10 Mistakes To Avoid When Saving For Retirement

The following is a guest post from the Indexed Annuity Leadership Council.

Whether you’re a working mom or stay-at-home with the kids, saving for retirement can often be put on the back burner. Between staying on budget and wanting to build college funds, finding a little extra to invest in your retirement can be a daunting task. Moms are usually the driving force in the household when things need to get done. Here are some tips for moms to avoid these common retirement planning mistakes when they’re considering their financial future.

Biggest mistakes when saving for retirement:

1.Waiting to save.

Start saving early so your money has time to grow. If you’re worried about sticking to your budget, start small. Even $20 a week can go a long way over time, and when your budget allows, contribute more.

2. Failing to plan.

It is important to understand expenses for the type of lifestyle you want, so you can save enough money. Figure out what your retirement goals are, and start planning your retirement finances now. There are helpful interactive calculators that can help you determine how much you will need in retirement.

3. Saving for college before retirement.

Moms want the best for their children, but there are many factors when deciding which savings take priority. Consider this: Your kids have access to loans and scholarships to help pay for college, but if you don’t save enough money for retirement, you may not be able to afford your expenses.* You could also have separate savings for college and retirement, and contribute to both. Even if you’re contributing less to each than you would like, the longer the money is in the account, the more the interest will accumulate.

4. Retiring with a lot of debt.

Find a way to pay down or pay off consumer, student loan, and mortgage debt before you retire. These recurring payments will be harder to make when you’re on a fixed income.

5. Relying on Social Security.

Your Social Security benefits are a valuable source of income during retirement, but with an average benefit of just $1,237,** it is unlikely that Social Security will be able to cover all your retirement expenses. Before you retire, visit www.socialsecurity.gov to find out what benefits you should plan for.

6. Failing to research options to increase your savings.

The key to growing your retirement fund is balancing risk and reward. Look into different options and how they could fit your retirement goals. If you want a low-risk option, check out fixed indexed annuities (FIAs) at www.FIAinsights.org. Market-driven options like mutual funds or securities have higher risk, but also the potential to really increase your savings. You can research a variety of retirement plans here.

7. Individualizing your accounts.

If financial assets are in one account under one name, it may be hard to access those funds in the event of a family death. Having joint retirement accounts will protect you, your family, and your finances in the event of an unexpected death.***

8. Using your retirement funds before retiring.

Let the money in your retirement fund grow, and if you need money earlier, consider other sources. It is harder to save the closer you get to retirement, and many retirement accounts have steep penalties for withdrawing early.

9. Failure to plan for taxes.

Keep in mind that you will still have to pay taxes after leaving the workforce. Plan ahead so you’ll have enough money to pay your taxes as well as enjoy your retirement.

10. Depending on a specific retirement age.

You may plan to work until you’re 65, but sometimes unexpected circumstances alter your retirement plans. That is why it is important to start saving for retirement early, so you won’t be short of your retirement goals if you are unable to work earlier than expected.

 

*Source: US News & World Report

**Source: Social Security Administration

***Source: USA Today

A Parent’s Guide to Eyecare for Kids from Infancy to School Age

Those eyes you’re using now have gone through one heck of a journey. From the moment you’re born, infancy is a crucial time for eye development. WebMD reports kids begin to see things clearly far away only at about 12 to 16 weeks of life. For the next year, a child’s eyesight continues to improve.

Discerning parents probably watch their kids for squinting when reading or playing video games, but is that enough to detect sight problems? No, because many eye conditions that affect children are more subtle. Instead, parents need to take a comprehensive approach to eye care and learn to recognize the clues at various stages of development.

From Birth to 24 Months

Sight isn’t innate — babies must learn to see. During the infant stage of development, parents can easily assume normal eyesight is not normal at all because the baby is still learning how to focus and translate what their eyes see into something tangible. At three months of age, an infant is still only able to identify objects about 10 inches from the face. That is why mom gets a giggle when she leans down close.

At about five to eight months, you will notice your child is developing depth perception and can recognize you enough to reach out even at a distance. This is also the age when color becomes a vital part of a baby’s life.

It is very unusual to have significant eye problems at this early stage unless they are congenital. Some signs to be aware of include:

  • Excessive tearing
  • Red eyes that might indicate infection
  • Extreme light sensitivity
  • White pupils, which point to possible retinal tumors

Around six to 12 months is a good time to consider getting the baby’s first real eye exam. Your pediatrician can recommend a doctor of optometry who deals with children.

Heading to School

Once your child starts school, clues indicating nearsightedness or farsightedness become easier to spot. Low grades, for example, might be an indicator a child can’t see or read well. Teachers may report kids squinting to understand what is on the board, or improvement in class participation when a child sits close to the front.

Parents can watch for kids who tilt their head when they read, or show signs of eye-coordination problems, such as letting a ball drop repeatedly. Crying when playing catch or coloring may mean the child is struggling with these tasks.

How to Know When a Child Needs a Vision Exam

Children should get an eye exam once every two years. Some schools will automatically test students’ eyes each year and offer parents feedback. This test only checks for distance acuity. A parent might consider taking children for a professional exam, anyway, if they are falling behind in school or slow at doing homework.

How about Glasses and Contacts?

It is normal for kids to feel uncomfortable if they wear glasses. It makes them different at a time when they really just want to fit in with the crowd. It is important for parents to reassure a child who must wear glasses they look good and are special. Let them know lots of kids have to wear glasses, and make caring for them responsibly fun.

Contact lenses are a practical and cost-saving way to solve the glasses issue for kids who qualify. Disposable lenses start at around $30, according to Coastal.com, as compared to replacing glasses every time an active kid breaks them.

Pediatric ophthalmologist David Granet explains kids mature enough to handle the responsibility of contacts at around 10 years old, though it’s up to the parents to judge when they are ready.

About the Author: Walter is a single dad who loves raising his two boys and writing about sports on the side.

10 Unconventional Ways to Save Money‏

When we think of ultimate frugality, many unreasonable money-saving tactics come to mind. However, there are small, innovative steps you can incorporate into your lifestyle that can yield great results. Some of these tips are optimal for moderate savers who want to save without going to great lengths. The more extreme ideas are geared towards intense savers, looking for the next new way to cut back. The list below details 10 unconventional ways, including going to  professionals-in-training for services, freezing your stuff, and unplugging your appliances.

1. Go to Professionals-in-Training for Services

When it comes to services like hair trims, massages, or oral hygiene, there are plenty of students in training who provide them for a discounted price.Research local cosmetology institutions, dental schools, and other training centers and inquire about being a volunteer for student training purposes.

Typically these appointments are done with professional supervision, so the chance of you leaving unsatisfied is minimized, and you can walk away feeling good that you’ve helped a student get hands-on practice in their field.

2. Vow to Go On A Spending Fast

A spending fast, a term coined by Anna of And Then We Saved, is an extreme way of paying off debt, with guaranteed results. You can do your spending fast for whatever length of time you want, but the suggested length is a year. A spending fast cuts out any spending on leisure activities and wants. The idea is to cut these areas of your life solely to save money, only spending on necessary expenses such as utilities, doctor co-pays, gas, medicine, etc.Try it for a year and see how much you save (Anna paid off nearly $24K in debt in just 15 months).

3. Potty Train Your Cat

Potty train your fluffy little feline by training it to use the toilet instead of a litter box.

According to peteducation.com, the average cost of litter for one cat is $110 a year, which means that for the average domestic cat, whose life span is 15 years, you can save about $1,650.

You can purchase a kit on how to teach your cat to use the toilet for $20-$30.

4. Get Sponsored

Nowadays getting sponsored is easier than ever with crowdfunding. Using popular websites like Go Fund Me or Kickstarter, you can create a platform in which you can ask for money. Some examples of things you might ask for funding include a sick relative’s hospital bills, a business idea, or a personal goal of your own.One couple, Dave Kerpen and Carrie Fisher even took things a step further by using their marketing strategy to get a venue (courtesy of a baseball stadium), flowers (from 1-800-Flowers), and every single one of their wedding items for free. They put together their $100,000 dream wedding with the help of 25 different sponsors.

5. Get Permanent Makeup

According to one estimate, the average woman shells out $14,000 on makeup in her lifetime. We know. That’s nuts right? However, if you don’t want to shop exclusively the clearance section at the drugstore, you could always opt to get permanent makeup done. This technique is done by permanently pigmenting one’s eyelids, lips, and face. Procedures range from $200 to $800, and you would be risking allergic reaction and infection embarking down this journey. However, if you’re sure you’ll love one look for the rest of your life, the risk might be worth it.

6. Invest in a Cool Roof Option

Air conditioning constitutes nearly twenty percent of all electricity consumed in the U.S., so think about how much of your electricity bill is spent on cooling your home! Slash that in half, by simply opting for a white roof, and depending on your state’s policies, you may get a rebate and other incentives to install cool roof coatings. Head to EnergyStar to see the available cool roof options to choose from.

7. Shop Your Own Stash (Or Someone Else’s)

If you have a cluttered closet or makeup collection, weed out the things you never use, and rediscover old favorites. Make a commitment to cut back on buying new purchases. Other options include having a swap party — you and your 10 closest friends can bring in your unwanted items, or you can shop someone else’s closet. Check out your local Craigslist page and shopping the free section, or Freecycle, a grassroots movement of people who are giving away their little-used possessions for free

8. Freeze Your Stuff

Using your freezer, you can extend the life of many of your items. For example, wax candles burn longer when they’re frozen, and batteries are extended by 5 percent if alkaline, and 90 percent if nickel-metal hydride.Many seeds also last longer and germinate better when frozen, and even pantyhose is less likely to tear when frozen. Lastly, you can extend the shelf life of popcorn, spices, and coffee when frozen.

9. Take a Navy Shower

This method was introduced by the Navy, who invented it to make water rations last as long as possible.

Turn the water on just long enough to wet your body, then turn it off and soap up. After you’re nice and lathered, turn the water back on to rinse.This method uses a mere 11 gallons of water compared to the 60 gallons used in a typical shower!

10. Unplug Your Appliances

Standby electricity loss occurs when you leave items plugged in that you aren’t using.

For example, when you leave your house in the morning, the lamps, clocks, and phone chargers are probably still plugged in.Now, would you believe that standby electricity makes up about 5 percent of our electricity use?If you’re ready to save on your utilities, start by looking at this chart to see the average amount of power used by your plugged in devices.

(Guest post courtesy of Alex Matjancec, co-founder of MyBankTracker.com, an independent resource that helps consumers make smarter banking and money decisions.)

Best and Worst Halloween Candy: Avoiding Scary Dental Decay

Halloween is the No. 1 holiday on the kid calendar. They get to dress up, go to parties and make a candy haul that can’t be challenged, even if you add Easter and Christmas together. With the Centers for Disease Control reporting that over 19 percent of children ages 2 to 19 have untreated cavities, Halloween drops down a few notches on parents’ lists. You probably do a stellar job of watching what the kids eat any other time of year. Sugar control goes out the window, however, when your child brings home a bottomless bag from a successful night of trick-or-treating.

