November 1, 2014

Five Ways to Add Humor to Your Child’s April Fool’s Day

Although the historical origins of April Fools’ Day are uncertain, one thing is clear – children love this annual day of silly pranks and jokes.   In addition to the pure fun of telling jokes, the experts at Kiddie Academy point out the educational benefits of exercising your family’s funny bone year-round.

"When children tell jokes, they are actually playing with language and vocabulary, making associations between words and concepts.  This is an important component of literacy education," says Richard Peterson, vice president of education, Kiddie Academy.  "Sharing funny stories and jokes also offers a safe format for children to showcase their attempts with language — not only is it OK if people laugh at them, it’s a bonus.  Making someone laugh also helps to build a child’s self-esteem."

5 Ideas to Add Humor

Here are five fun ideas for adding humor to your family’s life:

1.      Host a Family "Open Mike" night.  Invite your children to tell their favorite jokes.  Join in the fun by also sharing your own kid-friendly humor.  Use an empty paper towel roll covered in aluminum foil to serve as your microphone.  Laughing together creates wonderful memories.

2.      Share tall tales, whether they are classics such as Paul Bunyan or John Henry, or your own creations.  A tall tale usually involves solving a problem in a big and funny way.  Talk about why a giant griddle for Paul Bunyan’s pancakes would or wouldn’t work.

3.      Ask your family members – "Who is the funniest person you know?"  Follow up with questions about why he or she is funny, and tell a few funny stories starring that person.

4.      Play with Words.  Challenge your family to see how many related puns you can string together in a conversation.  A pun-marathon is great fun for car rides, or even over dinner.  Puns help children exercise comprehension skills such as reasoning, inference, and context clues.

5.      Tell Knock Knock jokes.  Many are kid-friendly, and the web offers a huge selection.  They’re classics, and fun to share.

For more education tips, including a tutorial for creating your own family microphone, parents can visit Kiddie Academy’s Family Essentials blog.   I love their family friendly Earth Day activities too!

Avoid Dirty Dozen vegetables and load up on the Clean 15

Does your family eat organically? Or are you thinking about eating more organically in the future, but aren’t sure you can afford it?  Yeah, we’re the same way.

While I can’t afford to buy the organic choice every time, I do make it a priority to purchase the items listed on the EWG’s (Environmental Working Group) Dirty Dozen shopper’s guide in organic form.  For my family that means making grocery priority adjustments for the items my family uses the most and forgoing some items all together when I can’t find them organically. We also make a concentrated effort to utilize the clean 15 items in recipes whenever possible.

The biggest Dirty Dozen offenders are

  1. 1. apples
  2. 2. celery
  3. 3. cherries
  4. 4. tomatoes
  5. 5. cucumbers

And the top “clean” vegetables are

  1. 1. asparagus
  2. 2. avocado
  3. 3. cabbage
  4. 4. cantaloupe
  5. 5. corn

Thanks to the EWG, you can carry around the Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 lists right on your phone or in your wallet.

dirty dozen

Image courtesy of EWG.

Saying Goodbye and Moving along

Hey y’all.

As I am sure you’ve noticed, I am no longer blogging here.

The time has come for my blog and me to grow up.  There is so much more to me than just the parent that I am and I am hoping my new home will shed a bit more light on who *I* am.

I can never say how much your support through the years has meant to me and I hope that you will come on over to my new home It’s Me, Amanda.

Balance Your Budget with Organization and Once-a-Month Grocery Shopping

Like many American families, one of our goals for the new year is to focus more of our energy on staying on our budget and paying off some of the credit cards that we’ve allowed to get away from us over the last two or three years.  Since being debt-free in 5 years in our ultimate goal, we’ve got to really buckle down and make some lifestyle changes – our grocery budget is one of the first places we turned.  I knew we were spending a lot of money on frivolous items, products I could make from home cheaper and healthier, and we were wasting a lot of our leftovers, so over the last two months I’ve devised a budget, purchasing plan and a printable grocery/pantry supply list that works for our family.   While I’m sure I’ll continue to make slight changes or adjustments as the year progresses, I wanted to share with you what I’ve found so maybe you can adjust it to fit your family, as well.

budget control with once a month shopping

Establish a Grocery Budget

First things first, Jon & I tracked all of our grocery spending for the month of January to give us a starting point for our grocery budget.  Our monthly budget is now set at $500 a month to cover all of our food, cleaning, and paper goods…that sounds like a huge feat, even for me, but with my system of once-a-month shopping, couponing, and menu planning and by keeping my shopping list consistent, I can easily stay on budget and keep my family eating healthy all month long.

