Thursday, August 30, 2012

4 Ways to Encourage Healthy Oral Hygiene Habits

Ben after losing a tooth last year.

Several years ago my husband developed a tooth infection. I'll spare you puss-filled details and just say that the abscess was disgusting. But worse than that, it hurt and consumed his thoughts and energy.

So several weeks, a couple of dentist appointments and one oral surgery later the abscess was gone and he felt much better. (I'm sure the post-surgery medications helped lift his mood as well!)

Joel takes his oral hygiene very serious after that experience! He doesn't want a repeat visit to the oral surgeon so he brushes, rinses, and flosses daily.

We've found 4 ways to encourage those healthy oral hygiene habits in our children.

  • We start brushing our children's teeth when those new pearly whites first break through the gums. Our children were early teethers so we used a damp wash cloth in place of a tooth brush. They didn't object to the wash cloth rubbing the tooth and gums.
  • We gave our preschoolers battery operated spin brushes to insure brushing happened instead of chewing on the toothbrush. These kid-sized toothbrushes come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Princess and Super Hero toothbrushes are preferred at our house.
  • We made brushing teeth a part of our morning and bed time routines. Oral hygiene is habit for my kids. To NOT brush their teeth before bed feels weird to them.
  • And just to make sure these habits stick, we occasionally throw in the scare tactics. In other words, we tell those gruesome stories about daddy's oral surgery and my fillings. I share how my grandparents had ALL of their teeth pulled and wore dentures because they didn't brush their teeth.
Complete Care Water Flosser System
So far all 4 methods of developing good oral hygiene habits are working. Four kids, 2 dental visits a year, and no cavities so far!

One area that we haven't been diligent in teaching our kids is flossing. Have you ever tried to floss a 3 year old? It's not easy!

But all that might be changing. We are currently trying out the Complete Care Water Flosser System and the Water Flosser for Kids.

After his first experience with the Complete Care Water Flosser System, which includes water flossing and sonic brushing, my husband declared his teeth felt really clean.

Using the water flosser system on my kids was... well... hilarious! The best way I can describe the water flosser is to picture a tiny little power washer like my husband uses to clean the grime off our siding. Only you use it to clean the grime off your teeth.

Water Pik Water Flosser for Kids
My children thought the Water Flosser for Kids was 1000x more fun that brushing! They took turns leaning over the sink while I used the water flosser to gently blast clean their teeth along the gum line. We all laughed as water poured from their open mouths.

The hysterical part occurred when I tried to manipulate the wand in their mouths and got sprayed myself!

I'm sure the more I use this effective flossing tool the more coordinated I'll become. Until then my kids will be having a good laugh at my expense every time we water floss their teeth.

Do you own a Water Pik product? 

If not, they are currently offering coupons to use to purchase the Complete Care Water Flosser System and the Water Flosser for Kids.

Disclosure: I received free product in exchange for this post.  All opinions and stories expressed are my own.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Back to School Haircuts with Hair Cuttery

Ellie loves getting her hair cut!

Being a girl with 3 brothers is tough at times: pink glittery toys are few and far between while burps and "toots" are frequent and celebrated. 

But Ellie has learned that having 3 brothers isn't all bad!

She knows mama buzzes the boys' hair while girlies go get their hair done at a salon. This means about every 6 weeks Ellie gets special Mommy and Me time when we go to Hair Cuttery to get our hair cut and styled.

You can see from the photos that she hates this time. NOT!

A few weeks ago Hair Cuttery asked me if I would tell you about their Share A Haircut program. Since we have been Hair Cuttery customers for about 2 years I readily said "yes."

What is Share A Haircut?

Since 1999 Hair Cuttery has been donating back-to-school haircuts to children in need. To date they've donated more than 625,000 haircuts. That's a lot of children starting school feeling special and looking their best!!

You can also help a child receive a haircut!

This year Hair Cuttery invites you to join them in giving a child a haircut. There are two easy ways you can participate.

  • Tell your friends about Share a Haircut using the easy app. All you have to do is go to the app, click on the Facebook or Twitter icons, then share the link. Easy peasy, as Ellie would say.

  • Take your child to Hair Cuttery August 1-15 for a haircut. Working in partnership with local non-profit agencies, Hair Cuttery will donate a haircut to a child in need for each purchased hair cut.