Before the big night hits, educate yourself on which candy is capable of the most damage and which is easiest on teeth. Arm your little ones with some preventative items and then sit back knowing you’ve done as much as possible to protect their pearly whites.

Worst Candies

Sticky candy and long-lasting candies that take forever to dissolve in your kids’ mouths are the hardest on teeth. According to the American Dental Association these are:

  • hard candies
  • suckers and lollipops
  • taffy
  • gummy bears
  • caramels

These types stick to the teeth subjecting your kids to destructive acids for extended periods of time.

Best Candies

Sugar-free gum is the absolute best Halloween treat you can find in your child’s candy bucket. Encourage your kids to chew a piece after eating any of their other sugary booty. If you don’t consider gum to technically be candy, then others on the list include:

  • candy bars that don’t contain sticky caramel or nougat
  • chocolate covered nuts
  • candy corn
  • individually wrapped peanut butter cups

Not much of these candies remain in the mouth for very long, and what does gets washed away by saliva or with a swallow of water.

Treat Your Own Kids

Yes, it will bum out the neighborhood kids if you give out toothbrushes and travel-sized toothpaste for Halloween. There’s no law against doing it for your own kids, though, especially since they’ll get plenty of sugary treats elsewhere. WebMD says Halloween is the ideal time to change out your kids’ old toothbrushes for new ones, anyway. Assemble a Halloween treat bag for your children with a toothbrush and toothpaste, but also include a bottle of fluoridated water for sipping after a candy binge, dental floss and a packet of disclosing tablets to help them get in the habit of brushing more thoroughly. Slip in a few coloring sheets from Kool Smiles. The activity sheets along with a brand-new box of crayons are a sweet way to round out your dental health treat bag.

Reducing Chances of Halloween Damage

You don’t have to take Halloween — or the candy it brings — away from your kids just to ensure optimal oral health. That will only end up in tantrums and trauma. Instead, set a few rules and encourage already good habits. For example, specify when your kids can indulge in Halloween candy and how much they can have. It can be after school or right after a healthy dinner. Limit them to two or three pieces, and allow them to pick out what they’ll eat each day. Encourage them to drink water while they eat their treats and afterward, too. Hold your children to their regularly scheduled tooth brushing routine, and make sure they floss. You’ll want to help if your child is younger than 8 years old, but older children are capable of flossing on their own.

(Guest post Author: Kim is a freelance writer who covers health and fitness.)

8 Ways To Be Frugal During a Move‏

Moving can be expensive. It doesn’t matter if you’re moving across town or from one side of the country to the other, the process always costs a lot more than most would like to spend. Hiring inexpensive movers is not the only way to save yourself money.

Unpakt, a new, instant pricing application to help consumers find reputable moving companies and book their moves online, shares 8 Easy Ways to Be Frugal During a Move:

  • Compare Moving Companies: Cheap is not always better. Sometimes companies will attract you with a low price, but hidden in the print are a lot of other fees. When you are comparing companies and rates, make sure that you know what you are getting in each quote, so it is a fair comparison.
  • Collect Free Boxes: You should never have to actually pay for a moving box, unless you specifically need a wardrobe one or an extra-large one for an awkward item. There is a long list of places that will be more than happy for you to come take boxes off their hands. Check at the grocery, office supply, liquor and book store as well as restaurants and bars.
  • Don’t Pay for Packing Supplies: You can pick up old newspapers for free at just about any gas station or liquor store. Plus, you don’t need to buy bubble wrap or other costly supplies when you have towels, t-shirts, linens, sweaters, etc. You have a lot of things around the house you can use to pack valuables.
  • Pack Thoughtfully: Extra boxes are often used simply because items are packed poorly. Think of nesting dolls when you pack. A lot of little items can be packed inside larger ones. Not only does this help keep items secure, it reduces the number of boxes you use, which means that there are fewer boxes to carry.
  • Clean for Your Deposit: A lot of people do not take the time to clean their old apartment or rental house, so they don’t get their full deposit back. It will cost you a lot less to rent a quality carpet cleaner and do it yourself than it will if your landlord has to hire a professional to do it.
  • Move During the Week: On average, most moving companies charge an average of 20 to 25 percent more on weekends. Most people are off work on the weekends so movers are often overbooked. If you move during the week, you will typically save yourself a little money.
  • Have a Good Purge: How much stuff do you have that you don’t really need? Why bother packing this stuff? You can sell, donate or trash it. Seriously, a lot of movers charge by weight; do you really need to pay for these items to be moved, if you are not using them?
  • Go Grocery Shopping Immediately: The sooner you can at least go buy a few essentials, the better off you will be. If you need to order pizza or go grab takeout for a few meals, it will get pretty expensive. Sure, get pizza the first day; it is part of the fun of moving. After all, whether you hire one of the expensive or cheap moving companies, there is always money for pizza! However, meals after this one should come from your own refrigerator, if you want to save yourself some money.

4 Steps You Can Take Today To Live A Happier Life

Happiness isn’t a state of being, says former Johnson & Johnson executive Lynda Wallace; happiness is something happy people do.

“Some may say that mimicking people is not good enough – that simply wearing Michael Jordan’s jersey doesn’t make you Michael Jordan – and they’re right. But if you behave more like Jordan in his playing years, including practicing, competing, and working out, then you’ll be that much better as a basketball player, and more like Mike,” says Wallace, a certified positive psychology coach and the author of “A Short Course in Happiness: Practical Steps to a Happier Life,”, which topped Amazon’s Self-Help Best Seller list.

Wallace describes four steps we can all take to live happier lives:

  • Focus on the Positive: If you have only five minutes a day to dedicate to becoming a happier person, here’s a great way to spend it. Each night, before going to bed, write down five things for which you feel grateful. As you write your list, take a moment to reflect on each item. Call up a picture in your mind and experience your gratitude in a heartfelt way. This is a great way to jump start gratitude, optimism, and kindness, all of which have enormously positive effects on our happiness.
  • Cope Effectively with the Negative: Wallace quotes Thich Nhat Hanh, who said, “Don’t wait until you have no more suffering before allowing yourself to be happy.” Negative experiences are a part of every life. We do best when we are able to acknowledge and accept the difficult emotions that come with the experiences, see what they have to teach us, and then use coping skills such as reaching out to others, gaining perspective on our troubles, and actively engaging in the things we do that give our lives meaning.
  • Develop Strong Relationships: No matter how much we may enjoy and need our time alone, the fact remains that we are an intensely social species, and that meaningful connections with other people are essential to happiness. In fact, research makes it clear that the single most important characteristic of very happy people is that they have trusting relationships at the center of their lives. Wallace says that those relationships may be with romantic partners, family members, or friends; it doesn’t much matter. “What matters is that we take the time and trouble to nurture and appreciate our most important relationships, and that we don’t allow other priorities to crowd out our focus on them.”
  • Pursue Meaningful Goals: “When I first began studying the positive psychology research,” says Wallace, “one of the biggest surprises for me was just how important goal pursuit is to happiness.” Goals focus and motivate us. They increase our resilience by giving us reasons to keep going following setbacks. And they give us a highly gratifying sense of purpose, forward motion, and meaning. “One of the most important things to understand about goals is that making progress toward them actually contributes even more to our happiness than achieving them does. So it’s important that we choose our goals well. Pursuing them doesn’t have to be easy or entirely pleasant. In fact, we gain the most happiness from working toward goals that demand a lot from us. But they do need to fit well with who we are and what we value.”

About the Author

After 20 years as a highly successful executive with Johnson & Johnson, where she was responsible for a $1 billion portfolio of businesses including Band-Aid, Neosporin and Purell, Lynda Wallace changed careers to pursue her passion. She now helps individuals and groups apply proven insights and techniques to achieve greater happiness and success in their lives, families, careers, and businesses. She meets with local clients in her office in Montclair, NJ, and with clients from around the world by phone or at in-person engagements. Lynda holds an MBA from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and is a certified positive psychology coach. She is also a sought-after speaker and the author of the No.1 Amazon Self-Help Best Seller “A Short Course in Happiness: Practical Steps to a Happier Life.” More information is available at her website: lyndawallace.com.

(Disclosure: This is a guest post.)

10 Back to School Resolutions for Parents

Each new school year is a chance for children to start fresh and establish new routines. The same is true for parents, who play a huge role in a child’s education. As you send your children back to school this year, consider making a few resolutions of your own to make this a successful academic year. Most importantly, share the list with your child to help set expectations for both of you.

Education expert Renee Thompson, Kiddie Academy, offers the following thought starters for resolutions parents may wish to make, along with the reason why each is important.

Parents’ Back to School Resolutions:

1. I will give you a break after school if you need it before asking you to start homework.

Why: Some children can jump right into homework and others are more focused after having some time to unwind. See what works best for your child.

2. I will stay in touch with your teachers throughout the year.

Why: Communication is the key to early detection of potential problems. If your child is struggling, an open line of communication with the teacher will help in resolving the issue.

3. I will ask for positive feedback from your teachers.

Why: We’re all busy, including teachers, meaning that sometimes parents only hear when there is a problem. That’s not really fair to your kids or to you – if you’re going to endure the bad stuff, you both deserve to hear the good stuff, too.

4. I will offer guidance and assistance, but not a full solution, when you encounter a challenge.

Why: Children need to develop problem-solving skills. If their parents are constantly “fixing” things, the child will never learn to negotiate the inevitable bumps in the road.

5. I will enforce a consistent bed time, even if you fight me on it.

Why: Getting a good night’s sleep will allow your child to start the school day refreshed and ready to learn.

6. I will provide a healthy, nutritious breakfast.

Why: Just like sleep, your body and your brain need fuel to function at their highest level.

7. I will stock up on school supplies so you’ll have what you need.

Why: Nobody wants to run out of paper or glue when finishing a project. Stock up in the fall, when prices are low, and keep the supplies in an easy-to-access location. Consider making a Homework Bin – you can find directions here.

8. I will listen to your opinions on Back To School fashion choices, and do my best to accommodate your requests — within reason.

Why: It’s important to show your child that you respect and value their opinions, even if you don’t agree with them. You can still have the final say; however, listening is key.

9. I will document your FIRST day of school with a photo every year. I will be discreet and take the photo at home. I will not follow you to school or ride the bus to get candid shots.

Why: One day, your child will want to look back and remember how they looked as they grew up. You can save the memories for them until they’re old enough to appreciate them.

10. I will take a picture of you on your LAST day of school each year.

Why: It’s amazing how much kids grow over the course of a school year. Take a photo and compare it to the first day of school picture. Sharing the photos with your child is the perfect opportunity to review the year’s accomplishments.

 

6 Great Ways to Ensure You Save for Your Kids

With an uncertain economic future ahead, it is smart to budget and save for your children. The cost of their living expenses and education will continue to rise, so make sure you plan ahead by following a few tips.

Start Saving Early

You can start saving even when your child is a newborn. Set up a savings account in his or her name, and start contributing what you are able to. Even if it’s just a few dollars per month, over the years of your child’s life, this money will accrue interest. Some online savings accounts offer higher interest rates than traditional banks.  When your child is young, put any monetary gifts that he or she receives into the savings account.