When we met for our monthly budget date in February, the budget date is something we’ve done for years now, we were able to pin down a whether our grocery budget was reasonable, but not outrageous, using the tracking we did the month before.  Through our new awareness, we also discovered we were losing a lot of money through food waste and by shopping once a month, rather than weekly.  If you’re anything like me, you tend to pick up at least a couple of items not on your list…these couple of items can really add up monthly if you’re shopping weekly.

Master Grocery List

I’m terrible about making grocery lists every week, and that can really cost me, so I also created a master grocery list spreadsheet in January for us to use in our grocery shopping for the month.  Over the last couple of months, I’ve added items that I had forgotten and it’s been great for keeping up with our pantry…it also gives me an inside look at what we’re eating a lot of and where we could use some diversity in our diet. 

Master Pantry and Grocery List

Since I’ve spent so much time fine tuning our pantry list, I wanted to share it with you.  You can view and save your own version of our grocery list in Google Drive or in PDF format…I hope it helps make your grocery shopping go a little more smoothly.  I’ve found with a pantry full of basic items you can create a month’s full of recipes with ease.

Once A Month Shopping

Every month, on the first Friday of the month, you will find me taking the day off from client projects and tackling our grocery list.  Since I only shop once a month, my grocery shopping can take as much as 5 hours to complete – and about a week to prepare for.  Yes. Really.  But really, it only takes me so much time because I am running a company, raising a family, and preparing to start school (again).  I usually only hit up three different stores: Costco (LA & I share a membership), Walmart, & Kroger.  Here’s a look at how I spend my week leading up to the big trip and how it works for me:grocery list

Monday – Print out pantry list and fill out needed items + quantity (I do this in pencil because I know I’m going to make edits as the week goes on).

Tuesday – Create monthly menu & recipes. Add items needed for recipe to grocery list.

Wednesday – Review weekly grocery store ads and add any sale items to list.  (Now is a good time color code your list per store.) 

Thursday – Go through coupons and cut/collect those needed for your trip.  Spend this time also paring down the expired or undesired coupons.

Friday – After dropping off the kids at school, I head straight for Starbucks – I use my holiday gift cards to pay for this little excursion, so it doesn’t come out of our budget.  I also try to schedule any other errands in the city for this day, so that I can be as budget friendly as possible.  Then I start my trip at the store that is the farthest away and start working my way back home.  By the time I’m done I’m exhausted, ready for another cup of coffee, and a nap.  But alas, I’ll spend the next hour unpacking and putting away those groceries while throwing back a couple of cups of coffee.

I have to tell you…it’s a lot of work, this once a month shopping, but it’s also really nice.  I’m alone in my car with my Spotify playlists for the majority of the day…and then I get to take the music with me in my ear buds in the stores.  We’re also down to slip pickings when it comes to groceries by this time, so I’m just excited to have food again.

So what do you do to save time and money on groceries?

Satisfy Your LEGO Fans with the LEGO YouTube Channel

LEGO Playlist

As I am certain you know by now, our home is over run with LEGO® blocks of all shapes and sizes, not to mention the figurines and finished masterpieces that occupy every available flat space in the house.  Jon and the girls are always looking for a new challenge to take on over the weekends, but they often take just as long to find said masterpiece as they do to create it.  Thankfully LEGO® has created The Official LEGO® Channel just for parents like us jammed packed with over 600 mom-approved videos made specifically for kids 6-11 years old.  It’s the perfect way for my girls to get their LEGO® fix while also being assured that each video is safe for their viewing.

That’s right! Now YOU can create your own LEGO® video play list with all of your kid’s favorite LEGO® videos and minibrands.  On the Official LEGO® Channel, parents can add videos from LEGO® Star Wars™, LEGO® Hero Factory, LEGO® DC Universe™ Super Hereos and more.  While I would never just allow my children to have free rein on YouTube, with the video list creation so easy to use and so safe for family use.  Just this weekend, I created a LEGO® playlist for the girls to satisfy their adventurous spirits and was pleasantly surprised by how easy it was and how much fun the girls have had with it since.