As you can see from the pictures, Ellie thoroughly enjoyed her hair cut at Hair Cuttery! She's looking forward to starting our extra curricular activities and showing off her beautiful hair cut to her friends.

Will you help a child start school feeling beautiful and excited?

Disclosure: Hair Cuttery provided a gift card to cover part of the cost of Ellie's haircut. Ellie and I are both regular customers of Hair Cuttery #3733. Special thanks to Michelle D. for her patience with my paparazzi antics while she cut Ellie's hair.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Project 10 Update

Project 10 is 9 weeks old. I can't believe we started this journey 9 weeks ago! It doesn't feel that long.

I thought this week would be a good day for an update.

What is Project 10?

In case you missed the introduction to Project 10 let me briefly explain what it is. 

Project 10 is a group of women supporting and encouraging each other in a mutual goal of creating healthy lifestyles. For some of us a healthy lifestyle means weight loss, for others it means developing a habit of exercise. Our methods for living healthy are varied and unique. 

What does 'Project 10' mean?

There seems to be a bit of confusion on the meaning behind Project 10. I chose the name for this project because when you ask a woman how much weight she needs to lose, invariably she says, "About 10 pounds." It could be more or less than that but 10 pounds seems to be the default response.

Project 10 represents all those women who want to feel and look healthy but are stuck in unhealthy habits and with an extra 10 (usually more) pounds.

How much longer will Project 10 last?

Great question. The initial group of Rhode Island based participants signed up for only 10 weeks. Next week is week 10. But, I feel like it's too early to end.

Some of us are finally starting to see a little success and I'm afraid if we quit now we'll revert back to old habits. So I've decided to extend Project 10 until September 26. Then in October, November, December we'll check in on the third Friday of the month.

My hope is to kick-off the New Year with a second round of Project 10 and a free ebook about creating a healthy lifestyle. Any content suggestions for the ebook are welcome and appreciated!

That's where Project 10 is currently and where I hope we go in the future. You are welcome to join in at anytime!!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

5 Lessons I Learned at an Amusement Park

You never know where you'll learn a lesson or two!

We checked off another item on our summer fun bucket list this week - visit Six Flags New England. I went on the day trip expecting blistering sun, oppressive heat, and tired feet. I got that and so much more!

In addition to truly enjoying an amusement park for the first time in my life (I don't do roller coasters!), I learned a few life lessons from our summer day trip.

Joel and Sam (3 yrs) riding a Ferris Wheel type ride.

1. Life is not all about me.

Don't get me wrong. As a mom I am all too familiar with this concept! Life ceased to be all about me 9 years ago.

My husband modeled the idea as he readily climbed into and filled 75% of this little wagon. He then rode around in a giant circle in the oven-like wagon. All for the benefit of a 3 year old boy who was too scared to ride alone or with his siblings.

The ride wasn't fun or exciting for my husband but he did it anyway. 

Life is like that. Sometimes you put your own desires aside to help fulfill someone else's dream.

Ellie (5 yrs) loved riding the swings!

2. Life can improve with a shift in perspective.

Ellie enjoyed her ride on the swings immensely. She leaned into it, let go of the plastic covered chains, and waved her arms as if she were flying.

On the other hand, Sam held the chains in a death grip and didn't turn loose during the whole ride. He sat stiff in his seat and managed a smile when encouraged from the sidelines.

Both children rode the same ride but one experienced a fabulous time while the other only endured the ride.

Life is like that. Your response to circumstances shapes the outcome just as much as the circumstances shape you.

Joel impersonated Beyonce while dancing with Daffy Duck!

3. When life's opportunity calls, say "YES!"

As we sat waiting for the Looney Tunes Dance Off show to begin a staff member approached my husband and asked him to participate in the show. Joel had no idea what he signed up for.

In the middle of the performance my introverted husband walked out on stage wearing a bad blond wig, scarf, and sunglasses pretending to be Beyonce!!! We all laughed as he danced around the stage with Daffy Duck and imitated the superstar.

I don't think my kids fully appreciate what it took for their dad to get up in front of complete strangers and act silly. But what a great memory we all have because of his willingness not to take himself to seriously!

Life is like that. You never know how an opportunity will pan out but, if you take a risk, it might turn into something fun and exciting.

4. Carpe diem! Seize the day!

Ellie embodied carpe diem on this day. She rode every ride she was tall enough to ride. She raised her arms in the air and felt the pull of gravity on her insides as her body bounced along the roller coaster track.

