Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Date Night!

While you may feel like "mommy duty" will never end and that you and your husband have become little more than ships passing in the night, then do not delay to plan (and execute!) a date night! Do not let excuses such as no money, no babysitter, no ideas, no time keep you from doing this. It is SO IMPORTANT for your marriage that you not let these years pass by with you're thinking of each other more as mommy and daddy than sweetie, honey, dear, lovey, get the point. I've heard from brilliant friends who have found ways around the potential road blocks to your night (or morning) away from the kiddos.

1. NO MONEY: Aren't the vast majority of us in this boat? The expenses at this stage in life seem to pile so high we can't see the top, so how can we possibly justify spending $50 or even $100 on a date night? If you can't justify it, then don't! Think of alternatives to a fancy dinner + movie + coffee afterwards. One friend of mine frequently exercises with her husband on date night. They play tennis, go for a walk, bike, etc. At no cost they enjoy each other's company and get a workout besides - brilliant! One of my favorite dates last year was packing a picnic and taking it to one of our favorite spots in the city. The cost was no more than eating at home and we didn't have a waiter interrupt our romantic conversations once. :) If you want to go out, try to pick a place that doesn't have someone who will wait on your table, thereby saving money on the tip.

2. NO BABYSITTER: No babysitter, no problem. Okay, problem. There are ways around this though (at least not having to pay a sitter). I have coordinated with friends before so that we swap date nights. I'll go over to her house on her date night and vice versa. This way you both get a night with your hubby, and you get to enjoy an evening without having to cut your spouse off in the middle of his gushy love speech because you want to make it back home before it costs you an extra 10 bucks (or almost worse when you reach that gray area when you went 12 minutes over the hour and aren't sure how much extra you should pay). If you want to take it to the next level, you could organize a swap among several couples in your neighborhood. Assign someone to be the tab keeper and you could date for every time you're willing to babysit.

3. NO IDEAS: There are no movies that you care to see, no restaurants that you're excited to try (I can't fathom this), and you just don't think it's worth all of thinking effort that it takes to go out. I would imagine that this is not as common, but if you find yourself in this ditch, here are some ideas to pull you out...go to a coffee shop, go bowling, ice skating, roller skating, stroll through downtown (walk through really nice hotel lobbies - I love this!), go to a play, the opera, just go out for dessert, get tickets to a game (even minor league games can be fun), have a progressive meal where you go to a different restaurant for appetizers/drinks, main course and then dessert. I don't know how you've felt reading this, but writing it has challenged me to step outside the box on our next date (we are the straight to the restaurant and straight home kind of couple). It really doesn't matter what you do, just enjoy the time together!

4. NO TIME: It is so easy during this phase of life when you are young parents to think that you are truly doing the best for your child by being with them all the time, at the expense of spending time with your spouse. I've heard this so many times and I believe it to be so true (and biblical!) that the best thing you can do for your children is to love your wife/husband well. Make the time. Make it work. If your spouse works late, go in the morning. If you're always too tired on Friday night, go on Tuesday instead (this happens to be my favorite date night, I'm not too tired by the week's activities and there are no lines and no need for reservations!). We are called to love our spouses and we just can't do that well unless we talk to him, spend time with him, focus on him, the latter of which is sometimes impossible to do fully with kids underfoot. The payoff with DEFINITELY be worth it - benefitting both your relationships with your spouse and your kids!

Old Shirts?

Before you purge your closet of all of your old t-shirts, run through the list below to see if you could find some alternate uses for them.

1. The number one thing I do with old t-shirts is rip them into long strips and use them for cleaning purposes. They're sturdier than paper towels and you can always throw them in the laundry and use them again and again! **The only exception to this is if you're using a harsh cleaning agent that could ruin other clothes in the wash. Or you could always wash in a separate load.

2. Keep a couple for art projects with kids. My friend and I did an art project with our kids the other day and before they started we threw the old t-shirts over them, which covered both shirts and pants completely - no paint made it on them to speak of (and we're talking about two and three-year-olds, which makes it all the more impressive!).

3. If you have the space to store them, keep them all in a box for a future move. We did this with our move from Dallas to Philadelphia and it worked remarkably well.

