Monthly Archives: November 2010

Surviving Holiday Car Travel

With the upcoming holidays, many of us will be traveling. I know our family has a 2 hour drive ahead of them for Christmas Eve. We just did the 1 1/2 hour drive for Thanksgiving. Our saving grace? The portable DVD player. Nothing beats a little Dora coma to keep things smooth and quiet in the car (and oddly, I’m a fierce believer in limiting TV…but all bets are off when traveling with a 3-year-old for over an hour in the car!).

The following articles have some great suggestions on how to beat the car travel blues. I thought each had something great to offer.  Hope there is a factoid you can use!

Taken from Hip Moms Guide.com

1. Lower your expectations. If you expect perfect harmony, you’re setting yourself up for frustration. Even the best laid plans go awry. Know this going in and you’ll be more likely to gracefully deal with mishaps.

2. Be prepared. The Scouts got it right with this motto. You can’t get into the car with your luggage and purse and expect the kids to enjoy the scenery. Bring age-appropriate games & toys. I’d suggest buying one small new toy (or book) for each child, along with a bevy of favorites. Pack a backpack of fun they can dig through along the way.

3. Act like a camel: pack plenty of food and water. When my kids were in diapers, I brought lots of snacks for desperate moments and we stopped for meals. (An Oreo can buy you several minutes of peace.) Once they were potty trained, I found out that food and water means stopping – again – for the bathroom. Now we pack enough food (snacks, sandwiches, fruit), so we can keep driving until someone NEEDS to stop.

4. Plan on at least 3 extra bathroom stops. Nope, not for the kids. You can blame all those roadside Starbucks.

5. Books on tape. Okay, I realize this sounds like the dark ages to all of you video-in-the-minivan types. But give it a chance. There are some great books on tape (Ralph S. Mouse, Ramona the Great) that everyone can enjoy and they help kids use their imagination, too. Imagine, the picture isn’t right there in front of them! If your kids are old enough, you can even listen to Harry Potter.

6. Songs on tape.  Yikes. I hardly ever do this, but you really good moms out there might engage the kids with a little Raffi. I’d rather play I Spy for the eight-millionth time, but, hey, to each his own. If you can bear it, your kids will love you for it.

7. Stock up on stickers. If your kids are old enough to use stickers, you can keep them amused for quite some time simply by giving them 1000 stickers to paste in a notebook. For older kids, buy workbooks, travel game books, or print out the License Plate game and some old-fashioned car bingo . Washable markers are a good thing.

8. Remember that this, too, shall pass. One day, you’ll look back on travel with your tykes with fondness. It won’t be long before they’re tweens in their own iPod-driven world.

Taken from about.com

Pace: try to allow enough time for rest stops. Two hours of driving time, then a break, makes a good pattern for car travel with young children. “Rush”is a four-letter word!

Pack: a special backpack or bag for each child, with crayons, books, toys, activity sets, stickers, handheld games– including some new wrapped surprises for little kids. (But don’t give out all the loot at once!)

Print out some simple games to play in the car.

Pint-sized board-games: can be fun. Clue, Sorry, and Trouble are oldies but goodies. And a tray– or “travel desk” suspended from the back of the front seat– is handy, for any activity.

Pack: lots of snacks, such as fruit leathers, crackers, juice packs, treats… Also pack: a small cooler, or insulated bag, for cold drinks; plastic cups; bandaids, a dishtowel; frisbee and ball for rest-stops; and baby-wipes no matter how old your kids are.

Play: stories on audiobooks: they make the miles fly by. Play a story for the whole family on the car stereo system. Visit your local library to get stories on CD’s (maybe transfer to iPod), or use a download service like Audible.com.

Playrooms: Burger King and MacDonalds have great playrooms on major highways– a great boon for family car travel. Let the kids burn off energy while you order their food “to go”, to eat later in the backseat.