She laughed and entered the amusement park fun with gusto! And enjoyed almost every minute of the day. She did NOT enjoy getting soaked on the water ride. 

Life is like that. You embrace the moment and sometimes you love it, while other times you don't.

My Team about to drive off without me.

5. See the big picture.

Today they are 3, 5, 7, and 9 years old. Today I combed her hair into pig tails. I pulled his hat down from the upper shelf in the closet. I made his sandwich. I cleaned his glasses.

On this day they are children enjoying a ride in a motorized car pulled along a track.

I see all of that in this photograph but I also see the future. I see a day in 7 or 8 years when they all climb into a real car and Will drives them off for a night on the town without me. I see a day when my role as a mom shifts from authority to advisor.

Life is like that. You see the frustrations and failures of today and if you are wise you see the successes and possibilities of the future.

Our day trip to Six Flags was a ton of fun. My kids declared it The Best Day EVER! I think I agree with them; lessons, tired feet, and all!

What lessons have you learned this summer?

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Monday, August 6, 2012

Frugal Vacation Planning with SAVE

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of SAVE . All opinions are 100% mine.

The Orca Christmas Show at Sea World San Antonio

My family LOVES traveling, but the cost of a family vacation adds up quick! By the time I pay for transportation, lodging, food, entertainment, and souvenirs for 6 people I've usually spent over $1,500!!

To help lower vacation expenses I always search the internet for discounts and coupons on lodging, entertainment, and food. I bet you do the same thing!

Visit San Antonio knows that moms need a good discount so they've come up with a program called SAVE – San Antonio Vacation Experience. It's one stop internet research for moms planning frugal vacations to San Antonio!

I wish SAVE had been around in December 2011 when my family flew to San Antonio to visit grandparents! We could have saved money using their exclusive discounts, deals, and limited time offers.


Out of curiosity I looked up the 3 attractions we visited last Christmas to see what discounts are currently available.

Since my in-laws live in San Antonio we don't need lodging but if you need a hotel, I highly recommend staying in downtown San Antonio. Multiple museums and attractions are within walking distance of Riverwalk hotels.


We only scratched the surface of San Antonio attractions on our Christmas vacation. Since my in-laws have retired there, I know we'll be back. So using the SAVE website I started a list of places to visit on our next trip:

In addition to bookmarking the website, follow @SAVEinSA on Twitter for all the updates on deals, limited time offers and ideas to help plan your next trip to San Antonio!

What attractions and hotels from SAVE – San Antonio Vacation Experience would you include in your San Antonio vacation?

Disclosure: This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of SAVE. All opinions are 100% mine. Links to SeaWorld, Children's Museum, and The Alamo take you to my reviews of these sites based on our visit in December 2011.

Visit Sponsor's Site

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

What's the most important thing on a date?

Date Night!!

Yes, it really does need capitals and exclamation points. Date nights are few and far between at my house so they are cause for excitement.

As I dressed for our recent night out I suddenly realized my thoughts about the evening centered around the restaurant and food, not my husband. It was the cheese fries, steak, and dessert that I anxiously anticipated.

Is a date still a date without food?

What is wrong with me that I'm more excited about greasy potatoes covered in dairy products than I am about 3 hours with the undivided attention of my college sweetheart?!

Isn't a date or night out with friends supposed to be about your relationship, not what you eat?

Wouldn't date night, Girls Night Out, or a party be just as meaningful without food?

That night I realized my attitude toward food and events needed to change.

My handsome husband of 15 years on our date.

Today I'm focusing on relationships at events instead of food. It's a slow change in perspective but one that will help me live a healthier lifestyle. And that's a good thing.

Do you go out with friends for the food or for the relationships?

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Chronicles of Narnia CD Magic

"Look sharp!" shouted Edmund. "all catch hands and keep together. This is magic - I can tell by the feeling. Quick!" ...

"Next moment the luggage, the seat, the platform, and the station had completely vanished. The four children, holding hands and panting, found themselves standing in a woody place."
       - excerpt from Prince Caspian, The Chronicles of Narnia

On a recent drive to Stone Zoo we felt ourselves pulled into the world of Narnian magic almost as forcefully and Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy.