4. Make a quilt out of them. It's comical that I'm even including this because it's not my thing, but if it's yours that's great! Cut a square around the logo part of your shirt and sew together with others that you've collected. That's about as much as I can be of service in this area, if you are crafty in this way, then you can probably figure out the rest. :)

Monday, September 13, 2010

Before you buy anything else on-line, or in the store, check for sale information, coupons and coupon codes. We love it and have literally saved hundreds of dollars with minimal legwork! *Since I first wrote this I've discovered that you can just google, for example, "Gap coupon code" and you can almost always find something that can cut a percentage of your purchase price!

If you know of any similar websites, share it with us by posting a comment!

Here are some I've found:

Saturday, September 11, 2010


Ever since my husband introduced storytelling to my son nine months ago, we have been in the business of making up new stories multiple times a day. The conversation usually goes something like this: "Mommy, can you tell me a story about me and Lightning McQueen?" Mommy, who is busy making dinner or grocery lists or doing the laundry stalls with, "Let's wait until Daddy gets home" or "I'll tell you after the meal." It's intimidating coming up with a story that will keep his interest (or mine) and not be so terrible that it will negatively affect his own storytelling skills down the road! If you've ever dealt with the same issues, or if you want to start storytelling to excite your child's imagination, do not fear! Here are some simple steps that can help you get started.

1. Stick to the simple story line structure to guide your thinking. Start with the intro - the scene, the characters, etc., then progress takes place (use words like first, so, then, next, etc. to propel the story forward into new and wondrous dimensions (trying to encourage you here)), problem, solution, HAPPY ENDING!

2. Keep it age appropriate. This probably goes without saying, but don't think that just because "we read it when we were kids" or "it's in Mother Goose books/Disney productions so it can't be that bad" is a legitimate reason to copy similar story lines. Hansel and Gretel seemed like such a classic until I remembered that they throw the witch in an oven at the end. That's not something I'm going to relate to my two-year-old!

3. Sneak education in when you can. You can tell stories about colors, shapes, numbers, family members or friends who live far away, animals, etc.. I just told my son a quick story tonight about a little boy (always the hero!) who was trying to get to the park and needed a ride. His options were three shapes and we tested each one (special treat: tonight we used props!) until we could find the best one to transport him there. A little lesson in shapes and all he thinks is that he's getting a good story (always a winner when the hero triumphs over adversity!).

4. Another favorite of ours is teaching him Bible passages through these stories. Our little boy, usually a supporter of the biblical hero in these, has found his way into the valley where David fought Goliath, the den where Daniel slept with the lions, the belly of the fish that housed Jonah for three days and the stable where Jesus was born. He learns these stories because when he's involved in the action, he's all ears all the way through!

5. Practice, practice, practice! With many, many opportunities to tell him stories throughout the day I'm finding that it's becoming easier and actually really fun for me, too. Just stick with it and know that you are bound to improve! They are also a very easy audience relatively speaking, and very forgiving if your story line takes a nose-dive shortly after the characters are introduced! If this happens, just laugh about it and ask them to help you determine the plot as you go (you can do this in a verbal fill-in-the-blank style or give three options and let them choose each time).

If you're having fun with it, they are bound to have fun with it too!

Never Underestimate the Dollar Store

Last Christmas was our first with two little ones. The youngest wasn't quite three months old and as my two-year-old was in the process of adjusting to having another person around (he's still adjusting, I think) I thought it'd be fun for him to pick out a gift for his brother. Since there's no telling what a two-year-old would pick out by himself, I took him to the safest place (for my wallet) - the Dollar Store! It was such a treat to be given the option of ANYTHING in the store. He picked the thing his little brother would certainly love best - a monster truck.

EVERYDAY: Go grab some new play items on a rainy or sweltering day. They have bubbles, coloring books, balloons, small toys, pinwheels, etc..

SPECIAL OCCASION: Let your little one pick out a toy (or a few) for a friend's birthday gift. It's a great and inexpensive way for them to feel like they are really taking part in the giving. Let them pick out a "prize" for especially good behavior or potty training completion.