Playgrounds: every school and most parks have them! Little limbs need to shake, rattle, and roll.

Picnics: they’re fun; the kids can run around; and you save money, too. Pack your own picnic from home, or buy the fixins’ at a deli or grocery store. A big part of happy car travel is getting out of the vehicle.

Potties: it’s worth bringing a training pottie, if your child has need-to-go-NOW emergencies.

Pedal-to-the-metal: if you really need to hurtle from point A to B, use a DVD player or laptop, and turn your vehicle into the Cinema on the Highway.

Sleepy Time: kids fall asleep easily in the car, and a snooze can be a great way to let the miles fly by. Just be sure to allow lots of wakie-wakie time. Rousing a child from deep sleep because “we’re there now” is tough.

Pace: try to allow enough time for rest stops. Two hours of driving time, then a break, makes a good pattern for car travel with young children. “Rush”is a four-letter word!

Pack: a special backpack or bag for each child, with crayons, books, toys, activity sets, stickers, handheld games– including some new wrapped surprises for little kids. (But don’t give out all the loot at once!)

Print out some simple games to play in the car.

Pint-sized board-games: can be fun. Clue, Sorry, and Trouble are oldies but goodies. And a tray– or “travel desk” suspended from the back of the front seat– is handy, for any activity.

Pack: lots of snacks, such as fruit leathers, crackers, juice packs, treats… Also pack: a small cooler, or insulated bag, for cold drinks; plastic cups; bandaids, a dishtowel; frisbee and ball for rest-stops; and baby-wipes no matter how old your kids are.

Play: stories on audiobooks: they make the miles fly by. Play a story for the whole family on the car stereo system. Visit your local library to get stories on CD’s (maybe transfer to iPod), or use a download service like Audible.com.

Playrooms: Burger King and MacDonalds have great playrooms on major highways– a great boon for family car travel. Let the kids burn off energy while you order their food “to go”, to eat later in the backseat.

Playgrounds: every school and most parks have them! Little limbs need to shake, rattle, and roll.

Picnics: they’re fun; the kids can run around; and you save money, too. Pack your own picnic from home, or buy the fixins’ at a deli or grocery store. A big part of happy car travel is getting out of the vehicle.

Potties: it’s worth bringing a training pottie, if your child has need-to-go-NOW emergencies.

Pedal-to-the-metal: if you really need to hurtle from point A to B, use a DVD player or laptop, and turn your vehicle into the Cinema on the Highway.

Sleepy Time: kids fall asleep easily in the car, and a snooze can be a great way to let the miles fly by. Just be sure to allow lots of wakie-wakie time. Rousing a child from deep sleep because “we’re there now” is tough.

 

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7 Things Kids Can Learn By Age 5 About Life And Business

Interesting article posted on Raising CEO Kids.

If your children are anything like mine were from 0 to 5 years old, you are always running to keep up! Kids are active and they love to play. As a parent we can encourage them to learn while they are playing and as a part of everyday life activities. We can give them opportunities and resources that will lay the foundation for skills that will serve them for life.  Things like language, mathematics, arts, science and technology can all be incorporated into their playtime. They can also learn some business basics at very young ages through their playtime and through role modeling.

By the time children are five, most can:

1. Count to 10 or more. One of the ways you can do this is by taking them shopping. You can have them keep track of how many items are in the cart or basket. This experience will expose them to commerce and shopping as well. You can even let them hand the money to the cashier. When taking your kids shopping I recommend using CASH so they see currency being used.

2. Sort things based on specific features. I often had my kids sort things in my business; the products I sell, the marketing literature, business cards from networking events, and more.  Not only did this give them good practice sorting, but it also helped them feel involved in business and it gave them confidence.  What kinds of things could your kids sort?

3. Choose from limited options. Before we purchase items in our house we often compare to be sure we are getting the best price. I typically have my kids go through the weekly grocery ads with me and make choices based on the best price and quality and then help make a menu for the week based on the options that were on our shopping list.  Once again, this helps them feel involved.  It also helps them begin to understand budgeting as well as how to make choices.