The Focus on the Family Radio Theatre actors and sound effects crew did a masterful job of creating Narnia in your imagination. You feel the excitement of the children at being back in Narnia. You smell the salt water as they wade out to catch a drifting boat. And you taste the apples that eat for lunch, supper, and breakfast when they first return.

The Chronicles of Narnia Focus on the Family Radio Theatre Series is so well done that we almost didn't want to leave our van and tour the zoo. Almost.

This was not the first time we listened to the series. The Narnia CD series is one of our a favorite road trip activities! We listened to all of the CDs as we drove to Arkansas and Washington, DC. I'm sure we'll listen again on future vacations!

If you have any road trips planned this summer I highly recommend you add to your CD collection with this series! The magic of Narnia makes time fly as miles of countryside whiz by outside your car window.

Which Narnia book is your favorite?

Chronicles of Narnia Reading ChallengeSpecial thanks goes to Carrie from Reading to Know for hosting the Chronicles of Narnia Reading Challenge every July!

You give me a reason (as if I needed one) to indulge in the wonder of Narnia every year.

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Monday, July 30, 2012

Save Money Grocery Shopping with Cut It Out! ebook

How much do you spend each month on groceries to feed your family?

$700?  $800?  $1,000?!

Kate Megill feeds her family of 10 on $500 a month. And she does it WITHOUT coupons.

Cut It Out! by Kate Megill

Yep. You read that correctly. $500 a month for a family of 10. I thought I did really well by spending $500 a month for my family of 6!

Kate recently offered her ebook in exchange for a review to the members of a Facebook group I participate in. I jumped at the chance to read Cut It Out!

I considered myself a frugal grocery shopping expert but watched my grocery budget inch upwards in recent years. I wanted to learn Kate's grocery shopping tips so I can lower my budget again.

Basic tips and tricks for saving money on groceries.  

In Cut It Out! Kate suggests you:
  • Create a master list of meals. 
  • Write out a menu plan based on those meals. 
  • Track supermarket prices in a price book. 
  • Invest in a well-stocked pantry. 
  • And a whole lot more.

I came away from Cut It Out! with a renewed goal of lowering our grocery budget. I already menu plan and shop sales but I could do a much better job of this. Kate reminded me of the basic steps to frugal food shopping that I've been skipping.

Would you like to save money at the grocery store? 

I strongly suggest you purchase Cut It Out! and implement Kate's method for saving money!

From today through August 3, 2012, Cut It Out! is only $1.99. After August 3 the price will increase to $3.99.

If you are a newcomer to frugal grocery shopping, or an expert seeking encouragement that you're on the right path, I recommend you buy Cut It Out! today!

Are you a frugal newbie or a frugal expert? What is your best money saving tip?

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Disclosure: I received a free copy of Cut It Out! in exchange for my review. My opinions are my own. I truly believe this book will help anyone looking to save money on groceries.

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The Better Mom, Hip Homeschool Hop, Women Living Well, Raising Homemakers, Mom's Library, Whatever Wednesday, What's Up Wednesday

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Barbie, Hot Wheels Double Dare Snare, and a GIVEAWAY!

I stood near the open door of my bedroom chatting with my husband who sat on the far side of our bed. Two neatly stacked boxes sat on the edge of the bed nearest me.

As we chatted, my soon-to-be-six year old daughter wandered into the room. I have the nosiest children in the world so I KNEW Ellie would pick up the box and look to see what it contained.

Curious how she would react when seeing the Barbie Doll inside, I watched her.

Ellie pulled the box off the bed. Her eyes scanned the Barbie doll (Australia Barbie from the Dolls of the World Collection), then shot in my direction.

Next her eyes grew wide and a guilty expression appeared on her face. She quickly returned the box to its position on the bed. As she made a beeline for the bedroom door, she glanced at me one more time to see if I had noticed her actions.

After leaving my room Ellie walked directly to her brother's bed, sat down with her hands in her lap, grinned from ear-to-ear, and bounced up and down. As she bounced she quietly said, "I'm getting a Barbie Doll for my birthday! I'm getting a Barbie Doll for my birthday!"

Hearing her sing-song announcement I burst into laughter and called her back into my room. Her guilty expression caused me to laugh even more.

I'm not sure if she felt happy or disappointed when I informed her that Mattel sent the Barbie for me to blog about and that it was NOT her birthday present. Either way, opening the box and playing with Australia Barbie later that afternoon eliminated any negative emotions she might suffered!