**IMPORTANT NOTE: Not all stores with the word "Dollar" in the name are true dollar stores. I just saw an advertisement for Family Dollar where one item was $3.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Birthday Time!

Let me paint a scenario for you. Your child is turning three in a couple of months. Up until this point, his birthday parties have consisted of bringing cupcakes (store-bought) to playgroup. You want to make this year special because this is the year when memories will really start to stick. And, if they don't, you'll have the pictures (or lack thereof) to prove it. When I think of birthdays, the extent of my thinking results in something like this: balloons, cake, ice cream, juice boxes, stickers for party gifts. While this is absolutely fine, and done quite often (because we can all agree that the company makes the party and when you get a group of two-year-olds or three-year-olds or what-have-you together you're bound to have free entertainment), you may seek great inspiration and if so the following might be helpful:

My sister-in-law, Sarah, is the queen. Here are some examples of parties that she's thrown for her little "lovebugs"...

"AC's first bday party was a crawfish boil (with 'love bug' rather than 'mud bug'/crawfish invitations) in our back yard! For her 2nd bday party, we did "Ponies at the Park" and rented a couple of ponies to give rides around the park." [Note: She delivered my nephew FOUR DAYS LATER so she let others do the work for her this round.] For AC's 3rd bday and Ross' 1st bday, we threw "Cirque du Wynne" and held a circus themed party with a face painter and balloon twister at the park. For AC's 4th bday and Ross' 2nd, we had a petting zoo (the bounce house and petting zoo had to be moved inside because of a huge rain storm.) We joked that it really turned into a zoo. We had the bounce house in our living room and animals in our garage. We'll continue on gender neutral themes as long as the children don't mind sharing a party!"

Sarah goes over the top, which is sometimes hard for people like me to swallow, but she loves it and is gifted to do it.
Other ideas:
*Pump it Up, Gymboree, Wonderwild or Little Gym. Those are nice bc they are turn-key.
*ZOO Once at the zoo, you can make it fancier by renting pavillions and paying for zoo keepers to introduce animals to the children. Or, you can keep it less expensive by using the public pavillions and setting up camp around the children's zoo and merry-go-round.
*COOL AQUARIUM STORE in town that holds bday parties - entertainment would be challenging, but it would be a fun venue.
*CHURCH GYM and had two actors dress up as Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader.
*SPA PARTY for Eliza one year at my Mother's house. She found all these different pampering spa activities on the internet and turned each room into a different "treatment."
*LOCAL CHILDREN'S THEATER - there are children actors who bring the kids up on stage to sing to them at intermission.
You can get great ideas on-line - that's what I always do - for invitations, cupcake ideas, decoration ideas, etc. Just google the style of party that you'd like to throw and you'll get tons of ideas. If you don't have an idea, just google "children's birthday party ideas" to get you started.

Dreading Lunchtime?

If you're anything like me, 11am rolls around and I start to panic. I have a 2 1/2-year-old and an eleven-month-old and a fridge full of food, and yet I can't think of anything to fix for lunch. After months of dealing with this, I decided to consult the professionals - at least I hope they're professionals - for help.

I found one website,, that was very helpful. Here are some of examples of lunch ideas:


The most helpful tips/inspirations were the wrap. I usually don't think to buy a whole-wheat tortilla or pita and fill it with whatever we have on hand, from peanut butter and jelly to tuscan-style tuna salad.

Smoothies are fantastic, too. You can tell your child that it's "like ice cream" and you can add all kinds of healthy fruits, yogurt and even hide some veggies in there! I heard from a friend that smoothies mask the flavor of spinach, who knew?!

You can make the mini-pizzas yourself and feel the freedom to change up the ingredients every time. The "dough" can come in the form of an english muffin, pastry cup, toasted wheat bread cut out in little shapes (free-hand or cookie cutters). Start with tomato sauce or BBQ sauce and add pepperoni, cooked ground beef or turkey, shredded deli meat, chicken, cooked salmon, etc.. Then top with peppers, celery, onions, broccoli, carrots, cherry tomatoes, etc.. Finally top the scrumptious meal with cheese!