in high school and I didn't want him to report me to his parents).

I began to ponder why I even bother cleaning my car, when I know that within a day it's going to look like a homeless person lives there, and then it hit me:  the indignity of a Mom in the car wash.  There are few things in life as humiliating as cleaning out my car, but it's really not my fault.  It's just life.  And honestly, my car wasn't that clean before I had kids, but it wasn't this bad.  I promise.

I hope you will consider buying my book!  It is full of ways to keep your kids busy, out of trouble, and motivated to learn.  The reviews on Amazon are great and I think you will love it!

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Monday, June 15, 2015

3 Amazing Novels for Moms to Read This Summer!

Did you know that when your kids see you read, it vastly encourages their love of reading?  It is vitally important for kids to see you enjoying books as much as they do.  
But forget my kids.  Nothing makes me happier than finding a good book.  I want to crave it.    I want to wait impatiently for the end of the day so I can climb into bed and read.  I want to literally have the urge to neglect my children all day long so I can read my book.
The problem is that it's really hard to find books that fit that description.  Most of them are pretty good.  Some are downright boring.  So, I'm going to share with you three amazing books that you can read this summer.  

1.  The Midnight Rose: A Novel by Lucinda Riley.  

I pretty much love everything Ms. Riley has written, but this one is by far the best.  It is one of those amazing multi-generational books that I love (think Thornbirds) and there is a mystery there as well. It is based mostly in England, but the main character hails from India so there is some amazing imagery as well from India, where the air is warm, the flowers are rich and colorful, and the people are loving.  I don't know much about India, so it was fascinating to learn about India in the early 20th century.  You will definitely want to stick your kids in front of the TV so you can read this one all day (not that I encourage that behavior, I just want to have the urge to do it).

2.  The Secret Keeper: A Novel by Kate Morton

Again, I love this all this author's books, but this one is the best.  The story takes place in England, before and during WWII.  I'm beginning to feel that I don't want any more books about WWII, but this one is so unique that it's worth it.  It has such an amazing twist (hence the name, Secret Keeper), that you will finish the book and feel so thrilled about what happened.  The story starts out with a young girl witnessing her mother commit a murder.  Laurel's mother was never caught.  Laurel never tells anyone what she saw and life goes on.  We then get to see flashbacks about Laurel's mother and she is such a warm, fun, and amazing Mom that we are puzzled as to how she could have killed anyone.  You will love all the characters in this book and love helping Laurel solve the mystery of her mother's heinous crime.

3.  The Bronze Horseman (The Bronze Horseman Trilogy Book 1)

Did you know that many American families in the early nineteenth century loved the idea of communism?  They loved it so much that many CHOSE to move to communist Russia and live in abject poverty, where most of them died.  The Bronze Horseman is truly a love story (and an amazing one at that), but I also enjoyed learning all about a piece of Russian and American history that I never knew about before.  Again, I craved this book all day long until I turned the last page.

Hopefully you enjoy these books as much as I do.  Please let me know if you read them, and please comment and share what are some of your favorite books so I can look forward to neglecting my children all summer!
Also, please consider checking out my own book!  You will find ideas on engaging your children and keeping them busy, co-written by an amazing Kindergarten Teacher! We give you lots of fun ideas on ways to work on fine motor skills, reading, math, science, and lots more.   The Happy Mommy Handbook: The Ultimate How-to Guide on Keeping Your Toddlers and Preschoolers Busy, Out of Trouble and Motivated to Learn.  
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Thursday, June 11, 2015

5 Absurd Things that Make Me Feel Guilty

Mom guilt is real.  I thought for sure it would disappear once I quit working.  It turns out I was wrong.  I still have guilt, but now it's totally irrational.  Here are 5 absurd things that make me feel guilty:
  1. Putting the kids to bed on time.  I always hear these parents say, "I just couldn't bring myself to put them to bed because we were all having such a great time!"  I'm sorry, but I NEVER feel remotely tempted to keep them awake. In fact, the prospect of some alone time with just "big kids" makes me feel giddy.  And I feel guilty about that.  
  2. Working on "home stuff".  We are moving across the country later this summer and the other day I spent several hours researching moving company reviews on Yelp, Angies List, etc.  The kids were perfectly happy with the activities I had given them, and yet I felt guilty for ignoring them for most of the morning.  Yet, what is the alternative?  I could NOT research moving companies and end up with half our stuff missing or broken during our move.  Obviously that would be worse, right?
  3. Making them do chores.  I know it's good for them.  I don't want them to end up as entitled little brats, but sometimes when they're playing happily and peacefully together, it makes me feel so mean to interrupt them to do chores.  Plus, they look so forlorn when I say they have to clean up their rooms before they can go outside and play.  Yet, it's totally silly because of me because of course we need to feed the dog, clean up before Daddy gets home, and clean up rooms.  And it has to happen sometime.
  4. Not letting them eat Pop-Tarts and junk food.  I got to eat junk food when I was a kid.  Not a lot, but definitely more than I let my kids eat.  They are 5 and 6 and just got to have the ice cream truck for the first time last week.  I know rationally this is healthier for them, but sometimes I feel a little ounce of guilt for not letting them enjoy junk food more often.
  5. Not letting them go to Chuck-E-Cheese's.  They beg me.  And beg me.  And beg me to go to Chuck-E-Cheese.  And I don't let them, mostly because I can't face it.  The germs, the noise, the food.  I avoid the whole scene, and again, for that I feel guilty.  
What about you?  Do you struggle with Mom guilt?  What are your triggers?