4. Understand that work brings rewards.
As soon as our kids were old enough to walk they began to help with things in the family.  Some things we expected them to do because they were part of the family, such as picking up their own messes (with some help from Mom or Dad of course).  Other things however, they were able to do for “pay”.  At 2 years old all of my children were helping unload the dishwasher and yes some dishes did get broken and no they couldn’t even reach some of the cabinets.  The point was that this was a “pay” job and if they wanted an item at the store, it was something they could do partially on their own at a young age and get a reward for it. There are so many other things that your children can do around the home to “help” that you could pay them for.  I highly recommend that you do NOT pay them for everything.  Be sure there are some things they do just because they are part of the family.  This will decrease the sense of entitlement that some kids have learned where they think everything should just be given to them.

5. Do well as a team player. This is a bit hard as children of this generation are growing up in a digital world and they may not want to be team players.  They may want to do things on their own.  For family unity and for success of their future, I would encourage family outings, family nights, play dates, and doing service together.

To read the entire article, click HERE.

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Purchasing The 12 Days Will Set You Back $100,000

Just thought this was a fun little article about inflation…and what the cost of purchasing those items in the song “The 12 Days of Christmas”.

Taken from finance.yahoo.com

PITTSBURGH (AP) — In the unlikely event that your Christmas list this year includes every item mentioned in “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” be prepared to pay nearly $100,000.

Trying to buy the 364 items repeated in all the song’s verses — from 12 drummers drumming to a partridge in a pear tree — would cost $96,824, an increase of 10.8 percent over last year, according to the annual Christmas Price Index compiled by PNC Wealth Management.

So you might want to try for one of everything. That would cost only $23,439, or 9.2 percent more than last year.

The 27th annual holiday index has historically mirrored the national Consumer Price Index, but not this year. The PNC Christmas Price Index grew 9.2 percent from last year, compared with just a 1.1 percent increase in the much broader Consumer Price Index.

Jim Dunigan, managing executive of investment for PNC Wealth Management, said that’s because the whimsical holiday price index looks at a much smaller group of goods and services. Even within the index itself, there are some goods that have seen small increases and others that have seen larger ones, he said.

To read the entire article, click HERE.

 

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As A Mom, What Are You Thankful For?

I was 37 1/2 years old when my daughter made her entrance into the world. For me, it was a day I had been hoping for, praying for and shedding many tears for in the past 15 years. I always knew I wanted to be a mom. Finding the guy I wanted to parent with, was another (difficult) story. But that day finally came and the angels released her from heaven into my arms.

I wish I could say it’s all been rainbows and hearts since that day. But you know better than that! While it is sometimes easier to remember the things that annoy us, challenge us, grate us (today has been one of those days!), in the spirit of Thanksgiving I would like to remember the things about being a mom that I am thankful for.

I am thankful for:

1. Hugs. Every time I sit on the floor to pull my daughters pants up, I get a hug. It’s just something we started. She puts each leg in the pants hole and then hugs me and I yank them up. I’m guaranteed a hug every single day!

2. Excessive Talking. My little girl is a first class chatterbox. I am especially thankful for this after seeing a family out with their older handicapped daughter. She could not talk, eat on her own, etc. She just made grunting or screaming noises. It made me thankful that my daughter is healthy and learning words and sharing them with me every day.

3. Messy Playroom. I am thankful for that messy play room I clean up. It means that we have an income in which to buy toys, books, DVDs, dolls, dress up clothes, etc. A room in a house in which to store them. We are not homeless. We are able to provide for our daughter, and sometimes to be frivolous as well.

4. Naps. Let’s face it, we’re all thankful for naps! For that little bit of quiet time to get done what we want to get done. To take a nap if it’s been that kind of day. I love naptime!