Ellie, Australia Barbie, and Veterinarian Barbie

As you can see, Ellie enjoyed playing with the Koala Bear that came with Australia Barbie. Unfortunately, the Koala fell ill and required a visit to Veterinarian Barbie (who she already owned). But don't worry! He made a full recovery.

In addition to Australia Barbie, Mattel sent Team Hot Wheels Double Dare Snare for my boys.

Ben, Sam and Ellie put together the track without help!

Team Hot Wheels Double Dare Snare is cool!! (According to my sons.) My 7 year old son snapped the whole thing together in about 20 minutes. Then the fighting began.

Fighting? Oh, yes. The set only comes with one car but the tracks make a double loop. Naturally the boys fought over who used the new car and whose turn it was.

It didn't help matters that not all of our other Matchbox cars worked on the 2nd track. Many of our cars are older models so the metal is heavier. Heavier cars fall to the floor part way up the loop.

But we turned lemons into lemonade and used the plummeting cars as an opportunity to teach about gravity and physics. We even had fun testing to see which cars were light enough to complete the loop and which were too heavy and fell to the floor.

Once we worked out a system of sharing the cars the fighting stopped and everyone enjoyed playing with the new track. In fact, my 3 year old surprised me by playing with the track for several days in a row. It really captured his attention!

If you are attending a million kid's summer birthday parties like we are (OK. Only 5.), I recommend you give a doll from the Dolls of the World Barbie Collection or the Team Hot Wheels Double Dare Snare! Both are sure to be a hit with the birthday girl or boy. They were with my birthday girl!

You can receive some awesome toys from Mattel as well! Just enter on the Rafflecopter below to WIN either a Girls' Prize Pack or a Boys' Prize Pack! 

Girl Prize Pack Includes: Barbie Dress & Design Studio ($21.99 APR), A Barbie Doll of the World ($29.95 APR) & Barbie I Can Be... Fashion Designer ($13.99 APR) 
Boys Prize Pack Includes: Matchbox Big Boots Fire Truck ($25.99 APR), Hot Wheels Wall Tracks ($24.99 APR) & Hot Wheels Ballistiks ($24.99 APR)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Don't forget to check out Mattel on Facebook and Twitter. Make sure you visit the following ladies from RI Digital Media Women (#RIDMW) as well to see their fantastic reviews of Mattel Products!  
Baby Gators Den, Savoring the ThymeCira's Lyrics,
Learning to Juggle,  When The Kids Go To Bed,
Mama Luvs Books, Keekoin 

Disclosure: Some of the products in this post were provided to facilitate my review. The opinions and stories are my own based on our experiences with the toys. Thank you, Mattel, for allowing us to review your toys!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Am I flirting on the edge of healthy?

Commanded to stay out of the kitchen, he stands at the edge of the hall carpet watching as I move about the kitchen preparing dinner. The other rooms, filled with toys, books, and sibling playmates, hold no interest for him. Only this room, the one temporarily off limits, will satisfy.

He thinks I'm not watching, but I am.

Slowly, carefully, his pudgy little toes inch across the gold metallic strip marking the boundary between hallway and kitchen. He tests just how far he can go before suffering the negative consequences promised for crossing the line.

I continue to prepare supper, not acknowledging his toe-sized offense. He looks up at me. I can tell he's wondering if I notice his toes.

Slowly, carefully, he places his entire pudgy little foot onto the vinyl kitchen flooring. There can be no doubt of his challenge to my instructions.

Now I am faced with a choice. Do I issue the consequences I promised or do I wait until both feet are across the line? Or wait even longer until he stands at my side?

I am like my son.

When it comes to weight gain/loss, eating nutritious food, and exercising I am like my young son. I test just how far into the unhealthy zone I can go before I suffer the consequences of my actions.

  • I drink a glass pitcher of sweet tea each day.
  • I skips workouts.
  • I eat chicken strips and french fries for supper.
  • I binge on bread sticks and 3 meals worth of pasta drenched in cream sauce at my favorite Italian restaurant.

My boys and a friend flirting with the edge of a huge boulder!

How far can I go before I suffer the consequences of my choices? 

Before I can no longer keep up with my children? Before I have high blood pressure, diabetes, or a heart attack?

Will I suffer negative consequences for staying ten pounds overweight

Probably not. But why take the risk? Why flirt with the edge of being healthy just as my son flirted with the edge of the hall carpet? Why not step back from the edge and be completely healthy?