College Savings Plans

Description: college

Image via Flickr by CollegeDegrees360

Many parents hope to pay for college expenses for their children, so you may want to look into a 529 savings plan. Many investors encourage parents to utilize this type of plan, since it accrues interest without taxes, and you won’t have to pay taxes on it as long as your child does use it to pay for tuition. There are a lot of options for flexibility, so this is a great option for those who plan to help with education.

Reduce Interest Rates

If you have a high interest rate on your mortgage, you can also save money by refinancing for a lower rate. Currently, rates are at all-time lows, so check out the different options available through AmeriSave on SlideShare and talk to an expert who will help you decide what is best. They pride themselves on high levels of customer service and ease of use.

Spend Less on the Next Child

Description: http://farm5.staticflickr.com/4116/4810857390_e7cd536d52.jpg

Image via Flickr by docentjoyce

As your family continues to grow, save gently used items from the previous children. On average, a family might spend about $12,370 on a second child, but you can drastically reduce that amount by reusing clothing, bottles, high chairs, and other expensive essentials. You can also try to find and buy used items instead of buying brand new.

DIY and Cheaper Options

When your children are young, look at ways you can save money on the basics for them. Baby food costs around $1 per jar, but you can make your own with fresh foods and a food processor. You can store baby food in the freezer, which can save you hundreds of dollars over the first year. You might be tempted to spend less at a time on diapers by buying smaller packages, but do your research and determine a price per diaper. Then you can stock up when you find them on sale and save a lot of money.

Watch Your Family Budget

The last way to save for your children is to set up a reasonable budget and stick to it. Make sure all family members are on board, and utilize online tools to track spending and cut costs. If you find one area of spending that is difficult to cut back on, try to cut back in another area.

These tools will help you and your family prepare for the future, and rest easy knowing that you are doing the best you can to provide for your children.

(Guest post by Amanda.)

6 Ways to Keep Your Hardwood Floors Looking New

When you have nice hardwood floors, it’s worth putting in a little work to keep them looking like new. Follow these 6 tips so your hardwood floors will always have the beauty that you enjoy today.

Doormats Are a Deterrent

Knowing how to clean your floor properly will keep it in great shape. It’s even better to keep dirt and water off your floor by using two doormats. Keep one outside and one inside so people can wipe their feet well before stepping on the floor. It also helps to get a walk-off mat for the inside. These mats are usually four to six feet long. The longer it is, the cleaner your shoes will be when they hit your hardwood floor.

Vacuum Your Floor

Even if you make everyone take off their shoes before coming inside, your floors might still get dirty. If the dirt accumulates, it can turn into grit that will scratch the wood’s surface. Vacuum your floor at least once a week to prevent dirt buildup.

Avoid Water and Liquid Cleaners

Never expose your floor to water or liquid cleaners. They can soak into the wood, causing damage that’s difficult to repair. You’ll end up spending a lot of money hiring one of the Tucson flooring companies to fix a problem that you could have easily prevented.

Instead of using liquid cleaners, opt for a no-wax wood cleaner. You can pick it up at any home supply store. Keep it in a handy place, so you can clean up spills and dirt immediately.

Area Rugs Prevent Damage

Image via Flickr by Wonderlane

High-traffic zones are most likely to get damaged by daily wear and tear. Putting down an area rug will protect your hardwood floor. Common high-traffic zones include hallways, doorways, and stairs.

It’s best to use an area rug that doesn’t have a rubber backing. The rubber can trap humidity against the floor, which causes the same problems as cleaning with liquids would.

Clean Your Furniture With Care

If you have wooden furniture, then you want to take special care when you polish it. The polish might make your wood furniture glow, but it can leave a cloudy residue on your floor. Try spraying the polish on a cloth instead of directly on the furniture. That will give you more control.

Know How to Care for Your Floor’s Finish

Your hardwood floor might have a finish made of polyurethane or shellac. If it does, you should never wax the floor. It will create an extremely slippery surface and can damage the original finish.

If you don’t know whether you should use a wax, polyurethane, or other type of polish on your floor, spot test a small area and check for damage. Give the area a couple of days before you polish the rest of the floor. It takes time for damage to present itself.

Do you know other ways to keep hardwood floors looking like new? Or perhaps you’ve tried some restorative methods that did more harm than good. Tell your story in the comments below.

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Guest post by Amanda.

Fun Ways to Announce That You’re Expecting

(Disclosure: I am NOT pregnant…this is a guest post :) )

Announcing your pregnancy is an event in and of itself. Not only do you want to share it with your closest family and friends, but you also want to proclaim the good news to everyone via social media. Whether you just found out you are expecting your first little one, or baby number three is on the way, tell the world in a cute, creative way:

Send Cards in the Mail

Once you find out you are expecting, use the due date calculator from First Response to figure out when baby is set to arrive. Then create announcement cards to send out to family and friends. Photo cards are easy to make and can be created on many popular photo-sharing Web sites. Take a photograph of you holding up a chalkboard sign announcing your pregnancy and the baby’s due date, or pose for a picture holding a pair of baby booties in your hand for a more symbolic statement.

Photo of a couple with baby booties by thebaphotography via Flickr

Promote Your Older Child

Instead of simply stating that you have another baby on the way, make it a fun and exciting event for your first child. Create a sign together that announces your older child’s promotion to big brother or sister. Perhaps you could word the sign like this: “Michael is Being Promoted to Big Brother! He assumes his position around January 30, 2014.” Once the sign is complete, take a picture of your son holding it up. It’s the perfect photo to post on Facebook or Instag​ram, and offers a witty way to share the big news.

Photo of a big brother by bengrey via Flickr

Prepare a Slideshow for an Announcement Party

Gather your family members and favorite friends for a barbecue, but don’t tell them that there’s a special occasion. At the party, play a slideshow filled with pictures that hint at your pregnancy. One photo could be a picture of you with a jar of pickles in your hand and a bowl of ice cream on the counter. Another photo could be of your spouse reading a book about becoming a dad. Officially announce the pregnancy in the final photo on the slideshow. Hold up a sign that says, “We’re Expecting Baby #1 in January.” Everyone will get the message, and you’ll get to enjoy their reaction as they come to the realization that you’re eating for two at the event.

Take a Family Photo — And Say “We’re Pregnant!”

If you are sharing your pregnancy news at a family event, capture everyone’s reactions in the moment. Ask everyone to pose for a family photograph, and have your camera ready to snap. Instead of asking everyone to “Say Cheese,” announce your secret instead. Shout, “We’re pregnant!” and take the picture at the same moment to preserve the memory of everyone’s excitement for years to come. You’ll love looking back on the smiles, laughter, hugs and tears as your loved ones react to your announcement.

Photo of a family picture by Philms via Flickr

Give the Gift of a Baby Book

Present your spouse or your parents with a children’s book as a gift. Choose one that was special to you as a child, or one that you think your new baby will enjoy. On the inside of the book, write, “I can’t wait for you to read this to me this winter. Love, Baby.” This touching announcement is a subtle way to announce the baby’s impending arrival. It is sure to bring tears of joy to the recipient of the gift, whether it’s a new dad-to-be or an experienced grandma.

Photo of baby books by katerha via Flickr

About the author: Maria is devoted to contributing to her community’s art program, environmentalism, and being the best mom she can be to her twin boys. Writing is her favorite way to wind down after a hectic day.

3 Things Parents Must Teach Their Kids About Managing Money

(The following is a guest post. I’m sharing because I think they are great tips!)

As a father of five teenagers, it feels like all I do every day is teach my kids lessons. These lessons span a wide range of topics – from “how to treat others,” to “being a team player,” to “exude confidence not cockiness.” It has taken me years to determine the most important lessons pertaining to personal money management, which is one of the most important skills they need to learn.

With all the issues facing teenagers today, why do I say this? Three reasons:

1. Schools teach them absolutely nothing about personal money management.
2. The example set by our society is to spend more than they make (in other words, debt is good).
3. It is one of the most important skills they need to take into adulthood.

It is imperative to set the right example for your children when it comes to money management. In my book, “Why Didn’t They Teach Me This in School? 99 Personal Money Management Principles to Live By” (www.whydidnttheyteachmethisinschool.com), I discuss these lessons in a simple, memorable manner.

Here are what I consider every parent’s three “must teach” principles:

• Always live below your means. If you want to manage your money successfully, this is one of the most important principles to follow. And, this is where most Americans have gone, and will continue to go, wrong. People want to have everything … now. They just can’t wait until they can afford it. But you must wait until you can afford something before you buy it. If you make a habit of purchasing things you can’t afford, you will quickly begin a downward spiral that will continue until you go bankrupt. Plus, you’ll enjoy your purchase all the more.

If you always live below your means, you will always have extra money to save and invest. Over the years, your money will grow and you will find yourself with significant financial security. Keep in mind that living below your means doesn’t mean living badly. It means you prioritize your spending and focus on what is most important to you. It means “living smartly.”

• Develop a written budget and evaluate it every single month. People think this is painful but it’s actually quite simple. And it must be done. You can’t manage something you’re not tracking. And the concept is clear – more money must come in every month than goes out! I have a simple budgeting process that takes a half-hour every month and allows for the three most important parts to be completed: developing, tracking and analyzing. The analysis part is so important. Where did you spend too much? Where didn’t you spend as much? What else do you need to include next month? What is in your emergency fund? What are your financial goals for the next 12 months? And remember, you will always have tradeoffs!

• Save and invest 50 percent of every salary increase. This is an easy principle that requires a little discipline. Think about it; you were living on your old salary before you got a raise. You can have the best of both worlds. You’re still going to live better, but why not invest some for your future? Most people don’t do this because they get behind in the first place. They start by spending more money than they make in the first place. You just can’t do that. If you employ this principle, you will be shocked at how well you do financially over time.

Ninety-five percent of adults don’t follow these principles because they’ve been told that debt is OK and they’re trying to keep up with the Joneses (who, by the way, are bankrupt)! I’ve told my teenagers (and my nephews who are in their 20’s), if they always follow these three basic principles, they will become extremely adept at personal money management.

Take the time to talk with your children about all the issues that confront them. Especially, take the time to discuss the issue of personal money management. From experience, we all know that it is an issue that has caused much pain to our generation.

    About the author:

Cary Siegel is a retired business executive. After earning his MBA from the University of Chicago, he began his career in brand management with Kraft and went on to lead several companies in marketing and sales. He wrote “Why Didn’t They Teach Me This in School? 99 Personal Money Management Principles to Live By,” whydidnttheyteachmethisinschool.com for his five teenage children. Following his personal money management principles allowed him to retire at the age of 45. Siegel is a popular speaker on both marketing and personal money management. 

How To Read With Your Child, Not To Them

Reading a book to your child is a great way to help your child learn. Sometimes, though, simply reading the words on the page may not be stimulating enough. Some of the time your child might be perfectly content to sit and listen; on other days, he may not be able to keep one foot still! Do not fret. Your child can get his learning and keep his energy at a high level, too! The trick is to read with your child.

Start with the old standby–reading. Once the story has begun to unfold, ask your child some questions before moving onto the next page. Use questions that will encourage interaction.