So now, when Jon is scouring the ‘net for the next project, the girls will have plenty of fodder (and fodder I can change as needed) to keep their minds safe and entertained.  The girls have also found that they get ideas for new inventions and LEGO® creations – now KG is forever making projects she wants to send to the LEGO® club magazine.  This latest ability to create playlists will open up lots of opportunities for children everywhere to safely view videos that keep them entertained.

Super Easy Create LEGO® playlist

·     Visit Youtube.com/LEGO and watch one of your favorite videos
·     Click “Video Options”?
·     Select “Add To Playlist”?
·     Sign-In using your YouTube Login ?
·     Add your selected video to an existing playlist or create a new one?

There is a lot of content on web; creating a playlist on the Official LEGO® Channel is a great way to ensure your kids are entertained and watching videos you can feel good about.

Visit the Official LEGO® Channel to build your own playlist to watch with your kids and then reply below for a chance to win one (1) $1,000 gift card to buy your family’s favorite LEGO® products!

Hop over and build your own list then come over and leave your list in the comments, I’d love to check them out!

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of LEGO. The opinions and text are all mine. Official Sweepstakes Rules.

Playtime on a Dime: Encourage Learning through Play

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

It’s no secret that children learn best through play and there have been countless studies done in support of this fact, these days parents everywhere are looking for new ways to pack the most educational benefits into their children’s playtime.  While there is certainly a surplus of “educational” toys marketed specifically for children’s enrichment and learning, parents don’t always need to head out to the store for the latest toy when they usually have everything they need to provide endless opportunities for learning already in their home.

Sensory Play

With the recent wave of eco-conscious parenting that has flooded the nation, parents and caregivers are discovering out of the ordinary educational possibilities in every day toys; one parent who really stretches her children’s imaginations through play with household items is Catherine Moss. Catherine regularly fills large shoe boxes with bulk dried beans and small toys like alphabet fridge magnets turning these average items into sensory bean boxes where her children can dig, pour, sort, pretend and more with the beans and box contents. Every day items like these are being used by parents in a variety of ways to encourage and reinforce counting, sensory development, and spatial skills, while simple tricks, like encouraging a child to describe their choice in dress-up clothes for a pretend play, help children develop valuable social and language skills.

Pretend play enforces life skills

Reinforce Life Skills at Home

It’s natural for parents to want their children to succeed in school and in life, which is why the recent push for the mastery certain skills before Kindergarten has propelled parents across socio-economic classes to seek out new ways to help their children be ahead of their peers. Homeschooling parents like Christina Strickland have been incorporating learning into every day activities as a natural extension of their day to day life. Christina suggests that parents talk to their children and explain the processes as they go throughout the day, for example:  “When you cook together, explain fractions; when you do laundry, talk about how washing machines work; and when you go for a walk, point out animal prints or how the leaves have changed.”  Since children has a deep rooted desire to learn and are sponges for information, parents are learning how every day life can open up the possibility of learning, simply by doing.

Repurpose Toys

Parents are also finding new ways to repurpose some of their children’s older toys or toys that have been passed down over the years.  Educational consultant and mother, Candice Lindemann likes to use her son’s old toy cars to reinforce the concept of physics and gravity with ramps and tunnels made from blocks and tubes from other games.  She also suggest using animal figurines to learn about the different animal classifications, to reinforce size difference, and more.  More and more, parents are finding new ways to sneak learning into playtime.  Whether they’re practicing counting and currency skills with the play money that came with their parent’s monopoly game or sorting and building with their blocks, there’s no doubt children have ample sources of education and play surrounding them, not only in their “educational toys” but also in their beloved baby doll.  The opportunities for learning through play are endless and parents are just beginning to truly grasp the possibilities found in their every day toys and household items.

How do you think out of the box to encourage learning through play in your home?

Teaching Kids Basic Computer Skills and Digital Safety

As parents of digital citizens, it is our duty to ensure our children grow into responsible computer users; this means making sure they have proficient keyboarding skills, are well versed in digital security, and know how to use various software programs with ease.  Even though I’m a digital parent, early last year I found I had failed in doing this on so many accounts – my eldest was unable to proficiently use a keyboard and knew little to nothing about about digital security.  It became my mission to make sure I remedied this quickly and to ensure that other parents don’t find themselves in the same place, so I’ve gathered all of the resources for you, as well.

teaching digital skills to children

Keyboarding Skills

Learning Games for Kids – Keyboarding Skills: Fun keyboard for early elementary and young learners

Powertyping: QWERTY & Dvorak + lots of typing games

Free Typing Game: 30+ different typing games for learners of all ages

…more typing games from About.com.