While my son endured a spanking for his choice to step over the line, I don't want to endure the consequences of my unhealthy choices. So, I'm going to back away from the edge of healthy and place myself solidly in healthy territory. Will you join me?

Do you flirt on the edge of healthy? In what ways?

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Friday, July 20, 2012

Our Visit to Franklin Park Zoo for Free Fun Friday

We are a zoo loving family, but after last week's crowd of people and crazy parking at Stone Zoo, my husband and I questioned if we should attend Free Fun Friday at Franklin Park Zoo.

I researched Franklin Park Zoo online and discovered they possess lions, tigers, and other big cats that "our" zoo does not. Big Cats are a favorite of our family.

The drive looked doable, just an hour from our house to the outskirts of Boston. The parking seemed ample. The Zoo appeared larger than Stone Zoo and therefore better able to handle the mass of people.

So a plan was made: leave home at 1 PM and arrive about the time most zoo goers exited.

It was a GOOD plan. Truly it was! And it would have worked if Boston police hadn't decided to make traffic "better" by altering the traffic pattern on the main street leading to the park entrance.

Think I'm kidding?

Ellie was more than a little tired of sitting in traffic!

Our drive home took 1 hour 15 minutes. Our drive to Franklin Park Zoo took 2 hours 30 minutes. Half of that time was spent within 5 miles of the park.

After parking we had exactly 1 hour to tour the zoo before they closed for the night. So my husband scanned the zoo map, made a plan to visit our must-see animals, and off we went.

One of the big cats we watched at Franklin Park Zoo.

We squeezed our way through the crowd to see the sleeping lion, a white tiger keeping cool in a pool, a few other big cats, and assorted smaller animals. We tried to visit the gorillas but the indoor exhibit closed before we made our way across the park.

Overall it was a terrible, rotten experience.

Let me be quick to add that our experience is not a reflection on the quality of the zoo. It may be a good zoo. We don't really know because time constraints and hordes of people kept us from enjoying our visit.

The Stephanie's Mommy Brain Zoo animals!

We arrived home tired, hungry, and frustrated. But at least we spent the day together and created a memory we'll look back on and laugh at. Maybe.

I suppose we could return to Franklin Park Zoo on a less crowded day and pay the entrance fee. Except that we still feel a little traumatized and don't want to pay $78 for admission for our family of 6. Frankly, $78 is a whole lot of money for our family!

For now we'll stay close to home and find a nice secluded park to hike instead of participating in Free Fun Fridays!

Have you visited Franklin Park Zoo? Is it worth spending the money to go back?

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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Ultimate Kid's Boredom Solution

I know my daughter did NOT say she's bored!
I stood in front of the scratched kitchen sink scrubbing the remains of last night's supper from the rim of a pot. Hot water streamed from the faucet, over my hands, and loosened stubborn bits of spaghetti sauce.

Out of the corner of my eye I watched Ellie meander around the kitchen, pause momentarily to gaze through the window at the deserted bird feeders, and then dejectedly slide her petite 5 year old self onto the kitchen table bench.

Shoulders slumped, she sighed. And then IT happened.

The "B" Word

Out of that sweet little mouth came the "B" word.

Suspending my attack on the crusty pot I half-turned to face my daughter. "Excuse me! WHAT did you say?!" The words flew out of my mouth as my mind raced to form more constructive responses.

"I'm bored," Ellie repeated. "There's nuthin' to do." She pitifully looked up at me, forehead knitted and mouth down-turned .

9 Kid's Boredom Busters

Ben turning cartwheels in the wiggly sprinklers.

Rapidly my mind flicked through the list of "I'm bored" responses gathered in the previous seconds:

  • Stop my own activities and play a board game with her?
  • Pop a DVD in for a little screen time?
  • Boot her into the backyard with sidewalk chalk or bubbles?
  • Send her down the hall to build LEGO ships with her brothers?
  • Pull out the foot tall stack of Melissa and Doug puzzles from her closet?
  • Retrieve the butcher paper from the basement and ask her draw life-size pictures of our family?
  • Turn on the backyard sprinkler for water play?
  • Listen to our Focus on the Family Radio Theatre Chronicles of Narnia CDs?
  • Set her up on Daddy's computer to play Reading Eggs?