For example:

* Point to some of the pictures on the page and see if your child can describe what the illustrations show. Is the main character revealed on the first page? Can you tell where the story takes place? Is it daytime or nighttime as the story begins? Do you think it will be the same at the end of the story? (And no peeking ahead is allowed!)

* Have your child try to reason how a picture on the page relates to the story. For example, you could ask, “Why does the candle droop?” Could it be that it is because it has been burning for a long time?

* Identify specific words used in the story as a teachable moment. Are some words written in a different way from the rest of the words? Are some bigger? Smaller? In a different color? Ask your child to guess why. Have your child say the special words in the story in the way he thinks the author intended for them to be read. Talk about how the words could be said differently to express a different emotion.

Are you getting a sense for how easy reading interactively can be? By reading in this way, your child is part of the reading time, too! Enjoy watching your child’s excitement as he/she figures out the answers to your questions and comes up with unique ways to add to or change the story. Encourage your child to ask questions of you too. Prompt your child to come up with the questions for you by announcing, “on the next page, it is Daddy’s turn to answer YOUR questions.” The possibilities are endless for ways that you can read interactively with your child.

If it isn’t naptime or bedtime, have your child act out part of the story, or make up a song or dance to retell the story to you after you have finished.

If your child has a lot of stuffed animals and they are the same type as in the story, let the teddy bear dance around or climb up the pillows and let the dog bark, etc.

Try to come up with new ways every time you read a book.

Happy reading!

About the Author:

Thomas Weck is the author/creator of the *Lima Bear Stories. Originally made-up bedtime stories he told his four children, the Lima Bear tales resurfaced when Weck’s son Peter had children. Peter remembered the stories and wanted to have his father write them down so that he could share them with his children. Father and son took it one step further and created Lima Bear Press (www.LimaBearPress.com) to produce the stories as books that children everywhere can enjoy. The first three titles were released in 2011: The Megasaurus, How Back-Back Got His Name, and The Cave Monster. The books are not only fun and funny with great illustrations, they also have an underlying message such as such as tolerance, honesty, courage, etc. Learn more at http://www.limabearpress.com.

(Disclosure: This is not a compensated post. All thoughts are those of the author.)

Lobster Guacamole {Recipe}

If your honey loves guacamole, surprise him or her with this special version! This recipe would be perfect for a Valentine’s Day date night at home.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup diced avocado (about 1 large)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice (about 1 to 2 limes)
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely chopped red onion
  • 1/2 teaspoon seeded, minced fresh Anaheim chili
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 to 3 grindings black pepper, or to taste
  • 2 ounces cooked lobster meat, chopped
  • Pickled ginger slices (gari) for garnishing
  • Sesame rice crackers

Instructions

1. In a medium, nonreactive bowl, combine the avocado, lime juice, cilantro, onion, and chili, and carefully mix together with a spoon.

2. Add the salt and several grindings of pepper, or to taste, mix gently, then fold in the lobster.

3. Serve in chilled, large martini glasses and garnish with a little of the pickled ginger on the rim of each glass. Or use other decorative bowls and garnish with a few pieces of ginger in the center of each serving. Accompany with the crackers.

 

(Disclosure: I was not compensated for this post. Recipe and image were provided by Linda De Villers, Ph.D., author of Simple Sexy Food.)

 

Baby Budgeting For The Nursery Essentials

The following is a guest post by: Ashley White. Ashley is a blogger and self-described HGTV addict. She scours antique and resale shops for goodies to fill her family’s eclectic home in upstate New York.

***

Babies need a lot of stuff — or so they say. While I was pregnant with Patrick, people —including my friends, family, coworkers and those who met me on the street — would tell me I had to have a Bugaboo stroller or that a travel crib was essential. It was a bit overwhelming, and sometimes tempting, but I learned after the crib, dresser and rocking chair, the real nursery necessities are below.

A Night Light

It was an adjustment getting Patrick on a sleep schedule that didn’t involve him staying up all night and sleeping all day. Once we invested in some roller/solar shades he started associating darkness with sleep and light with being awake. With curtains or shades that block out light (great for nap time) you’ll need a night light. Find one that emits enough light for you to navigate the room but not so much that it keeps your baby awake.

Not necessary: Stubbing your toe in the dark while you are trying to calm your child. Or worse, waking him up because you flipped on a too-bright light just to check on him.

Garbage Pail

Find a sturdy, 4 gallon garbage pail with a lid for your baby’s nursery. Walmart.com has a great selection of trash bins under $15, but check your local dollar store as well. In the beginning, we changed Patrick in whatever room we were in. But when I found a week old dirty diaper in the spare bedroom in the basement, that changed. Learn from our experience: Designate one garbage pail for dirty diapers. Control the smell by regularly sprinkling a little baking soda in the bag and make sure it always gets taken out.

Not necessary: A Diaper Genie. If you change that dirty of a diaper, just run it out.

Sleepy Swing

Every child is different, and when deciding on nursery items it really depends on your child’s personality and your parenting style. But, I have to say, a comfortable little swing for Patrick to fall asleep in saved my life. We love to rock and snuggle, but when I need a nap, to cook dinner or finish some freelance work, the swing is Patrick’s new best friend. We found a gently-used Graco swing on Craig’s List for $25.

Not necessary: Toys. Your child won’t be interested in them until later, and infants shouldn’t sleep with stuffed animals for safety reasons, anyway.

A Handy Hamper

Your baby will need his or her own hamper. We keep Patrick’s on the floor in the corner of his closet. It is out of the way, but still very accessible. Since we only change dirty diapers in his room (see above: garbage pail) this hamper comes in handy when we are getting ready for a bath or when changing a disaster of a diaper.

Not necessary: Carrying those onesies around after a diaper explosion.

Baby Monitor

Those first few nights my husband and I would lay awake listening to Patrick breath so we didn’t need a monitor. But when we got used to him being a part of our family — and when we succumbed to a much needed deep sleep — the monitor came in handy. It is also great for nap times when I’m downstairs cleaning or working. My suggestion? Ask around to see if someone has an extra. My sister lent me hers so we got ours for free.

Not necessary: A video monitor. Just go check on him or her.

 

Why Kids Need Chores

Like so many parental expectations and requirements, getting your kid in the habit of doing chores will help prepare them for the real world (if you can ever get them to move out).  

Here are some of the benefits kids derive from assigned chores.  

• Responsibility (or “I’m not your maid.”)  When you make a mess YOU are obligated to clean it up.  The most straightforward reason your kid needs to do chores is to drive the point home that he is responsible for his actions in the world (and the messes he makes). 

• Personal Obligation (or “You helped create this mess now get up and help clean it up!”)  When you live with other people, you’re obliged to contribute to the general upkeep of common living areas.  Chores help your kid learn to pull her own weight when it comes to keeping shared spaces clean (so she doesn’t end up moving back home because even her friends consider her a slob). 

• Organization and Prioritizing (or “You had plenty of time to get that room clean.  You can just forget about going anywhere till it’s done!”)  Chores are unpleasant for most kids.  Unfortunately, life is filled with unpleasant but necessary tasks.  Chores provide the chance for your kid to practice making time for necessary evils like routine maintenance in their schedule of otherwise fun or meaningful activities.  This helps them learn how to plan, organize, prioritize and suffer. 

• Sensitivity for others (or “Just because it doesn’t bother you to wallow in filth doesn’t mean I’m going to live in a pig sty!”)  It isn’t crucial that things be straightened or cleaned.  Exposure to germs and disease can help build the immune system (if it doesn’t kill you first).  But, there are some things you do because it is important to someone else (like, say, a spouse or the health department).  Chores provide your kids with a clear message that the world doesn’t revolve around them and they need to take others’ feelings and sensibilities into consideration.  

• Pride in a job well done (or “You call that done?  Get back in there and finish cleaning that room.”)  It is important to take pride in even the most insignificant tasks.  Chores help your kids learn that every task, however base, is an opportunity to work their hardest and do their best.  (The expression on their face when you feed them this line is priceless.)   

• Self-sufficiency (or “Why do I have to tell you every single time to replace the trash bag after you take out the trash?”)  OK, this reason really isn’t that important.  If your kid needs a lot of practice before he can skillfully take out the trash or sweep the floor, you have much bigger challenges than getting chores done.

Like so many time-honored parental expectations, household chores have a value more significant than the practical issue of household maintenance.  That said, what is the most important reason kids should do chores?
Because you said so, of course.

***

Guest post Author info: Dr. James G. Wellborn is a clinical psychologist with a private practice in Brentwood, Tenn., focusing on adolescents and families.  He is the author of the book Raising Teens in the 21st Century: A Practical Guide to Effective Parenting that includes a chapter on getting teens to do chores along with strategies for addressing 78 other typical teenage issues.  You can learn more about Dr. Wellborn by visiting his website at www.DrJamesWellborn.com

Red Velvet Cake {Recipe}

Hi I am Shannon from Coupon Savings In The South. I wanted to stop by and share one of my favorite recipes. Here is a recipe for Red Velvet Cake.

photo credit: texascooking via photopin cc

Ingredients:

1 ½ cup sugar

1 1/3 cup Wesson oil

1 cup buttermilk

2 ½ cup self rising flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 tablespoon vanilla

3 eggs

½ bottle red food coloring

Directions:

Mix sugar and oil together; add eggs 1 at a time and mix well. Add flour alternating with buttermilk (baking soda is added to buttermilk). Mix well. Add vanilla and food coloring. Pour into greased and floured pans cook at 350 for 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Icing Ingredients:

1 stick margarine

1 8 oz cream cheese

1 box 10x sugar

1 teaspoon sugar

1 cup of chopped nuts

Icing Directions:

Mix cream cheese, margarine, and 10 x sugar until smooth. Add vanilla and chopped nuts. Spread over the cool cake layers.

7 Fun Ways to Teach Kids about Thanksgiving

The below is a guest post from Mary Evett on how to share the meaning and history behind “Turkey Day” with your children.

Though kids may view Thanksgiving as the first stop on the school holiday vacation train, there’s a lot more for them to know about it than simply no class, stuffed turkey and whipped cream-topped pumpkin pie. Considering Thanksgiving is one of the only holidays in which children can learn about sharing, community, gratitude and compassion for others, it’s important to take the time to talk about its meaning.

This November, teach your children historically accurate facts about this important holiday by learning about the events that led up to the well-known first feast and doing creative Thanksgiving activities together. Share these activities with your nanny, so she can do them with your kids too.