Digital Citizenship

Digital Etiquette Lessons: Digital lesson for older elementary students

Stay Safe Online: Teach your children to become good digital citizens with these resources

Digiteen: Online lessons created by teenagers to help students learn digital responsibility

Reputation: Tips for teaching your children how to maintain digital reputation management

Microsoft Learning Suite

TechnoKids: Collection of technology projects through Microsoft Office Suite activities for children from Kindergarten to 12th grade.

How To Do Things: Basic idea of how to teach your child how to use Microsoft Office.

Structured Learning: Basics of how to use Excel

GCF Learn Free: Basic Excel 2010 usage learning guide

ABC Teach: Tons of learning games for young learners to learn how to use PowerPoint

Presentation Software – About.com: Powerpoint tutorial

Recommended Reading

Raising Digital Families For Dummies, by Amy Lupold Bair: This easy-to-understand guide helps you get up to speed on everything you need to know NOW in order to keep up with your children’s online and gadget activity. This book will be out in April, but you are going to want to order it asap.

Computer Ethics, Etiquette, and Safety for the 21St-Century Student, by Nancy Willard: This book encourages students to adopt legal, ethical, safe, and courteous behaviors when using technology from International Society Technology in Education.

more books recommended by ISTE.

Since teaching our children digital responsibility is of the utmost importance for parents raising children in this new age, these resources are so valuable for teaching children how to use the new digital world safely and responsibly.

Do you have any resources you swear by?

Affiliate links have been used in this post. I might make some pennies if you buy a book.

Running Along: Preparing for Our Next 5K

As you are probably aware, KG and I took part in our first 5K the first weekend in December last year with her Girls on the Run team.  What you may not be aware of is her desire to make this more a tradition in the new year.  In response to this desire, KG and I have been scouring the web to find just the right race to meet our training needs.  Since the last 5K, KG hasn’t really kept up with her running practice and I also need to work on my stamina when it comes to running.  After some discussion, we’re going to start the Couch to 5K training this week with plans to run in the Clover Leaf 5K Run/2 mile walk in OC in March this year – the March date should give us plenty of time to acclimate our bodies with the extended amount of running we’ll be doing while also giving us a real date to work towards in our training.  I don’t know about you, but I tend to work better once I have a goal date.

Why a 5K?

Why the 5K you ask?  KG turns 10 this June and I am always looking for new ways to relate to and connect with my tween…running is something she truly enjoys doing and since it’s also a release for me, I’d like to find a way to incorporate it more into our lives.  My reasons don’t only have to do with connections though, you see…I don’t know if you remember, but KG has had to work hard to be able to physically handle running.  When she first joined Girls on the Run, I worried all the time that she would have a hard time breathing while she was running and to be honest she did have one time when it got a little scary for a minute; what I really saw over the 2 months KG was involved in this part running group/part self-awareness class was a real strengthening in her body, her lungs, and her confidence…and didn’t only stem from the great lessons or fabulous coaches (though they did play a huge part)…it came from finding her stride in running and pushing herself in a way she hadn’t done before.

Running is my happy placex`

I want to continue to stimulate that part of her and because running is something I also love, when my body is trained for it, I was quick to start looking for races for myself & KG and family fun run/walks for the entire family.  One of our family resolutions for the year was to spend more time together as a family and combined with Jon & I’s desire to live healthier lives, I couldn’t think of a better way for us to enjoy several weekends a year…also, if we choose carefully, we can participate in races that benefit causes we believe in while also supporting our desire for health and togetherness.