Nah. No. Nope.

These boredom busting ideas, all good and useful at times, only satisfied her desire to be entertained by someone else. Not the boredom solution I sought. I wanted her to use creativity and entertain herself.

The Ultimate Boredom Solution

Mowing the front yard is 9 yr old Will's chore this summer.

And then I got a wonderful, awful idea!

As nonchalantly as possible I said, "I'm sorry you're bored. You can play with your dolls? ... Outside? .. With the brothers? ... Read books? ... No? ... You don't want to do any of those things?"

"Well, I guess there's only one thing left to do - WORK."

"I'll get you a wet washcloth and you can scrub your dirty footprints off the wall beside your bed. Then you can clean the grubby handprints off the hall walls. And when that's done, the kitchen wall behind the trash can needs washing."

Ellie quickly declined my wet washcloth offer and made her way back down the hall before my suggestion became a command. Within seconds I heard her happily bossing the littlest brother in a pretend game of "Mommy-Baby;" her boredom cured by a simple invitation to work.

As I returned to scrubbing the pot in the sink I just might have chuckled, and clucked, "What a great Mommy trick!"

What Mom tricks do you have for curing kids' boredom?

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Is it OK to be overweight?

Is it OK to be overweight? 

Stephanie in April 2012
Several years ago I bemoaned my extra pounds to an older friend who replied, "Welcome to the Four Kid Club." She meant because I've birthed 4 babies I will be overweight for the rest of my life. It's accepted. It's justified. It's OK.

But is it really?

I'm just wondering because choosing food that nourishes my body over choosing food that satisfies my cravings is not fun!

And choosing to get out of my comfy bed earlier than necessary so I can go run is proving to be a huge challenge.

So, I need to know, is all this hard work necessary? Or is it OK that I'm 10 pounds overweight?

What do you think?

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Monday, July 16, 2012

A Winning Olympics Children's Book

Olympics Kid's Book
My children are finally big enough to understand and enjoy the Olympic Games so we are a tad Olympics-crazy at our house, as you'll see from posts over the next few weeks.

As with all our family activities, I first searched for an Olympics children's book to read with my children and learn about the Games.

Truth be told, I emailed Sleeping Bear Press and begged politely requested to review any Olympics related books they've published.

A week later G is for Gold Medal: An Olympic Alphabet arrived at my door. And boy, are we glad it did!!

G is for Gold Medal is formatted in classic Sleeping Bear Press alphabet book style: all of the letters are represented in rhyming couplet, each page has a side bar with further information related to the poem, while the illustrations contain bright colors and active scenes.

"U" is one of my favorite pages. The text says,
"U is for an underdog,
so unbelievably bold,
and an unexpected upset
to win Olympic gold."
The sidebar tells the miracle story of 1980 when a group of college-aged amateurs went up against the Soviet team, who had beaten National Hockey League all-stars the year before. Amazingly the American underdogs won the gold medal!

One of the things I love about the Olympics is that you never know what will happen! You never know which athlete's story of hard work and perseverance will shine as bright as the the gold medal he or she wins. 

G is for Gold Medal does an outstanding job of highlighting those personal stories and teaching kids (and parents, too!) Olympic history.

Another of my favorite pages is "L." The poem states,
"A long run starts letter L, 
then a launch, a leap, a landing.
A little gymnast with a large heart.
A gold medal! Outstanding!"
The sidebar tells of Mary Lou Retton who scored a perfect 10 in the 1984 Olympics. In 1984, a 9 year old little girl watched Mary Lou cartwheel her way into the history books. To me, that grow-up little girl, her name is synonymous with the Olympics!

So when I turned the page to "L" and saw Mary Lou on the balance beam wearing the quintessential American leotard I couldn't help smiling. And something deep in my heart longed to join my 5 year old daughter in the gym doing cartwheels and balance beam routines.

Ellie works with Coach Hanna (an Olympic gymnast!) at RISE gymnastics.

I'm sure we will read G is for Gold Medal several times between now and the Olympic closing ceremonies in August. I HIGHLY recommend you read the book also!

What is your favorite Olympic event? Did you dream of going to the Olympics as an athlete?

Disclosure: Thanks to Sleeping Bear Press for providing a copy of G is for Gold Medal for my review! All opinions regarding the book are my own and were not influenced by receiving a review copy.