I hope you will also consider checking out my book, co-written by an amazing Kindergarten Teacher! We give you lots of fun ideas on ways to work on fine motor skills, reading, math, science, and lots more.   The Happy Mommy Handbook: The Ultimate How-to Guide on Keeping Your Toddlers and Preschoolers Busy, Out of Trouble and Motivated to Learn.

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Tuesday, June 9, 2015

How to Deal with (And Prevent) Nightmares

My daughter used to have this recurring dream where she was lost in the woods, being chased by someone she couldn't see and couldn't find her family.  The poor little thing used to come in to our room, panting, crying, and wild-eyed.  It was heartbreaking for her, but it was also heartbreaking for me to lose sleep night after night.  

On top of that, research shows that in kids, poor sleep at night leads to reduced ability to function, difficulty modulating impulses, and difficulties focusing 
(Seminars in Pediatric Neurology, Mar 1996).  For my sake and for hers, I was desperate to find a solution.  Then one night, our babysitter came over and put my daughter to bed.  Apparently as they were going to bed, my daughter shared with the babysitter that she was scared to go to sleep because she was afraid of having her dream.  It just so happened that my babysitter had struggled for years with sleep problems and had a special trick for my daughter.  She changed the dream.  She listened patiently while my daughter explained every detail, then the babysitter changed it.  Instead of being chased by someone she couldn't see, my babysitter explained that she was really being based by a bunch of adorable fairies who were trying to invite her to their party.  They led her through the forest to an amazing party with cupcakes, bounce houses, flying fairies, and of course, her loving family waiting for her at the party.  The transformation was astounding.  She NEVER had that dream again.  I did a little research and there are actually psychologists out there who maintain that changing dreams is a credible and recommended form of sleep therapy.

Since then, my daugther is mostly cured of bad dreams, but she still struggle occasionally and now my son has begun to have them as well.  Through my own research and trial and error, I have come up with a list of ways we prevent and deal with bad dreams:

1.  Cuddle at night right before bedtime.  I try to minimize stimulation at this time (i.e. no books or TV).  We just sit together calmly, and my daughter fully believes this will prevent bad dreams so she is content to just sit and cuddle.  We have noticed that when we don't do this, bad dreams often occur, so it has become a reliable strategy for us.
2.  Changing the dream.  As I stated above, this works amazingly well for us, even in the middle of the night.  I try to listen carefully and then help the kids "change the dream" so it doesn't become a recurring one.
3.  Flush the dream down the toilet.  Sometimes we playfully think of the dream, stand above the toilet and use our pretend magic wand to transfer to the toilet and flush it down so it won't ever come back.
4.  Get more sleep.  We have noticed that when we go to bed late and get up early (such as on a vacation), bad dreams occur more often, so we try to get the kids in bed by 7:30 at the latest (they are 5 and 6 years old).
5.  When all else fails, let them sleep on your floor.  It isn't ideal, but if nothing is working, I keep some sheets and a blanked by my bed just in case and allow my kids to sleep there if they are really struggling.  For me, it's much better than letting them sleep in my bed, because I want to minimize the time out of their bed and allowing them to sleep in my bed will likely make them want to try it again.  Since we have perfected the above strategies, we only have to do this a few times per year, which is a big improvement from doing it nightly, which was our reality at one point.

Some kids never struggle with bad dreams and that is lucky for them.  For others, like us, it can take over the family dynamic so it's important to get it under control, both for the sake of the kids and the parents.

Please share with my any tips that you have for your families sleeping issues!

Also, Please consider checking out my book!  We give lots of information for parents on keeping their young children busy with projects that stimulate the mind and keep the children out of trouble!  

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Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Sight Word Fun - A Fishing Game!

When my daughter was three, we played a really fun game for her birthday party.  I fashioned a "fishing pole" out of some things we had around the house and then the kids got to "fish" for prizes.  I got the idea from Pollyanna (Vault Disney Collection) if you've ever seen that movie.  

Anyway, I'm always looking for new fun ways to work on sight words, so I thought a fishing game would be just the thing!

Luckily we had a few fishing poles from the Dollar Store laying around the house, so I tied on a clothes pin, wrote some sight words on notecards and we were in business!  My six year old went first, and my five year old was so interested that he ended up being the one to clip the notecards on for her.  As an added bonus, this helps him with his finger strength and fine motor skills!  Then we switched and my daughter clipped on the notecards for her brother.

After she clipped them on, he would "catch" the sight word.

Then he would read the sight word for us, and remove it from the clip and send his pole back in for more.  Again, he is working on fine motor strength while he is doing this.

For more ideas on engaging your children and keeping them busy, please consider buying my book, co-written by an amazing Kindergarten Teacher! We give you lots of fun ideas on ways to work on fine motor skills, reading, math, science, and lots more.   The Happy Mommy Handbook: The Ultimate How-to Guide on Keeping Your Toddlers and Preschoolers Busy, Out of Trouble and Motivated to Learn.  

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