Saturday, April 30, 2011

Fresh Baby Dishes Winner!

The winner of the Fresh Baby Divided Dish and Bowl is...

Kristin! (Just "Kristin" is the entry name).

Please email me at valplowman@gmail.com and include your mailing address. You have one week or another winner will be chosen. Congrats!

Friday, April 29, 2011

Making Work Fun



This post originally appeared on the Children's Learning Activities blog.

Cleaning and other work doesn't need to be boring in order to be an effective teaching tool for children. There is nothing wrong with making cleaning an enjoyable experience for the family. Here are some ideas to make cleaning fun:
  1. Music: Turn on some music to keep you moving! Sing and dance as you clean.
  2. Adventure: Turn it into an adventure. Dress up in your adventure clothes, find the messes, and attack them with your sponges and cleaners. We like to go on "treasure hunts" after a holiday. For example, we will go on a treasure hunt for our all of our Christmas decorations after Christmas is over. We find the decorations and bring them back to a designated spot. If something is too high to reach, the kids tell us where it is. This helps cut back on those missed decorations you find the day after you put the boxes away!
  3. Cinderella: My friend shared this. She and her girls pretend they are Cinderella and clean the house. When they are done cleaning, they dress up in their princess dresses and have a princess party.
  4. Chore Incentives: You can do chore cards, chore jars, sticker charts, lists...whatever keeps everyone motivated. Mix it up from time to time. Nothing will stay motivational forever--you need to change what you do every so often.
  5. Focus on the Serving: "Thank you for cleaning that! That is such nice service you are doing!" Use positive talk to thank your child for helping with the family chores. Even if something is "your job," it is nice to be thanked for it.
Doing chores around the house does so much more for a child than simply teaching a child how to work. Honestly, if all my child learned from chores was work ethic, that would be enough for me. People I admire in life are hard workers and learned how to work hard in youth. There is so much value in work ethic.

It will help your child be better citizens and most importantly better spouses and parents. I have in the back of my head a great gift I want to give to my future daughter-in-law--I want to give her the gift of a husband who is helpful in the home and is a hard worker. My mother-in-law gave that to me and I love it!

Work helps our mental development. It helps our character development. One of the best ways for me to get my five year old boy talking about his feelings is to work beside him for an extended period of time. At first, he talks about surface topics, but as time passes, he is soon talking about matters of his heart.

And on a more simple level, chores help children develop fine and gross motor skills. They help with colors (like when sorting laundry). You can work in shapes and counting. 

There is so much value to work! But remember that it is okay to keep work fun.

So, how do you make work fun around your house?

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Thursday, April 28, 2011

Birth Order and Two-child Families


If you currently have two children or plan to have two children total, the chapter on parenting the two child family is just right for you. Leman discusses some tips and strategies to do your best in his book The Birth Order Book.

He talks about the different gender scenarios--two boys (where Mother's influence is of ultimate importance), two girls (where father's influence is key), and boy-girl (where the standard rivalries found in two children families is not usually present).

Now for some of my own personal commentary on the topics. 

First, for the boy/girl. While I obviously don't have that now, I did for a couple of years. Leman comments that "...a first-born boy and a second-born girl can often develop a close emotional bond" (page 298). This is certainly true of my first two. Brayden and Kaitlyn are best friends, and I have decided they are twins separated by birth. They are super tight. These two also don't compete with each other in most instances. 

I grew up in a two-child family. I have one little sister. We definitely had rivalries. My little sister did everything she could to avoid following in my footsteps. For example, I was a singer. She also has a great singing voice, but dropped out of lessons for fear of being compared to me. 

So a trick as a parent with two children is learning to manage these rivalries so they don't become a problem for one or both children. 