5. The Past. And The Future. Taking time to look back at how my daughter has grown and changed is just amazing. Looking back at the pictures of her so tiny, so new. It pulls on the heart-strings. But looking forward is fun and exciting as well. Trying to look at her and picture what she’ll look like at 17. Watching her get smarter each day. Watching her put things together and making connections and getting excited about them. I am thankful for her progress.

6. Books. I love reading children’s books. Especially the ones that were mine as kid. Boy, does that take me back. I love reading those stories with her curled up on the couch under a blanket. Not only do we get that yummy cuddle time in, but we get to let our imaginations soar and bond in the stories. I hope one day she can read them to her kids. I am thankful my mom packed these books away in her attic oh so many years ago.

7. A Dog and A Cat. I love animals. I’ve always had them in my life growing up. I know the special bond and love they provide. I know how they can seem like your only friend in the world on those dark days. How they lick your tears. How excited they are to see you come homes (sometimes they are the only ones!). I am thankful that our cat and our dog are teaching my daughter how to be kind, be gentle, think of others. To be responsible. And that one day, she and our dog or cat are going to be best buddies and tell each other secrets.

As a mom, what are you thankful for? We’d love to hear your responses. Please add to our list. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

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Best and Worst Family Restaurants

Do you eat out as a family? If you answered yes, you probably do your fair share of eating from what I call “high-end” fast food restaurants (you know, TGIFriday’s compared to McDonalds). Either way, the great folks at the Eat This Not That series of books and magazine articles, published their thoughts on which restaurants are the better choice for eating out. And which are not.

Taken from health.yahoo.net

When it comes to making smart choices for your family, the most important decisions you’ll face aren’t about which TV shows to let them watch, which college-savings programs to enroll in, or even which toys to let them play with. The most important decision for your family: What are you going to eat tonight?

Just ask Erika Bowen. At age 29, she and her husband were trying to start a family. But her doctors told her there was a problem—at 250 pounds, her obesity problem was interfering with herfertility! Then she discovered Eat This, Not That!, and started looking more carefully at restaurant menus—ordering healthier versions of her favorite foods, and eating at the restaurants that offered the smartest choices.

Erika didn’t go on a diet—she didn’t have to! Over the next 17 months, she lost 84 pounds, just by making smart swaps; today, her weight is no longer a barrier to her dream life. “I feel like I’ve always wanted to feel,” she says. “Other people are finally seeing me the way I’ve always seen myself.” Look right to see before and after pictures of Erika’s transformation.

Of course, eating smart means knowing where the hidden calories are lurking, and which restaurants offer the best choices. That’s why we compiled an authoritative list of The Best and Worst Family Restaurants in America. Find out where your favorite joint ranks, and get ready to upgrade your meals—and downsize your belly!

The WORST Family Restaurants in America
Second runner up . . .
IHOP
We knew IHOP was up to no good when it refused to reveal its nutritionalinformation back when we first asked in 2007. But we were shocked when a New York City law forced them to post calorie counts: 1,000-calorie crepes, 1,200-calorie breakfast combos, and 1,250-calorie burgers. The company has finally decided to release full nutritional information on its web site, which bumped its F grade (for non-disclosure) up only to a measly D.

Bonus tip: Breakfast restaurants, like IHOP, are almost universally nutritional black holes. Check out 12 shockingly horrible breakfasts to see what we mean.

Survival Strategy: You’ll have a hard time finding a regular breakfast with fewer than 700 calories, and a lunch or dinner with fewer than 1,000 calories. Your only safe bet is to stick to the Simple & Fit menu, where you’ll find the nutritional content for a small selection of much healthier items.