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Menu Plan Monday :: July 16, 2012

I'm sitting at my table with my calendar, my menu plan, and my computer. I think this Summer O' Fun just might kill me from exhaustion! Seriously.

Sunday to Saturday my calendar tells me I will: attend to blogger events, drive my kids to gymnastics twice, enjoy a date with my husband, and attend 2 kids' birthday parties.

If ever there was a week for take-out it's gonna be THIS one! But, the eating out budget has run dry for this month so I've gotta make the best of things.

This week we'll be eating:

Lemon Pepper Salmon, Broccoli and Carrots, Rice

Ham and Vegetable Stir-fry, Rice

Balsamic Vegetable Stir-fry with Grilled Chicken, Rice

Homemade Pizza and Fruit

Chocolate Chip Pancakes

What are you eating this week?

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Friday, July 13, 2012

Our Visit to Stone Zoo for Free Fun Friday

It's summer time and we are all about having fun! Whether we're at home, with friends, or on an outing our family is determined to make 2012 the best summer EVER!

To help families in New England maximize their summer fun Highland Street Foundation gave a BUNCH of organizations grants to participate in their Free Fun Fridays program.

These Free Fun Fridays register high on our summer fun checklist. So high, in fact, that my husband scheduled vacation days for most of the Fridays in July and August!

Out of 5 participating kid friendly organizations on the Fun Friday list, we chose to visit Stone Zoo on July 6. Our family LOVES zoos! Even before having children we had a membership at our local RI zoo; that's how much we love them.

Ellie was excited to take a day trip to Stone Zoo!

So Friday morning we packed our picnic lunch, water bottles, and sunscreen and drove to Stone Zoo. For us in Rhode Island the trip took about 1.5 hours. Parking was insane! We ended up parked on the side of the very busy road that leads to the zoo.

The bear entertained us.
The crowd inside the zoo was also insane! Stone Zoo is a very small zoo so the volume of people taking advantage of free admission completely overwhelmed the space. So many groups of kids (day camps and day cares) made viewing the animals difficult.

Even though it was crazy and packed with people I'm glad we attended Free Fun Friday at Stone Zoo. We made a fun family memory and we learned that Stone Zoo is too small to be worth the drive for us.

Don't get me wrong! It's not a bad zoo. We enjoyed watching 2 bears, a leopard, and a panther. But, it is quite a distance from our home compared to the zoo that's 15 minutes from our house.

We're looking forward to attending other Free Fun Friday events this summer. If you're in New England during July or August, you should check the events list! Maybe we'll see you at one of them.

What is your favorite zoo to visit?

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Thursday, July 12, 2012

Balsamic Vegetable Stir-fry with Grilled Chicken Recipe

Balsamic Veggie Stir-fry with Grilled Chicken

Balsamic Vegetable Stir-fry with Grilled Chicken is a simple and quick meal to prepare! It's loaded with veggies, which helps with one of my healthy lifestyle goals. AND it's extremely versatile.

My kids even eat this meal. For full disclosure I'll admit that they pick out the veggies that don't particularly like. But, exposing them is the first step, right?!

Here's the recipe:

Balsamic Vegetable Stir-fry with Grilled Chicken

2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp. honey
salt (to taste)
canola or vegetable oil
Veggies: carrots, onions, summer squash, zucchini, bell peppers, mushrooms
Grilled Chicken (or bite-sized pieces of beef, pork, or even meat-free)

Combine vinegar, honey, and salt in a small bowl or measuring cup. Set aside.

Cut up desired veggies and meat to bite-sized pieces. Keep each ingredient separate. Heat oil in a large skillet or pan. Add veggies to the oil in order of cooking time: carrots, squash, onions, peppers, mushrooms. Cook the carrots until almost tender and then start adding the rest.

When the veggies are almost finished, add the balsamic/honey mixture and cooked chicken. Stir to completely coat veggies with mixture and cook until the mixture is evaporated.

Serve immediately as is or with a side of rice.

Note: Use any combination and amounts of veggies. I find 2 cups of carrots, 1 large onion, 1 medium yellow squash, and half of a red bell pepper makes 1 meal (plus a leftover lunch for daddy) for my family of 6.

See? I told you a versatile, quick, and easy recipe. Did I mention delicious? You might also like my Kielbasa Stir-fry Recipe. It's easy to cook but has a different flavor.

What is your favorite stir-fry meal?

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