Leman has a list of ideas for you:
  1. Don't label: Don't label one as "good" and one as "bad." Don't compare. 
  2. Love and relate individually: Point out what you love about each child as an individual. Don't ask one child to be more like another child.
  3. Love unconditionally: Love your child no matter what grades are or even what behavior is like. You always love the person.
  4. Treat as individuals: Things don't have to be perfectly equal for both children. The older child can have a later bedtime at points in life.
  5. Maintain consistency: It will mean a lot to the oldest child for you to be consistent about rules.
  6. Have age appropriate responsibilities: Remember, it is easy to try to treat two children the same, but you aren't doing either one favors with that. You will either have too low of expectations for one or too high for the other. It is also possible you would land somewhere in the middle.
  7. You don't have to keep things exactly even. Parent each child indivually. If the oldest was ready for a certain freedom at five, it doesn't automatically mean the youngest will be, too. She might be ready earlier or later. 
  8. One-on-one time: One-on-one time is very important. As Leman says about this time, "You don't find it; you make it." Take one child shopping, go out to eat together. "Dozens of ways to spend one-on-one time together will occur to you, if you really want to do it" (page 306). For more on this idea, see my one-on-one time posts.
I think some major tricks to parenting the two-child family is to figure out how to treat children fairly yet as individuals, also. With two children, you better believe they are noticing things like how much time they get with parents, what expectations are of them compared to the other, and how often little sister gets new furniture (um, yes, that is my real life). You won't be perfect, but you can try your best.

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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Poll Results: What age range is easiest for you (easiest, not hardest)?



Newborn
  45 (10%)
Baby 4-6
  93 (22%)
Baby 7-9
  65 (15%)
Baby 10-12
  30 (7%)
Pre-Toddler (12-18 months)
  37 (8%)
Toddler (18-24 months)
  27 (6%)
2 year old
  11 (2%)
3 year old
  9 (2%)
4 year old
  10 (2%)
5-8 year old
  13 (3%)
Pre-teen (9-12)
  0 (0%)
Teen (13-18)
  2 (0%)
Don't know yet!
  78 (18%)


Votes so far: 420
Poll closed 

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Reminder: You can leave comments on poll results posts if you would like to add to the poll after it has closed. This would be helpful for those who have more than one child, those whose children have reached certain ages after a poll closed, and those who didn't visit the blog while that poll was open. To find closed polls, click on the poll results link above

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Baby Braxston

Today marks 5 years since we lost our little Braxston (for more about this, see Miscarriage and Stillbirth). I still think about him throughout each and every day. It still brings tears to my eyes to think about the little boy we lost.

I remember that day. It was actually the middle of the night when he was "born." My husband and I were able to hold him. He looked absolutely perfect. He looked like a small baby. This amazing group called Share Parents came and took pictures of him and pictures of us holding him. When we looked at the pictures later, we were both surprised to see that he didn't actually look as perfect as we thought he did in the moment. We knew the Lord had blessed us to be able to see our son in a perfect light.

What a blessing to be a mom to such a valiant spirit. I am overwhelmed at the trust of the Lord in me to do that, and I hope I can be worthy of that trust. I love my Braxston just as I love my other three children. I pray for him as I do for them. 

Today, I will cry a little (let's be honest; I am crying right now). I will look through his scrapbook I made for him with my family. I will look through his memory box Share Parents made for us. We will go buy some flowers and take them to the cemetery. We will buy some pizza and go to a park by the cemetery and have some fun in memory of Braxston. 

Until we meet again Braxston. We love you.

***Last fall, my dear friend, Kelli, lost a baby girl. She is a fabulous writer and wrote the perfect poem for this situation. With her permission, I link you to it: Still.***

Monday, April 25, 2011

Leadership Phase

On Becoming Childwise: Parenting Your Child from 3-7 Years

Nearly three years ago, I wrote a post on the Four Phases of Parenting found in On Becoming Childwise. At the time, Brayden was barely three and Kaitlyn 15 months old. The first phase is called the leadership phase and is for ages 2-6 years old. My kids were young--one of them not even in the phase yet. You can see in that post that the information I shared is basically that--information.

Today, Brayden is almost 6. Kaitlyn just turned 4. And I have a third child who is barely 2. Today, I obviously have a much different, and wiser, perspective on this phase. Brayden only has one more year left in this phase.

First, the basics of the phase (Childwise page 55):
  • Primary goal is to establish your leadership in your child's life.
  • Not oppressive leadership, but authoritative.
  • This is a phase of boundaries. You allow freedoms as your child demonstrates responsible behavior.
  • This is the bootcamp of child-rearing.
  • You want to get control of your child so you can train him.
  • This phase is the focus of the book On BecomingChildwise.