KG and I went ahead and picked out a few races we are interested in running, in addition to the Clover Leaf 5K, which benefits a local park system, over the next several months and in the interest of accountability I wanted to share them with you as well:

  • March: Clover Leaf 5K
  • April: I haven’t found one for me and KG, but Jon and I are thinking about signing up to be zombies for the Zombie Run in Louisville.
  • May: Throo the Zoo @ the Louisville Zoo

5K Training

I officially started the C25K training Monday and KG starts up next week (I wanted to make sure I was a week ahead before she got started)…of course I’ll be running with her as well, so it should be double the bang for my buck I suppose.  Heh.  One of the things I’ve been struggling with most is trying to find a way to fuel my body without breaking our budget, so I tend to make up recipes whenever possible to try to find ways to use ingredients I already have on hand.  This week we had some strawberries, blue berries, and Greek yogurt left over from our recent Costco trip so after my work out Saturday, I threw those in the blender with two scoops of my protein mix and about 8 ounces of milk, then proceeded to blend it really well.  The mixture was still really thick so I poured about three-fourths of it into some Mason jars I had laying around the kitchen and through them in the freezer – thirty minutes later (just long enough for a nice cool down yoga dvd) I had creamy “ice cream” that was really good!  I added a little bit more milk to the other 1/4th I had left and Jon drank it for an after workout smoothie.  Apparently, it was quite tasty.

Post workout ice cream and smoothie

Here it is in smoothie form.

The Plan

This week I’ll be repeating the first week of the Couch to 5K with KG and trying to focus on my breathing since that’s where I tend to fall behind.  Speaking of falling behind, I’ve made it clear to KG that it’s not about how fast we complete the 5Ks, simply that we do complete them.

So what are you up to?  Any fitness plans for you and the fam?

Wordless Wednesday: Nifty Wine Storage for a Party

smart party wine storage

While spending some time helping a local winery with their holiday open houses I came across their rather ingenious way of storing and serving wine in their open house venue…I just had to share it with y’all today!

For more inspiring photos be sure to check out:

Better in Bulk, Not Your Momblog, The Divine Miss Mommy, Colorado Moms, Rajean Blomquist,

BrainFoggles, The Centsible Life, Rachel Ferrucci, Lil Kid Things, Resourceful Mommy, ShanaMama and Zensible Mama.

5 Tips for Soothing Your Child’s Earache

5 tips for soothing ear ache

There’s nothing worse than the feeling of helplessness that takes over a parent’s heart when their child is in pain, this is especially true when your beloved child has an earache.  After a recent bout with earaches and an ear infection, I spent a lot of time researching and trying out home remedies to help stem the tide of pain in my girl.

Here is what I would suggest for any parent who’s child is suffering from ear pain caused by an infection or wax build up.

1)  Apply gentle heat.  Whether through the use of a warm washcloth, rice pack or heating pad (set to low only and do not leave your child alone while the pad is in use), the heat can help stimulate and dilate the swollen blood vessels found in and around the ear; if there is wax build up in the canal, the heat can help it melt and flow more freely.  Make sure you only apply the heat for less than 20 minutes at a time and that you cover the heating pad (if used) with a cloth to keep it from burning the sensitive ear area.

2)  Try a diluted mixture of warm water and 3% hydrogen peroxide.  The hydrogen peroxide can help clear up and remove any wax build up, provide temporary pain relief and fight infection, this is usually a first stop for parents.  Dilute the hydrogen peroxide with warm (not hot) water and apply to the ear while holding your head tilted to the side.  After ten minutes, tilt your child’s head to the other side and allow the mixture to drain out, you may need to gently drop a bit more fresh water into the ear to help rinse any particles out and clean the ear.

3) Defy gravity.  You may find that your child’s ear pain is worse when he or she is laying down (YIKES! Bedtime will be a mess!).  If this is the case, try propping your child up in the bed with extra pillows (or do what we did and put a bean bag under the pillows to add elevation). Sleeping this way will help relieve the pressure and allow you both to get some rest.

4)  Use over-the-counter homeopathic ear drops and medication (only if this is medically safe for you).  The ear drops tend to be a little hit or miss for us, but we’ve had them work often enough that would recommend them as an option – I tend to use the Similasan Homeopathic Ear Drops from Amazon (Amazon affiliate link).  While I tend to only use them as a last resort, I have found that adding the pain relievers (never aspirin since it can cause Reye Syndrome) can relieve pain and help your child get the rest they need.

5)  See a doctor.  Even if your child is starting to feel better, it’s a good idea for you to take your small person to the doctors at your earliest convenience.  You don’t want to miss something that could be more serious.

Parents hate to see their children in pain and will normally do whatever they can to ease their child’s discomfort, these tricks help us when one of our girls get an earache.  I hope they help you the next time your child is suffering from ear pain.

How do you ease your child’s ear pain?