IHOP Spinach and Mushroom OmeletteDon’t Eat That! (pictured right)
Spinach and Mushroom Omelette (no pancakes on the side)
910 calories
71 g fat (26 g saturated, 1 g trans)
1,580 mg sodium

Eat This Instead!
Two x Two x Two (with bacon)
640 calories
37 g fat (13 g saturated, 0.5 g trans)
1,580 mg sodium

First runner up . . .
T.G.I. FRIDAY’S
We salute Friday’s for its smaller-portions menu; the option to order reduced-sized servings ought to be the new model, dethroning the bigger-is-better principle that dominates chain restaurants. But Friday’s still refuses to provide nutritional info, and our research shows why: The menu is awash in atrocious appetizers, frightening salads, and entrees with embarrassingly high calorie counts.

Survival Strategy: Danger is lurking in every crack and corner of Friday’s menu. In fact, there are only four entrees with fewer than 800 calories on the menu! Your best bets? The 400-calorie Shrimp Key West, the 480-calorie Dragonfire Chicken, or finding another restaurant entirely.

Friday's SantaFe ChoppedDon’t Eat That! (pictured right)
Santa Fe Chopped Salad
1,800 calories

Eat This Instead!
Cobb Salad
361 calories

And the absolute WORST FAMILY RESTAURANT IN AMERICA . . .
THE CHEESECAKE FACTORY
No restaurant chain exemplifies America’s portion problem more than Cheesecake Factory. Aside from a couple of salads, the leanest regular dinner item is a hulking cheeseburger called The Factory Burger, which delivers the same number of calories as a Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese from McDonald’s. That’s the leanest! And it gets worse from there. The average liability for a full-sized sandwich is nearly 1,500 calories, and the average pasta clocks in at 1,865.

But doesn’t Cheesecake Factory have a healthy menu like Applebee’s and Ruby Tuesday? Sure they do. Of the more than 200 items on Cheesecake Factory’s menu, you’ll find a measly four spotlighted as “healthy” entrees. Three of the four are salads, and you’ll recognize them by the phrase “Weight Management” printed on the menu. Who wants to order that?

Survival Strategy: Your best bet is to turn your car around and head home for a meal made from ingredients like those on this year’s 125 Best Foods list. Failing that, skip pasta, specialties, combos, and sandwiches at all costs. Split a pizza or a salad, or opt for the decent (relatively speaking) Factory Burger.
Cheesecake Factory Grilled Turkey BurgerNot That! (pictured right)
Grilled Turkey Burger
1,200 calories
27 g saturated fat
1,544 mg sodium

Eat This Instead!
The Factory Burger
730 calories
15 g saturated fat
1,016 mg sodium

The BEST Family Restaurants in America
Second runner up . . .
APPLEBEE’S
After years of stonewalling health-conscious eaters and Eat This, Not That! authors alike, Applebee’s has finally released the nutritional numbers for its entire menu. Unfortunately, we now see why they were so reluctant to relinquish them in the first place: the 1,700-calorie Riblets Platter, the 1,310-calorie Oriental Chicken Salad, and the 2,510-calorie Appetizer Sampler. The one bright spot is the new Under 550 Calories menu.

Survival Strategy: Skip the meal-wrecking appetizers, pastas, and fajitas, and be very careful with salads, too; half of them pack more than 1,000 calories with dressing. (Shocked by that stat? Take a look at this list of 20 Salads Worse Than a Whopper to see just how bad some restaurant salads can be.) Instead, concentrate on the excellent line of lean steak entrees, or anything from the laudable 550-calorie-or-less menu.

Chicken Fajita RollupDon’t Eat That! (pictured right)
Chicken Fajita Rollup
1,040 calories
60 g fat (29 g saturated, 1 g trans)
3,280 mg sodium

Eat This Instead!
Grilled Dijon Chicken
450 calories
16 g fat (6 g saturated)
1,810 mg sodium

To find out the rest of the results on the Best list, click HERE.