During my most recent reading of Childwise, I was suddenly struck by this phase. My mind halted on this phase--it is the bootcamp of child-rearing. This is the time to establish leadership. Let's compare this with the next phase of parenting--Training (page 56):
  • Ages 7-12
  • During training, your children are not yet in the real game of life.
  • This is a series of practice sessions.
  • As Ezzo & Bucknam describe, using a sports analogy, you work with your child each day in different settings, going through drills and exercises. This is practice time.
  • You stop your child when necessary and make immediate corrections, explaining the reasons.
  • Show your child what to do and how to do it.
  • Your child will only listen to your training if you gained control in the discipline phase.
  • This phase is the focus of the books The Smart Parentand On Becoming Preteen Wise.

I think that a lot of times, we parents try to rush the leadership phase an move on to the training phase. We get discouraged and frustrated when our child is less than perfect. It is important to remember what the phase is: a time to establish your leadership. This is a four year time period. I think that illustrates the fact that there will be plenty of times your child challenges that leadership. There will be plenty of times your child forgets or even ignores the boundaries you have put in place.

So as  you navigate this often tumultuous phase of the 2-6 year old, keep in mind what you are doing in this phase. You are not expected to have a perfect child by the 7th birthday. The 7th birthday is when training begins. 

So take a breather. Relax. You are doing just fine! All of Childwise is focussed on the Leadership Phase, so you can get lots of information on what you want to be doing during this phase in that book. Remember, this is not the phase for perfection. A 5 year old is not meant to go through life perfectly with minimal reminders from you. He hasn't even started official training yet! He is simply learning to listen to your voice and obey it. So take it easy. Just as Rome wasn't built in a day, a delightful 19 year old was not taught all she needs to know in a day, week, year, or even phase of parenting. It took her parents 13 years of solid work followed by 6 years of solid coaching. You can get there someday, too.

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Saturday, April 23, 2011

Fresh Baby Dishes {Giveaway!}


Last year, I did a review on the Fresh Baby Baby Food Kit. I have loved Fresh Baby. They rolled out some new products this year and sent some to me to review.

They. Are. Cool. 

Really--they are great and innovative for making the whole food process much easier.

Above you can see a picture of the Divided Dish. Here are some cool features:

Movable Divider Keeps Food Separate
Double Body Construction:
  • Separates for Easy Cleaning
  • Keeps Food Warm & Cool Longer
  • Outside shell never gets too hot
Airtight Lid:
  • Spill-proof
  • Keeps food fresh
  • Great for On-the-Go
Dishwasher Safe (top rack)
Freezer Safe
Food Safe
Size: 9 fl oz/250 ml

Material:

Bowl: 18/8 Stainless Steel
Outer Shell: PP - Polypropylene (#5)
BPA, Lead, Melamine & Phthalate-Free


The other item they sent to me is the Baby Bowl:

Stainless Steel Bowl Features:

Double Body Construction:
  • Separates for Easy Cleaning
  • Keeps Food Warm & Cool Longer
  • Outside shell never gets too hot
Airtight Lid:
  • Spill-proof
  • Keeps food fresh
  • Great for On-the-Go
Dishwasher Safe (top rack)
Freezer Safe
Food Safe
Size: 10 fl oz/300 ml

Material:

Bowl: 18/8 Stainless Steel
Outer Shell: PP - Polypropylene (#5)
BPA, Lead, Melamine & Phthalate-Free 

Pretty neat right? I love them. 

One of you lucky readers will win your own divided dish and bowl! Hooray! So let's do the entering business.


For Your First Entry:
Become a follower of this blog. Then leave a comment. If you are already a follower (the thing where your cute face pops up with all the other cute faces of people following), comment telling me so.

Sample Entry 

I am a follower!


For Your Second Entry:

Take a moment to browse the Fresh Baby website: http://freshbaby.com/. Then comment saying you did so.

Sample Entry

I looked at the site--I like that they have podcasts!


For Your Third Entry:

Like Fresh Baby on Facebook. Comment telling us you did so. You might already like it if you entered the giveaway last year.

Sample Entry
I like it on Facebook!


For Your Fourth Entry:

Like this blog on FacebookAlready do? Tell me so. Comment saying you are a fan.

Sample Entry

Hi! I like on Facebook!


For Your Fifth Entry:
Follow Fresh Baby on Twitter. Then comment saying you did so. Include your Titter ID.


Sample Entry

I follow on Twitter! @valplowman


For Your Sixth Entry: 

Change your status on Facebook to talk about this blog giveaway with a link to this review. Leave a comment saying you did so.