  1. Read Together
    Share an educational story time with your children, no matter their age, by reading a Thanksgiving-themed book. Take turns reading or ask questions about the pictures, depending on individual reading levels. Use the opportunity to discuss similarities between people and the importance of treating everyone with respect. Check out books like: “The Pilgrims’ First Thanksgiving,” “Giving Thanks: The 1621 Harvest Feast,” “Samuel Eaton’s Day: A Day in the Life of a Pilgrim Boy,” or “P is For Pilgrim: A Thanksgiving Alphabet.”
  2. Journey to 1621
    Use the topic of Thanksgiving to investigate the journey of the pilgrims. Children can learn important historical facts in a fun, interactive way. Plimoth Plantation, a Massachusetts-based living history museum about the Plymouth Colony, provides an award-winning and free downloadable Thanksgiving activity that’s appropriate for children of any age. The site introduces children to a Wampanoag child and an English settler who lead them on their journey to uncover the truth and debunk popular myths about the first Thanksgiving. It provides different points of view on important historical events that happened between the Wampanoag people and the English settlers leading up to the first Thanksgiving in 1621 in an interesting, high-tech way.
  3. Visit the Mayflower
    The education experts at Scholastic have developed a complete and thorough unit on their websitededicated to Thanksgiving. In addition to holiday-themed book recommendations, printable worksheets and informative videos, the site allows children to take a virtual tour of the Mayflower. Kids can also learn what daily life was like for the pilgrims and Wampanoags by comparing their living quarters, schools, chores and games.
  4. Complete Thanksgiving Activity Sheets
    Find coloring sheets, word searches, hidden picture sheets or puzzles online that relate to Thanksgiving. Print a turkey pattern and its feathers, and have kids write what they are thankful for on each feather before gluing them to the turkey.
  5. Do Crafts that Teach Gratitude
    Children can construct a “Thankful Paper Chain” to count down the days until Thanksgiving. Have them write what they are thankful for on strips of construction paper and then loop them together. Another craft they can do is create a “Thankful Tree” by tracing your child’s hand on pieces of red, orange and yellow construction paper, and having them write why they are thankful on each. Then attach with glue to a brown tree trunk made of construction paper. You can also add pictures to a photo album or scrapbook of people, places, foods, pets, toys, movies or events that are special to your family. Include interesting stories of gratitude or explanations in your “Blessings Book.”
  6. Decorate the Feast Table
    Since Thanksgiving centers around making peace with people and sharing food, pay special attention to the table setting. Encourage children to make it special by constructing Thanksgiving-themed table decor themselves. Talk about what the pilgrims and Indians would have had available, and use those objects in your decorations. They can also use cardboard tubes, construction paper, pompom balls and googly eyes to make pilgrims and Indians to set at each place setting. Kids can cut leaf shapes out of construction paper and write the name of each guest on one side and why they are thankful for them on the other.
  7. Plan Games
    Games are a great way to learn anything in a competitive, but fun way. Have a relay race in which children pass holiday-themed items like acorns, cranberries, nuts, peas and corn kernels to each other using chopsticks. Play trivia with fun Thanksgiving facts or create Thanksgiving bingo cards with historical information or Thanksgiving foods in the squares.

Today, Thanksgiving is a holiday signified by loved ones coming together to share a meal and give thanks for each other. By taking the opportunity to explain its origin to children in creative ways, they can not only understand its historical importance, but its relevance in their everyday lives.

Guest Author: Mary Evett is a Contributor for Care.com, the largest online care destination in the world, and freelance writer covering all things Houston.

Holding On- A Guest Post For Caretakers Of Those With Disabilities

This is an excerpt from Caroline McGraw’s book for caregivers, Your Creed of Care: How to Dig for Treasure in People (Without Getting Buried Alive). To receive your complimentary copy of the book via email, visit Caroline’s blog for caregivers, A Wish Come Clear.

Pitfall #7: Holding On

I’m not a parent, so I can only imagine how difficult it must be: letting a babysitter watch your kids, letting them go off to school, to college, to the wider world. Add to that a child with a physical or intellectual disability, and the letting-go gets even more difficult. To let go, to trust another person with your child or sibling? It may seem impossible. Yet, it’s also extremely valuable, both for you and the person you love and care for.

I remember riding with my parents the first time we dropped my brother Willie off for a respite weekend. He’d be spending two days with a group in a local hotel, going to game nights and swimming in the pool. I knew that Willie would have a great time. Even so, I felt a rush of protectiveness and near-panic as he exited the car. I kept feeling a need to check on him, to make sure he was all right. I could tell that my mom felt this need even more than I did. Though she’d met the staff and talked to my brother extensively and prepared long lists of Willie’s routines and double-checked his food, clothes and medication supplies, she still felt anxious. She’d done all she could, but it all felt so insignificant as he disappeared from our sight. We all wanted to hold on to him as we drove away.

After that experience, I understand why one woman I know literally left the country after her brother came to L’Arche [a faith-based non-profit organization that creates homes where people with and without intellectual disabilities share life in community, where I served as a caregiver for five years]. She knew that, if she stayed within driving distance, she’d be sure to meddle with his care. As my mother did for my brother, this woman made extensive preparations to ensure that her brother would be well cared-for. However, when the moment to let go of her brother’s care came, she felt a strong temptation to hold on.

I’ve met other families who have held on to their children tightly over the years. They continue to treat their adult sons and daughters as children. These parents are holding on to their role as primary caregivers, even as their sons and daughters are trying to make a new home and new life for themselves. It’s always difficult to watch this dynamic, and even more challenging to be a care provider in the middle of it. The adult child in this situation has a choice: they can either rebel against their parents’ holding on, or comply with it…and feel guilty for feeling stifled. Most people choose the latter.

To parents, it can seem as though holding on in this way will keep their child safe. When I watched my brother walk into the hotel, I wanted nothing more than a promise that he would be all right. I wanted a guarantee, even though I know better. There are no guarantees. We can only know that, by holding on too tightly to those we love, we are not loving them as we should. As Martha Beck writes in Steering By Starlight: “The goal of real love is always to set the beloved free.”

We cannot wait for a time when we feel perfectly safe to open our hands.

***

Caroline McGraw is a would-be “childhood paleontologist” who digs for treasure in people. She writes about finding meaning in the most challenging relationships at A Wish Come Clear.

Get your Kid’s involved in a Sustainable Future {Guest Post}

If you’ve decided to build a new home, there are a number of energy efficient solutions that you should consider. Not only are sustainable practices great for your power bills, but they will also help to create a more liveable environment for your children and grandchildren. While it is important that you do all that you can to create a green home environment, educating your kids and involving them in environmentally friendly activities around the house can further assist in creating a sustainable future. Whether you’re building a new house or have decided to implement some environmentally friendly practices into your home, check out these ideas for getting your kids involved and educated.

Composting

Introducing your kids to the idea of composting can help them to understand that even leftover foods have their place in the environment. When building your new home, consider the floor plans and layout of your backyard to determine an area for your composting bin. A composting bin can be bought from various hardware stores and is relatively inexpensive. Composting will not only help your children to understand that waste products can be reused, but will also teach them appreciation for the environment.

Planting

When deciding to build, you often have the luxury of creating your dream garden. Spending days filled with sunshine in your backyard is the perfect way to relax, while still getting your family involved too. Most children love to plant and participate in gardening, particularly when they get to pick their very first strawberry or tomato from the garden. Creating a garden that allows you to harvest your own produce and give your children understanding about the value of nature, is a lifelong lesson that they’ll always remember.

Recycling

Getting kids to understand recycling at a young age is an invaluable lesson. Parents can make recycling fun, by creating a colorful system in the kitchen and also by showing kids how to reuse products. After Christmas, for instance, parents can create fun activities to reuse greeting cards by cutting and pasting pictures to make fun new creations.

Fun Education

If you’re building a new home, a number of house and land packages now come with energy efficient inclusions, such as solar panels, water tanks, energy efficient lighting and water saving fixtures. Teaching your kids about how your house works and how you are helping to create a sustainable future can encourage them to become more involved. Create fun, educational activities about how the solar panels on your roof allow you to watch our favorite television shows. The possibilities are endless, so start your kids on a greener path today.

Instilling good values in your children from a young age will help them to understand the value and importance of creating a sustainable future. While you’re educating your kids, you’ll also have the opportunity to create fun family memories of days spent together in the sunshine.

{Disclosure: This is a guest post. All opinions and thoughts are the writer’s. I have been compensated for posting this.}

Breakfast: Thinking Inside And Outside The Box

The following excerpt is taken from the new edition of Food Fights: Winning the Nutritional Challenges of Parenthood Armed With Insight, Humor and a Bottle of Ketchup (American Academy of Pediatrics, March 2012) by Laura A. Jana, MD, FAAP and Jennifer Shu, MD, FAAP. For more information about Food Fights, please visit www.HealthyChildren.org, the official American Academy of Pediatrics web site for parents.

It’s easy to see how breakfast has come to qualify as one of the nutritional challenges of parenthood. Whether it’s your own parental time constraints or your child’s busy schedule, getting the whole family ready to set off to child care and/or school in the morning, play dates, or any of a whole host of other common early-in-the-day commitments, breakfast is often neglected. If the words “slow” and “leisurely” don’t exactly describe your morning routine, we’d like to suggest that you commit a little extra time and effort to protecting the nutritional integrity of your child’s morning meal. Whether you opt for a simple breakfast or a more elaborate one, any effort to make it nutritious is better than no breakfast at all. Whether that means a glass of low-fat milk and a piece of wheat toast or an all-out feast, the following breakfast-made-easier tips will hopefully help you rise to the occasion and overcome some of the most common barriers to a healthy breakfast.

Schedule Accordingly. While we’d like to remind you that sitting down and sharing family meals is beneficial, we’re willing to bet that sitting down to a leisurely breakfast with your kids each morning simply isn’t realistic for most of you (or us, for that matter). What is realistic, however, is making sure you carve out enough time to allow your child to eat without pressure. Especially for infants and toddlers, this includes factoring in enough time in the morning’s schedule to allow for both assisted- and self-feeding.

Fix Breakfast Before Bedtime.In other words, plan ahead. As with just about all other aspects of feeding your child, a little advance planning can go a long way toward having a wider range of healthy foodson hand. Simple examples such as hard-boiling eggs ahead of time orhaving your child’s favorite cold cereal dished out the night before to pair with some presliced fresh fruit can mean the difference between time for a balanced breakfast and running out the door without it (or, as is often the case, with some commercially packaged and far less nutritious alternative in hand).

Grab-and-Go Breakfasts. If the reality of your schedule is such that you and your kids routinely run out the door with no time to spare in the morning, then try stocking up on a variety of nutritious foods that you can pre-prepare and prepackage for healthier grab-and-go convenience. In addition to hard-boiled eggs, consider other fast favorites like sliced apples, homemade muffins, or a bagel with low-fat cream cheese.

Make Sure Sleep Is on the Menu. Applying the age-old adage, make sure your child is early enough to bed that she rises early enough to allow time for breakfast. No matter what their age, tired kids tend to be cranky, and cranky kids are far less likely to sit down for a well-balanced breakfast. Not only that, but sleep has proven itself to be a crucial ingredient in children’s overall health.


Broaden Your Horizons. You’ll certainly want to keep safety in mind when figuring out what’s age-appropriate to offer your child for breakfast, but don’t let yourself be constrained by artificially imposed labels to determine what is good to serve for a morning meal. Think protein, think fruits and vegetables, and think outside the box when it comes to expanding your breakfast horizons beyond just breakfast cereals and milk.

Look for Child Care and School Support. Be sure to check out what breakfast options your child’s school or child care provider offers. With much-deserved attention now being paid to the food our children eat in out-of-home settings, you’re more likely to find balanced breakfast options on the menu, and your child may well be more receptive to eating them if all of his friends are eating alongside him.