 

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Tasty Thursday on Tuesday: Cheeseburger Pizza

As we all know, on Thursday we will be in a turkey/carb coma and probably not surfing the Internet to see what’s what. So, I thought I’d share our usual Tasty Thursday on Tuesday. And this does sound delish, and simple. Which is probably a good thing, because I know most of us aren’t cooking anything too glamourous on Friday.

Taken from MealMakoverMoms

Cheeseburger Pizza

Makes 6 Servings

Ingredients

  • One 12-ounce package whole wheat or oat bran English muffins (6 muffins)
  • 12 ounces lean ground beef (90% lean or higher)
  • 1 large red or orange bell pepper, finely chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano or Italian seasoning
  • 1 cup pasta sauce
  • 1 1/2 cups preshredded part-skim mozzarella cheese

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Slice the English muffins in half and place on a baking sheet. Toast lightly in the oven if desired. Set aside.
  2. Place the beef, bell pepper, and oregano in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat and cook, breaking up the large pieces, until the meat is no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Drain excess fat. Add the pasta sauce and mix well.
  3. To assemble the pizzas, top each muffin half with a 12th of the meat mixture. Sprinkle the cheese evenly over the top of each. Bake until the cheese melts, 5 to 7 minutes.
Nutrition Information per Serving: 290 calories, 9g fat (4g saturated), 510mg sodium, 29g carbohydrate, 4g fiber, 25g protein, 40% vitamin A, 90% vitamin C

 

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The Importance of Picture Books

We all know/hear/read how books are important to our children. Especially picture books for our little ones. With the pressure of “being the best” and reaching milestones early placed on parents for their kids, it seems picture books are fading in popularity.

The Children’s Book Review takes a close look at the importance of picture books on the development of children.

We all want what’s best for our kids and like the Army commercial, we want them to be all they can be. But parents can often succumb to the pressures of society and other parents to compete. That’s why some parents buy everything imaginable to get their baby to read, they enroll their children in the most expensive preschools, and even skip picture books and encourage their children to move on to more text-heavy chapter books as a means to advance their skills for rigorous standardized testing.

It’s not a new issue, but it was recently brought back to the forefront by the NY Times Article, “Picture Books No Longer a Staple for Children.” The article sadly reports that “The picture book, a mainstay of children’s literature with its lavish illustrations, cheerful colors and large print wrapped in a glossy jacket, has been fading.” Although the article reports that staples from Maurice Sendak and Dr. Seuss still sell, publishers have scaled back the number of titles. Citing the economic downturn as a major factor, the article points out that many in the industry see an additional reason—parents.

But while these parents are pushing their kids to be on top of the game, they don’t realize that the intensive coaching can be counterproductive and they’re missing out on an important genre, critical in the role of a child’s development—picture books.

So why are picture books important?

10. Chapter books are not necessarily more complex than picture books and in fact, their vocabulary and sentence structure can be considered simplistic when compared with older level picture books. Many picture books are written at a higher reading level, use amazingly complex vocabularies and offer interesting plots.

9. The illustrations of a picture book help children understand what they are reading and allow young readers to analyze the story. When children are having difficulty, the illustrations can help them figure out the meaning of what they are reading. The illustrations are also a powerful way to help English learners comprehend the story.

8. Children love art. Why do you think they spend so much time coloring, drawing and doing crafts? Whatever the reason children are drawn towards a book, it’s a means to get them to read.

7. Language:  Picture books allow children to practice the sounds of language and as parents it’s our responsibility to introduce new and interesting words at every opportunity. The rhythm and rhyme in many picture books make for great read-alouds and children learn words more easily when they hear them spoken often.

6. Repetition: The repetition in many picture books allows a child to participate in the story. Young readers get excited when they can anticipate a forthcoming line and children learn skills like phonemic awareness, phonics, comprehension and fluency.

5. Picture books are multi-sensory, which aids a child’s growing mind and stimulates their imagination. Not only do the children hear the story, they see the illustrations, and smell and touch the pages.

Continue reading the article by clicking HERE.

 

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