Sample Entry

I changed my status!


For Your Seventh Entry:

Follow me on Twitter. Once you have done so, come back and comment and include your Twitter ID. Already do? Comment saying so.

Sample Entry
I follow on Twitter! @valplowman


Entry Rules
  • You must leave a comment in order to have an entry.
  • You must leave a separate comment for each entry. This is not so I can get lots of comments--it is because it makes it a million times easier to choose a winner. It takes less time, and less time is good. Plus, it makes sure I don't miss an entry.
  • You don't have to do all seven entries...for example, if you just want to follow this blog, you can just do entry one.
  • One entry per comment.
  • Up to seven entries per person.
  • You must fulfill the rules of each entry for each entry to count. If I see the entry is not valid (did not meet entry requirements), I will disqualify your entry. Trust me, I check.
  • Entries will be accepted until 11:59 PM Friday, April 29 Mountain Standard Time.
  • The winner will be randomly selected at random.org
  • The winner will be announced Saturday, April 30.
  • If you would like, you can add your email address to your entry. If you are the winner, I will email you to let you know. You do not need to add your email address in order to win. I understand not everyone wants to share their email addresses with the world. I will announce the winner on the blog, so you can check the blog Saturday to find out if you won.
  • Once the winner is announced, you will have one week to contact me or another winner will be chosen. Be sure to check back. The only thing worse than not winning is to win but not realize it in time!

Color It By Number WINNERS!

Here are the winners for the Color it By Number giveaways:

Animal Book: Tracy!

Vehicle Book: David and Melody!

Princess Book: Sarah!

Please email me at valplowman@gmail.com and I will give you what you need! You have one week or another winner will be chosen. Congrats!

Another giveaway coming up next...



Friday, April 22, 2011

Couponing--10 Getting Started Tips

I  have some friends that are impressive couponers. Seeing how much they save got me thinking. I know myself and know that at this point, I have neither the passion nor do I want to carve the time to be an intense couponer. I used to then think there is no point. But then one day I thought "If all I save is $5 a trip on things I am buying anyway, then why not?" So I started clipping some coupons and saving a few dollars here and there. 


One day, I wondered what it would take to do more and started browsing the web. Um, wow. Sensory overload! There is a lot of information out there! So I turned to my friend Serra for some advice. She is great to let me know about super deals that should not be passed up (I recently bought about 30-40 pounds of pasta for less than $10 thanks to Serra). 


Since most of us want, and close to most really need, to save money, I thought I would ask Serra to share some ideas for couponing with you. Here are her top ten ideas for getting started, along with some links to direct you to helpful blogs and sites if you want to get a little deeper into it.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I started couponing about a year ago, and although I am not a "serious" couponer like those who write blogs about couponing, you will find me out and about chasing sales every so often. I have been taught all my life the importance of "preparedness" in the way of food storage. I always thought it was in case of world chaos. It wasn't until I got married that I realized being prepared, or having a "stock-pile" of commonly used items could be useful in times of unemployment, during "tight" times or for a variety of different reasons.

Having decent food storage scared me. I didn't know what to put in it, and how to afford whatever was supposed to be there, until I entered the world of coupons. There has been a lot of attention given to couponing lately, and it may seem a bit overwhelming. And with anything that seems a bit overwhelming it is best to take that mountain one step at a time and before you know it, you'll be on top! To get yourself
started I would offer my own personal top 10 couponing tips. You ready for this?

1. Start simple.
  • If you're like me, you like to save a buck (or ten). Don't try to cut your spending by 70% overnight. Start with using a few coupons to familiarize yourself with the process and until you feel confident handing those coupons over to the cashier.
2. Take stock.

  • Take a look at your pantry and current storage. If you’re starting at ground zero just think of yourself as starting with a fresh slate! Make a list of items you always need, use, buy ect. Items such as personal hygiene or oral care. As far as food, think of commonly used items for cooking, baking and snacks. Only include items you and your family commonly use. Then start looking for coupons and sales for these items.

3. Make some goals.

  • This goes with starting simple. Don't try to stockpile everything at once. Even if you find one sale a month to pair coupons with, GREAT! Build your stock slowly if you are on a tight budget and before you know it, you'll just be re-stocking items and never paying full price again.