(Disclosure: I was compensated for this post. This is a guest post and all thoughts and opinions belong to the author.)

7 Ways To Help Other Women

Today, March 8 is International Women’s Day when thousands of events are held to honor the achievements of women around the world. Cindy Breilh, Women of Vision national director, offers seven easy ways for women to provide for daughters, sisters and mothers — women around the world, right in our own neighborhoods and here at home.

1. Save a woman’s life in child birth:
Did you know that in countries like Afghanistan, Sierra Leone, and Bolivia, having a baby is one of the most dangerous things a woman can do? By helping train local midwives in remote communities, you could save a life. Visit StrongWomenStrongWorld.org to learn more.

2. Mentor a girl close to home:
A growing poverty rate, poor-performing schools, and teen violence make it tough to be a girl growing up here in our own country. Reach out and influence the life of a young girl in your own community by volunteering as a tutor or mentor. Get connected at BBBS.org.

3. Use your voice to stop trafficking:
Human trafficking and sexual exploitation affects girls and women in horrific ways all around the world, but the Trafficking Victims Protection Act in the US Senate can help end the practice. Contact your Senators and ask them to renew this bill to protect women and girls, both here in the US and around the world.

4. Invest in a small business owner:
Websites like WorldVisionMicro.org or Kiva.org connect you to hardworking women entrepreneurs, waiting to realize their dream of a dressmaking business, chicken farm, or food stall that will help them provide for their family. Even better, when the loan is paid off, your donated funds are loaned out again and again to make a bigger impact.

5. Provide the ticket to education—clean water:
One of the most common reasons girls in poor communities miss schooling is the lack of clean water in their village. Millions of girls and women spend several hours each day fetching water—often dirty and dangerous to their health—instead of attending school. Give the gift of clean water, and open the door to education for a young girl.

6. Band together with like-minded women:
Whatever your passion for helping other women, you’ll do it better—and have more fun doing it—with other women excited about the same cause. National movements like Women of Vision can connect you to a network of resources while allowing you to grow your own local group of women who want to make the world better for girls and their mothers.

7. Tell the women in your life that you care:
Empowering women starts right in our families, workplaces, and neighborhoods. Celebrate this International Women’s Day by writing a note of thanks to that teacher who encouraged you years ago, picking up coffee for that new mom in your office who’s struggling to balance it all, or telling your own sister, daughter, or mother how much you appreciate them.

(Disclosure: I was not compensated for this post.)

Saving For College {It’s Never Too Early To Start}

This post is part of Women’s Money Week 2012. For more posts about Saving & Investing see Saving and Investing Roundup. This is a guest post written by my dad, Bill, who does this for a living so he really knows what he is talking about!
 

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the tuition component of the Consumer Price Index (CPI) increased by 8% per year, on average, from 1979 to 2001. This means that children born today will face college costs that are 3 to 4 times current prices by the time they matriculate.

Parents should expect to pay at least half to two-thirds of their children’s college costs through a combination of savings, current income, and loans. Gift aid from the government, the colleges and universities, and private scholarships accounts for only about a third of total college costs.

Accordingly, it is very important that parents start saving for their children’s education as soon as possible, even as early as the day the child is born. Time is one of your most valuable assets. The sooner you start saving for college, the more time your money will have to grow.

If you start saving early enough, even a modest weekly or monthly investment can grow to a significant college fund by the time the child matriculates. For example, saving $50 a month from birth would yield about $20,000 by the time the child turns 17, assuming a 7% return on investment. Saving $200 a month would yield almost $80,000.

It is less expensive to save for college than to borrow. Either way, you’re setting aside a portion of your income to pay for college. But when you save, the money earns interest, while when you borrow, you’re paying the interest. Paying for college before your child matriculates definitely costs much less than paying for college afterward. Saving $200 a month for ten years at 7% interest would yield $34,818.89. Borrowing the same amount at 6.8% interest with a ten year term would require payments of $400.70 a month. At 8.5% interest the payments increase to $431.70 a month. (If your return on investment is 4% instead of 7%, you’d accumulate $29,548.13. Borrowing this amount at 6.8% interest would entail monthly payments of $340.04; at 8.5% interest the monthly payments would be $366.35. If your return on investment is 10%, you’d accumulate $41,310.40, corresponding to monthly payments of $475.40 at 6.8% and $512.19 at 8.5%.) So if you elect to borrow instead of saving, you will be paying 1.7 to 2.6 times as much per month.

Even if college is just a year or two away, it is never too late to start saving. There are tax benefits to saving in a college savings plan or prepaid tuition plan, and every dollar you save is a dollar less you’ll need to borrow. For additional information visit my website.

Teach Your Preschooler To Share Through Early Lessons In Cooperation (Guest Post)

Cooperation is a basic life skill that allows us to make friends, work successfully in groups and get along well with others. Unfortunately though, babies are not born knowing how to cooperate or share, this ability is learned through interactions and experiences with parents and other significant care givers. Around age three, children begin to practice real cooperation through their play by sharing and taking turns.

“Cooperation and sharing are key character traits that teach children how to get along with others,” said Dr. Mary Zurn (V.P. of education for Primrose Schools). “Parents and teachers encourage and model these traits because they are critical for children to understand. They help children to form friendships and to have harmonious and respectful interactions with others. Sharing is a necessary daily activity that builds a foundation for positive character development and is a common thread that runs through caring, cooperation, generosity and citizenship.”

Here are a few tips that parents can use to teach children cooperation skills at home:

Model Cooperative Behavior: You are your child’s first teacher, and your behavior greatly influences the way your child acts and feels. Modeling cooperative behavior and talking to your child about lending a helping hand sets the expectation that these are important values. For example, you could say “If we work together to clean up the kitchen after dinner, we’ll all be able to listen to the new book you borrowed from the library.”

Family Projects: Plan a family project that includes a task for each family member, such as starting a vegetable or flower garden, mapping out the family vacation or playing a game. Help them see the fun in working together to accomplish a goal.

Cooperation Soup: Cooking is a perfect time to learn about cooperation because children can actively help by gathering ingredients, measuring, mixing and then serving and eating.

Making Music: The way children respond to music is magical. Listen to a short piece of music and discuss how the members of the chorus, band or orchestra worked together to make a beautiful sound. It’s easy to gather a simple set of rhythm instruments that children can use to keep time with the music or just sing along with a song on a CD. If you record their production, they will love hearing it over and over knowing that they accomplished it together.

Submitted by Emily Patterson on behalf of Primrose Schools. For over 25 years, they have helped individuals achieve higher levels of success by providing them with an AdvancED® accredited, early child care services and education.  Through an accelerated Balanced Learning® preschool curriculum, Primrose Schools students are exposed to a widely diverse range of subject matter giving them a much greater opportunity to develop mentally, physically and socially. Emily has written a number of articles on topics varying from bilingual learning to teaching the importance of volunteering. 

 (Disclosure: This post was submitted by an advertiser on MakingTimeForMommy.com.)

Guest Post: Have A Budding Artist?

Do you have a child who loves to draw? “Oh Brother!” Comic strip illustrator and writer Bob Weber, Jr. offers kids and parents step by step instructions on cartooning:

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Bob Weber, Jr. draws pictures for a living. He draws the children’s comic, “Slylock Fox and Comics For Kids,” and he also writes the jokes for the daily strip, “Oh, Brother!”
Role Mommy asked Bob Weber, Jr. to share his advice and best practices with any budding cartoonists out there, and this is what he had to say:

“If you like to draw and aspire to be a professional cartoonist, all you need to get started is a pencil, paper, and the determined desire to draw every single day. The more you practice drawing, the better your cartoons will be. Many aspiring cartoonists spend a lot of time drawing faces. That’s fun, but you’ll need the ability to draw a wide range of things in order to effectively illustrate your jokes or stories in an interesting and convincing manner. Go to the library or bookstore to find cartooning lesson books. These books can be valuable resources for learning to draw faces, hands, motion, backgrounds and perspective. You might also want to consider taking a cartoon class in your area.

Another terrific way to greatly improve your drawing skills is by studying the work of cartoonists that you admire. Allow yourself to be influenced by the styles and techniques of successful cartoonists. In most cases, the cartoonists you admire were themselves influenced by cartoonists that came before them. Don’t worry about your art looking too much like those you admire. Over time, as you continue to practice, your own unique drawing style will develop.

Finally, a cartoonist needs an idea before he or she draws. Being a good artist isn’t enough. You need to be somewhat smart, clever and witty. The more you know about the world around you, the more brain food you have to feed your imagination, and the more interesting your cartoons will be. Read as much as you can. Pay attention to the people and world around you. By observing the everyday activities that take place around you, you will soon find that you have plenty of ideas to draw from.

Now go find a pencil and draw, draw, draw!”

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For more great advice on cartooning, visit the “How to Draw” section on the “Oh Brother!” website. And don’t forget to enter your child into the “Oh Brother!” Is Your Kid a Character contest where one lucky child will get the chance to be featured in a nationally syndicated comic strip! All you need to do is fill out the form provided on this post, tell us a brief funny story about your child and he or she will be entered to win. A panel of humor and lifestyle bloggers will select the winners. Results will be revealed the week of March 21.

*This post is sponsored by the Role Mommy Writer’s Network.

Guest Post: Financial Planning For College

The following is a guest post written by my father. This is not a compensated post but I am letting him share here because he is so passionate about sharing this message with everyone. To find out more about this, or any other insurance product, you can call or email him (contact information below). It’s free to find out more information and get your questions answered and he’s really knowledgeable- and I’m not just saying that because he’s my dad! :)

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IT’S IMPORTANT TO SEND YOUR CHILDREN TO COLLEGE.

YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE WEALTHY IN ORDER TO DO IT!

YOU JUST NEED A PLAN.

FREEDOMFLEX ® is the plan that can make this a reality.

Our college planning services were designed for families such as yours, who desire a college education for their children. When coupled with Freedomflex, it provides death protection on the lives of the parent(s) in the event of premature death, while providing a tax deferred environment in which cash values accumulate. These cash values can be used as an emergency source of funds, to help repay college loans, or to help supplement your retirement benefits. The lender is approved under the Title IV provisions of the Higher Education Act, and has loaned millions of dollars to families for educational expenses. Members and their students have access to college/career profiles, scholarship searches, financial aid form reviews, counseling and advice on college related matters, and many other services. Overall, these services provide you with a systematic method of preparing for your children’s education.

FREEDOMFLEX® offers an exceptionally valuable service. The education services coupled with, the life insurance policy provides the following:

A cash accumulation account with competitive guaranteed and current interest rates with no minimums and no surrender charges. This account will allow you to shelter certain assets to qualify for the maximum amount in government grants and subsidized orunsubsidized loans. This account also provides a way to accumulate transition money for students to use after graduation for such things as clothing for job interviews or deposits for living expenses when they are on their own.

An option to redirect your non-insurance premium to an alternative cash accumulation vehicle that can experience a higher growth rate.

A death benefit to pay for college, or to pay off student loans used for college expenses, or to supplement family income in order to allow the student to stay in college if the parent dies.

A disability benefit to self complete the plan for both life insurance and savings features.