4. Know your budget. Or MAKE one.

  • If you haven’t pinned down your grocery budget, do it. If you're like me, you need cold hard cash to limit spending. Once the cash is gone, no more trips to the store. Once you have a realistic budget figured out, you can slowly start trimming it down (if needed) as your stock builds up (or buy special treats like ice cream with the extra).
  • -IDEA:: My husband gets paid bi-weekly. Each pay period I set aside the food budget money I didn't spend for the previous two weeks. Then when case lot sales or other stock pile sales come up I have money already set aside to purchase those bulk sale items.

5. Find some coupons

  • I personally get my coupons from a couple neighbors who receive the Sunday paper but do not use the coupons. Many people buy multiple Sunday papers (so they receive duplicate coupons) and others (including myself) just buy what they want from Ebay.

    You heard me. Ebay. You can buy specific coupons or lots of 100 or more of random coupons.
  • You can print a lot of coupons off the internet, usually only 2 of the same coupon at a time.
  • Let's talk more about Ebay. This is a great way to stock pile fast. True scenario: Smiths (A grocery store found in mainly the Intermountain West area of the U.S.) had Colgate toothpaste on sale for .98 cents. I went to Ebay and searched "Colgate toothpaste coupons". It just so happens there were coupons available for $1 off one Colgate toothpaste making it free! If you do the "buy it now" option (assuming it's available) you should receive your coupons within 3 days (if you and the seller are within the continental U.S.). Be sure to allow time for coupons to arrive in time to use them with the sale. Usually you buy coupons like this in clumps of 10-20. What would you do with that many FREE toothpastes? Split the coupons with friends, donate them to food banks, give them as holiday or birthday gifts (ha!). You get the idea.


6. Pair your coupons with a sale. DING DING DING!!

  • The best way to get more for your money is to pair your coupons with sales. Just as with the Colgate scenario. Take your list of commonly used items and start looking for sales. If you are solely an Ebay couponer keep your eyes out for coupons you could use if a sale should come up. You can gamble buying the coupons so you have them just in case...this is up to you. When I am sorting through my Sunday paper coupons and I can't decide whether to hold on to a coupon I think to myself, "Would I want this item if it were free?" If my answer is "yes" I keep the coupon.

7. Don't buy it if you won't use it.

  • Even if it's a good sale price, you're still spending money. Let's say you could only find $.75 off coupons for colgate so you were spending .25 per toothpaste. Still a great deal right? Well, if you're like me, you'd say, "YEAH! Use all the coupons you've got!" (In fact. I did this once, but with the "free scenario." I got 30 tubes of toothpaste for .36 cents (sales tax). That was probably almost a year ago and I still have probably over 20 tubes of toothpaste in my stock. And they are expiring soon. Toothpaste anyone?) Spending 25 cents per tube and having to throw some away because they expire, that's money down the drain! It may not seem like much, but it all adds up. Just because you have a coupon or see a great deal, if you won't use the item, it's a waste of money. If the item is "free" and you can't resist "buying" more than you'll use, donate the item to someone who can.

8. The early bird DOES NOT get the worm.


9. Follow couponing blogs.

  • If you need help figuring out sales (how, what, when, where) find some blogs that target stores you shop at. They do the ground work telling you what prices are a good deal and what coupons to pair with the sale. Some blogs off the top of my head are:

- http://thekrazycouponlady.com
- http://moneysavingmom.com
- http://hip2save.com
- http://fabulesslyfrugal.com

- http://wildforwags.com
-the list would keep going, there are so many out there!

10. Organize your coupons.

  • Trust me when I tell you, there aren’t many things more frustrating than searching for a coupon in the grocery store you swear you just cut out the night before. Add screaming children to the mix and you’ll have to buy extra deodorant due to a massive sweat attack. I don’t mean have a separate envelope for each individual item. But separate them into: hygiene, oral care, hair care, laundry, canned goods ect.

    You can do this with separate envelopes or those envelope things that have plastic dividers. If you get serious into couponing you might consider doing a binder. Here is a great link for suggested binder organization from “thekrazycouponlady”: http://thekrazycouponlady.com/2010/09/24/how-to-start-your-coupon-binder-this-ones-for-you-kathie-lee/


Well, there you have it. Don’t be overwhelmed. It might take a year or more to get your storage built up to where you want it, don’t get frustrated. Babies aren’t born walking. Find some coupons, do some research and before you know it, you’ll be using coupons with confidence every time you check out.

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