The plan provides continuous service long after high school graduation, throughout the entire college experience. In addition, the lender is approved under the Title IV provisions of theHigher Education Act and makes a commitment to you to lend you all the money you need to complete your student financial aid requirements. In the changing environment of today’s student financial aid arena, it is a valuable thing, knowing that your loans will be there. You have flexibility in your service, flexibility in your options, and the flexibility to determine what is best for you, with your plan.

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For additional information, or to set up a FreedomFlex® plan with access to the college planning services, please contact Bill toll free at: 866-763-2196 or email: wpeiffer@ismamerica.com.

Insure that the money for college is there when it’s time, even if you aren’t…

Super Bowl XLV: The Ultimate Man Date (Guest Post)

The following is a guest post by Beth Feldman:

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Ask any football loving fan what their dream date would be and nine times out of 10 he’ll say tickets to the Super Bowl. As my father-in-law always says, “you can’t put a price on a good time,” so if you’re considering biting the bullet and treating your significant other to the ultimate “Man Date,” follow this game plan and you’ll come up a winner:

Super Bowl Tickets – You can reserve seats for the big game on StubHub – Ticket prices start at $2200 all the way up to nearly $400,000 for a coveted spot in the Hall of Fame Suite. If you’ve just won Powerball, then the Super Bowl Hall of Fame option is definitely for you. The best thing about Stub Hub is that fans are constantly buying and selling tickets on the site so you should keep checking back to see what’s available or hedge your bets, and lock in right now!

Flights – While you can always hit the websites for your favorite airlines, my suggestion is to head over to Trip Advisor where you can select whether you’d like to take a non-stop or connecting flight and they arrange everything by price. Plus, there are ratings by customers on which flights they prefer.

Hotel Reservations – Head on over to the Arlington, Texas website which has detailed information on hotels in the area. You can aim for the Ritz Carlton, Hilton or a motel (if you’ve blown all your cash on the Super Bowl tix.)

Rental Car – If you’re flying into Dallas/Ft. Worth airport, then head on over to RentalCars.com for a breakdown of all the rental car facilities near the airport. That way, you can choose from a diverse array of options and price points.

Things to Do While in Arlington – If you’re in town for the weekend, visit the NFL Super Bowl website for details about some great charity events taking place throughout the weekend that feature appearances by NFL players. Plus, the City of Arlington’s official website also offers suggestions for attractions and dining options in the area.

So there you have it – treat your significant other to the ultimate “Man Date” and by the time Valentine’s Day hits, you should be on the receiving end of something big and sparkly.

(Disclosure: The post was sponsored by the Role Mommy Writer’s Network.)

Guest Post: Easing Separation

The following is a guest post by Jessica of I’m Not Your Everyday Average Mom!

I have recently started working out again. I figured after 18 months I can no longer say that I “just had” a baby and am carrying around baby weight. My husband wanted to get back into shape too from his “baby weight” and we decided that the best choice for our family was to join the local YMCA. They have a great work out facility, exercise classes for me, and a large adult pool plus a kiddy pool that is 10 degrees warmer than the adult pool. The kid’s pool stars off at 0 feet and slowly goes deeper so both of my kids can enjoy it without us holding them the whole time! Our kids’ favorite part of the YMCA is the gigantic water slide that we are allowed to take them down on. MY favorite part of the YMCA is the FREE childcare that is offered! They have an outdoor play area, an inside classroom area, and then a climber inside for kids to play on.

My son gets excited to go and play, but my daughter on the other hand develops superman like strength and clings onto me with a death grip. She then shakes her head back and forth and says “no, no, no, no!” I hate having to pry her off of me and hand her to the gal that works there, but I know in 5 minutes she will be laughing and running around with her brother and all of the other kids! It is just so heart wrenching to see her cry and get upset because I am leaving her there. It has gotten much better over the past 3 weeks and I feel like she is doing well because of a few things that I am doing.

I have had to remember what I learned in school about child development (I am a certified teacher birth-8th grade), and how to make transitions smoother for children.

Here are a few tips and things that I have been trying, and I find that they are working well!

  • Don’t sneak out…I know that it is hard not to, because you won’t have to see the melt down, but tell your child goodbye and that you will be back to pick them up soon! That way you are not disappearing, but telling your child what is going on.
  • Know the person’s name that is going to be looking after you child. I have been saying to my daughter “Look, it’s Amy! Remember her? She is going to play with you while mommy is in the gym!”
  • Let your child bring their blanket, stuffed animal, or other comfort item with them. I have been letting my daughter bring in her blanket. She usually ditches it within the first 10 min, but it helps her to have something of comfort when I leave.
  • Give them some extra cuddle and love time when you get back!

I know that things will get easier and she will soon LOVE to go and play! It is just going to take time!

What tips and tricks do you use when dropping off your child at a day care, or when leaving them with a sitter to make things easier?

To read more from Jessica visit her blog!
Create your own banner at mybannermaker.com!

New Ways To Handle 6 Typical Baby and Toddler Scenarios

The following is a guest post from Dr. Jenn Berman, author of SuperBaby:

The way we communicate with our children is profound. Simple word choices completely change our children’s perception. As parents, we are constantly met with limit testing and resistance. The following are some effective methods for handling some typically tough situations using respectful communication. These easy-to-use scripts can be used over and over again in all kinds of situations that typically arise in the first three years.

Situation: Your baby cries as you are changing her diaper.
Instead of saying: “You’re okay.”
Try this: Narrate what you see. “I hear you crying. You sound really upset. I get the feeling you don’t want me to change your diaper. I will try to change it as fast as I can so you are not uncomfortable for long.”
Why: In that moment your child isn’t okay. If you were upset and your friend told you “You’re okay,” you would not feel heard. Narrating the experience your child is having allows her to know that you hear and respect her feelings. You are still holding the boundary (i.e., she is still having her diaper changed), but you are doing it with compassion. By reflecting her feelings, you also teach her how to be empathic, which helps in the development of emotional intelligence.

Situation: Your child drops a toy on the ground and has a meltdown.
Instead of saying: “Get over it! It’s just a toy!”
Try this: “I see you dropped your toy. You seem really upset! You look like you weren’t done playing with it.”
Why: Sure, to you or me, it is just a toy that fell on the ground, but to your child, this is genuinely upsetting. Demonstrating empathy is far more likely to help her calm down and to feel heard. By responding to her in this way, you become a safe and understanding source of comfort to her.

Situation: Your toddler does not want to climb into her booster chair.
Instead of saying: “Get in your chair, now!”
Try this: “Do you want to climb in or do you want Mom to put you in?”
Why: This gives the power back to your child while still setting the limit. Now there is less reason for her to resist. If she still refuses to get in the booster chair, you might say, “It looks like you are not hungry. Maybe you are too tired to eat. Your choices are chair or crib. You choose.”

Situation: Your son does a great job cleaning up after playtime.
Instead of saying: “What a good boy!”
Try this: You can say, “You put all your toys away! You even put all your books in the basket where they belong!”
Why: The implication is that he is a “good” boy for putting away his toys, so if he doesn’t, he must be a “bad” boy. The words “good” and “bad” connote moral judgment. Children are not “bad” because they don’t do what we ask. A child who is labeled “good” can feel as if he duped his parents when he does something not so “good.” He may also avoid taking a risk, like putting a toy away if he isn’t sure where it goes, because he doesn’t want to lose the title of “good boy.” You are better off describing what you see. This makes your child feel seen and valued.

Situation: At a playdate, your child hits another kid over the head with a toy, resulting in tears.
Instead of saying: “Say you’re sorry!”
Try this: “You hit Carley over the head with that toy. She looks really upset. What can you do to help her feel better? Let’s ask her what we can do to help her.”
Why: Forcing a child to say “I’m sorry” does not magically make her feel sorry. Making children say they are sorry when they don’t really feel sorry teaches them to be insincere. Encouraging your child to help the injured party teaches him about making amends and helping others.

Situation: Your child throws her food on the floor.
Instead of saying: “Stop it!”
Try this: “When you throw food on the floor, it makes me think that you are done eating. It you do it again, the meal will be over.”
Why: When children first get to sit in a high chair, they are curious to see what happens when they drop food. By following the recommended script, you let your child know the consequences of the action, you set up a rule, and you put the power back in her court. She can choose to end the meal by throwing food on the floor, but it is her choice. If she has a meltdown after you remove her from the high chair, your job is to hold your ground, but reflect her feelings (“I know you weren’t done and you wanted to stay in your chair. We can try again at lunch”). If you follow through with the stated consequence, the odds are that the situation won’t happen again for quite some time.

6 Tips To Encourage Language Development

The following is a guest post by Dr. Jenn Berman, author of SuperBaby:

It has been shown that the sheer number of words spoken to a child is directly proportionate to the size of her vocabulary. However, this applies only to direct conversations you have with your child. The words she overhears from television, videos, radio, or other conversations do not count.

While the techniques recommended below were developed for children who are having trouble learning language, they are beneficial for any child. When using any of these methods, avoid seeming to correct your child’s language which can discourage language use.

Technique: Modeling
Description: Model the correct word your child is trying to say without correcting her.
Example: Child says, “Baba!” while pointing to bottle. Dad then says, “Would you like your bottle?”

Technique: Self-talk
Description: Describe what you are doing, thinking, feeling, seeing, or hearing.
Example: “Now I am putting your dirty clothes into the hamper. I want to make sure they are clean for the next time you want to wear them.”

Technique: Parallel talk
Description: Describe what your child is doing.
Example: “Shayla is putting away her toys.”

Technique: Expansion
Description: Develop a child’s utterance into a complete sentence, expanding on it without changing the order of the words or intended meaning.
Example: Child says, “Mommy eat.” Mom then says, “Yes, Mommy is eating lunch with Ashley.”

Technique: Recasting
Description: Create a statement or question based upon the child’s statement while also adding new information or sharing correct pronunciation.
Example: Child says, “You shirt is lellow!” and then dad replies, “Yes, my shirt is yellow!”

Technique: Extension
Description: Add information to a topic your child has initiated without necessarily modeling a complete sentence.
Example: Child says, “Airplane!” then Mom says, “Big airplane high in the sky!”

Guest Post: Price Matching 101

*The following is a guest post from Shelly at Coupon Teacher.  She loves to save time and money.*

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First, let me preface my post by saying that I am not endorsing Walmart in this post.  As a matter of fact, I avoid going to Walmart like the plague.  But for busy moms, stores that price match, including Walmart, can be an easy solution to saving money.

What is Price Matching?

Several grocery stores, electronics stores, and office supply stores offer what is called price matching.  In other words, they will give you the advertised price on an EXACT item that you planned to purchase at another store.  Let’s say I really need Kraft cheese, Dannon Yogurt, and Cheerios at the store.   Those items probably aren’t all on sale at the same store at the same time.  Pricing matching means, I would look through my ads for those items, circle the prices, and take the ads with me to the store that is willing to price match.

Here is the Price Matching policy from Walmart (most other price matching stores have similar policies):

  • We do not honor advertisements that require a purchase in order to receive the advertised price or free product.
  • We do not honor “Buy One / Get One Free” advertisements.
  • We do not honor double or triple coupons or percent off advertisements.
  • We do not honor other retailers’ “Misprinted” advertised prices.
  • We do not honor Internet Pricing.
  • We do not honor competitor advertisements from outside of the store’s or Club’s local trade territory.

How does it save you time?

Well, if you are like me and trying to save money for your family, you go to more than one store each week for groceries.  I go to each store in my area and buy what is on sale.  This can get to be pretty time consuming and use a lot of gas (my stores are all within a mile of each other and closer than my Walmart).  There are only two ways that price matching takes up your time.  It takes a few minutes to look through the ads, and it will take longer at the checkout than a regular transaction.  Assuming your checker has the register under control; it should still save you a ton of time over running around to different stores.

How does it save you money?

You will get the sale price for the item, which would usually be lower than the store’s regular price.  At Walmart and some other price matching stores, you can still use coupons on the items you price match.  It will also save you money on gas, because you aren’t running to different stores all week.

I am definitely not saying that Price Matching is for everyone, but it can be a valuable tool for saving money.

What about you, do you price match items?

Shelly is a full-time fourth grade teacher and blogs at Coupon Teacher. She wants you to share and celebrate your successes with her, and she may give you a few tips along the way!  Right now, she is offering a free savvy shopping course.  She would love for you to join her!

Guest Post: Avoiding The Summer Reading Slump

4708541783_73def324fa.jpegGuest contributor and MobiStories.com producer Wendy Toone, offers great tips on how your kids can avoid brain drain when they’re out of school. Take a look…

It’s Summertime! Catching fireflies, eating dinner on the deck, swimming, no school!!!

What have your kids been doing? Waking up late, lazing around in front of the TV? It’s nice to decompress after the school year. For a few days. But now what?? Camps, classes, playdates can fill up the days and keep the kids active and occupied. But my fear is always that their brains will turn to mush by mid-July, leaving them (and in turn, me) frustrated and floundering come mid-September when they’re back in school with flabby grey matter that hasn’t been exercised in way too long.

According to Kent State Graduate School of Education’s Dr. Timothy Rasinski, professor of literacy education, students can lose as much as 3 month’s worth of reading level over the summer. Research shows that younger elementary school students rarely make up deficits in reading once they fall behind. Conversely, students who read during the summer could end up 3 months ahead, too.

So, why not be even just a little pro-active in keeping your kids reading. That doesn’t mean they need to plow through “War and Peace” by August 24th. Here are just a few FUN ways reading can become part of your family’s summer fun activities:

Don’t fight TV: Kids insist on watching TV? Try letting them… with the sound off and the closed caption on (sneakyyyyy)

Act it out: Get the whole family in the act and tackle one of the classics as a play. How fun is “Charlotte’s Web” when every family member plays a different character and reads aloud…don’t forget to speak in accents and voices, use arm motions, whatever to have FUN.

Campfire stories: The art of storytelling is the original ‘reading’ before the printed page…. Everything sounds good around a fire – family memories, ghost stories, or fairy tales can captivate kids. Try a “make-it-up” story where everyone adds just one line at a time.”

Discover the classics : Treasuries of classic literature is available for even younger readers that may not be ready for the “real” version. Advanced readers can expand their world with the likes of Jules Verne and Mark Twain in addition to Stephenie Meyer and JK Rowling!

Log reading hours in a Read-A-Thon : Several non-profit groups such as Reading Is Fundamental and PBS Kids have read-a-thons that can be found on the web. Great goal-setting activity for the summer as well!

Use Your Local Library!! So many summer programs are available for all ages/reading levels. Story/song time for toddlers, book clubs for tweens and teens…And they’re FREE!

Organize a Book Swap: Get together with friends and neighbors to exchange previously read books. This allows the kids to read the latest titles (not always available at the library) while you save $$.

Get your kids excited about reading this summer by getting them excited about stories in new ways to keep them from suffering the “Summer Reading Slump.”

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Wendy Toone is a child expert, having owned and operated a leading children’s fitness center and now produces MobiStories, Digital Books for KidsTM. She is a cableAce-award winning television producer and has worked on hundreds of television commercials as a Production Manager after spending a decade onstage as a professional dancer. Wendy’s two children have been inspirational in the creation of MobiStories.

To download a free digital book for your PC visit MobiStories.com, click on Summer (in the Ages 2 – 4 category) add it to the cart and Michelle Obama then enter the code SUM0710 in the Coupon Code Box. Here’s a How To video for reference as well.

To purchase more stories, visit Mobistories on iTunes.

(Disclosure: I am being compensated for posting this guest post. I do, however, believe that reading to children and keeping their literacy skills sharp during the summer are very important and I think that MobiStories.com is a great resource for families.)

Don’t Turn Away

Below is a guest post from Kristi Stephens about the upcoming series on her blog.

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I have an odd defense mechanism with things that make me uncomfortable – I go to sleep!

When on long car trips through the mountains with no exits in sight, or stuck in a traffic jam in a tunnel, and we start to run low on gas, I lean my seat back and sleep (when NP is driving, of course!) I figure that if we are going to run out of gas, it will happen whether I am awake and anxious or asleep and blissfully unaware – most likely we’ll be fine, so I might as well avoid the stress and sleep!

There are a lot of horrifying and evil things in this world that I would rather not think about. I find myself metaphorically sleeping in my seat to avoid anxiety.

Human trafficking is one of those issues I would rather not think about.

Chew on these stats – read them out loud if it will help them sink in.

  • 100,000 girls, ages 9-19, are trafficked in commercial sexual exploitation in the U.S.
  • 3,000 children are forced into commercial sexual exploitation at any given time, just in San Francisco.

  • 1.2 million children are trafficked internationally each year
  • As many as 4 million women and girls are bought and sold worldwide every year.

Horrifying.

I’m guessing most of us are like me – we’d rather close our eyes, stay blissfully unaware. We figure it’s going to happen whether we know about it or not, so we might as well ignore it.

It’s time to wake up, friends. There are things we can do.

The more I learn about human trafficking, the more it vividly illustrates for me my state as a former slave, redeemed from the bondage of sin. Christ paid the price with His own blood to redeem my life from the pit – the least I can do in return is to tell others about the freedom available through my Savior. And as a former slave, redeemed by a God who loves justice and mercy, I feel compelled to do all I can to secure freedom for the millions of physical slaves in this sin-marred world.

I humbly ask you to join me on this journey. For the next two weeks- the weeks before we commemorate the blood-price paid for our freedom – it is my honor to host Gillian Ferdwerda from Women at Risk, International here on KristiStephens.com. Gillian will be sharing amazing stories, horrifying statistics… and hope. Women at Risk, also known as WAR, is on the front lines – helping to find, rescue, love women and children who have been sold, abused, betrayed, forgotten. There are so many ways we can help.

So please be sure to read this amazing series. Visit Women at Risk, International’s website. Learn all you can about trafficking. Tell your friends. Post links on facebook, twitter, or your blog. Please help spread the word – wake us from our slumber.

If you are a blogger and would like to help, please grab this button for your blog – the more who hear, the better.

BWS tips button

Code: <a href=”http://www.krististephens.com/redeemed”><img src=”http://www.krististephens.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/WAR-page.jpg” alt=”BWS tips button” width=”150″ height=”125″></a>

Let’s proclaim freedom for the captives in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Career Chaos: How to Raise a Family While Climbing the Corporate Ladder

The following is a guest post from Candi Wingate, President of Care4Hire.com.

It’s a struggle that many of us face: running a household while running off to work.  Sometimes the sheer volume of “stuff” that we have to accomplish – from leading a staff meeting to leading the Cub Scout troop – is just staggering.

Here are some tips to help you feel more in control:

  • Empower your children to be independent.  Let them choose their own healthy snacks, outfits and so forth.  You won’t be sweating the small stuff, and they’ll be delighted with the “power’ that you’ve given them.
  • Embrace your imperfections.  So you didn’t serve a home-cooked meal tonight.  Who cares?  Serve your frozen lasagna with a smile.
  • Focus on work while you’re at work and on home when you’re at home.  Don’t worry about your emails, to do lists and pending meetings while you’re spending time with your kids.  Likewise, don’t worry about your kids while you’re at work. You’ve left them in capable, loving care, so focus on your work and get it done so you can get home to them.
  • Force yourself to disconnect.  In today’s age of laptops, iPhones and Blackberries, you’re always accessible and “on the clock.”  Learn that it’s OK to shut down all of your electronics to play board games (or help with homework, or go for a walk) with your kids.
  • “Hire” your child as your assistant.  Occasionally, I need to work while I’m home with my kids.  They used to pout about it until I hired them to help me.  I give them special projects, like filling the paper tray on my printer, sharpening my pencils and even (supervised) paper shredding.  They also enjoy doing “paperwork” (coloring or workbooks) at their desks, while I work at mine.

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Care4hire.com is an online database for families and caregivers to search babysitters, housekeepers, tutors, elder/companion care, pet sitters and other miscellaneous service.   A free preview of available caregivers is available to families. Whether you need a caregiver for a few hours to a few days, you will find it at Care4hire.com. Once you are a registered member, you will be given immediate access to caregiver through email and phone.

Candi has offered to giveaway 1 Gift Certificate for a free membership ($34.99 retail value) to Care4hire.com; which gives you 1 month to login and contact caregivers. I recommend this service to others since before my children I was actually a nanny on this site. Please note that I have received no compensation in any form for doing this post. I just think that every mom occasionally needs some time to rediscover the woman she was before she had children and some quiet time or time out can help her do this :)

Also, remember this website not only offers caregivers for children but pet sitters, elder care, tutors, housekeepers, and more!

To enter the giveaway:

1) Mandatory entry– Leave a comment below with what you would do if you had a day to yourself.

Additional Entries (make sure to leave a separate comment below with each entry):

2) Become a friend of Care4Hire on Twitter

3) Become a friend of Alicia (Making Time For Mommy) on Twitter

4) Subscribe to the Care4Hire blog

5) Subscribe to the Making Time For Mommy blog

6) Tweet the following: “Free month of services at Care4Hire.com from @aliciamarie112 & @Care4Hire at www.makingtimeformommy.com #giveaway”

7) Become a fan of Care4Hire on Facebook

8) Become a fan of Making Time For Mommy on Facebook

This giveaway will end on March 4, 2010 at 11:59pm Central Time. The winner will be contacted via email so be sure to leave an email address.

How To Get A Job In Social Media- The Mom’s Guide

Today you can find me as a guest blogger on ‘The (UN)Experienced Mom’. I love Tamara’s tagline- “Just when I figured out what to do, I went and added #2” because as a mom of two little ones I feel the very same way!

My post today is a practical guide to getting a job in social media if you are just getting into the business. Check it out and let me know what you think!

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How To Get A Job In Social Media

Create a Child’s Wardrobe on a Budget

I am very excited to announce that today is my first time guest posting on a blog. You can find me sharing my tips on how to find cheap clothes for your children at the website ‘Saving Cents With Sense’ here. Thank you Melissa for giving me the opportunity to meet your readers :)

Create a Child’s Wardrobe on a Budget