Tuesday, November 30, 2010

November Challenge: Reflection

This month's challenge wasn't exactly a failure, but it wasn't much of a success either.

If you're just tuning in, I set out to create a price book in November. A price book is a list of items a family buys and the quantity, price, and unit price of those items. It can be a great budgeting tool if it's used to determine which store has the best deal on a needed item, to use as comparison to a sales circular to see if a "sale" is worth shopping, or to have a database that can help with prioritizing the shopping list on tight money weeks.

What I once could have tackled in a couple of weekends turned out to be too big a job for just one month. I've got about 15 rows filled out on my price book chart. Yeah, that's as far as I got. We're at a grabby, don't wanna sit in the stroller sort of stage, but I do plan to gradually add to the price book. It'll be an ongoing process.

This month's challenge is a good example of the need to be flexible. I set a goal, it didn't work out like I imagined it might, and I'm readjusting. No biggie.

If any readers out there have created a price book, I'd be interested in hearing about your experience.

Tomorrow I'll post December's Challenge. I think it's one we can ALL relate to.
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Best Baby Registry Ever: Health and Beauty Edition

Thermometer - Those thermometers that scan the forehead and the ones you stick inside the ear are pretty cool, huh? Well, your pediatrician won't be very interested in what they have to say because they're not accurate on babies. Get two regular digital thermometers. Then get our your Sharpie and label the first one O/A (Oral/Armpit). This is the one that you'll stick under Baby's arm. It's not entirely accurate, but add a degree to what it tells you, and you'll get an idea of whether or not Baby is running a fever and whether you should proceed to the second thermometer, which you're going to label R. R stands for Rectal, and I know that probably freaks you out. But after the first time, it's not a big deal, and it's the most accurate way to get a baby's temperature.

Nasal Bulb - Don't buy one. The one the hospital gives you is perfectly fine.

Baby Nail Clippers - Get something simple - no magnifying lenses and no lights. It's hard enough to see what you're doing without the extra stuff getting in the way (even if it claims to help you see what you're doing). Since most of the parents I know have a story about cutting off the tip of their baby's finger (I'm so serious), put them away for as long as you can. Baby fingernails are so thin that they can be bitten and/or peeled off for a good long while.

Infant Acetaminophen Drops (a.k.a. Tylenol) - The dosing for tiny ones isn't on the box, so ask your pediatrician at your first visit so you'll know for future reference.

Infant Ibuprofen Drops (a.k.a. Motrin) - Ibuprofen is better for teething pain because it's an anti-inflammatory

Mylicon - These are anti-gas drops that some people swear by and some people think are worthless. You'll never know unless you try, and if you have a colicky baby, you'll TRY. ANYTHING.

Gripe Water - This is another remedy that works for some and does nothing for others. It seemed to help our kids. I've also heard of some brands working better for some babies than other brands. If this is the case, you might have to experiment.

Probiotic Drops - These are expensive, so hold off unless you actually have a colicky baby. We tried them without success, but they do help a lot of babies.

Baby Saline - When Baby has a cold, the saline helps loosen up the snot so that it's easier to suction out. Also useful for the dry indoor heating of winter.

Humidifier - A humidifier works wonder for a baby with a cold. Again, also useful for winter dryness.

Dandruff Shampoo - Huh? For a baby? I wouldn't actually put this on the registry, but just be aware of it. Chances are that your baby will have cradle cap at some point (both of mine did), which will make your baby resemble the weird, flaky kid who sat in front of you in 9th grade. I found dandruff shampoo to be effective at holding it at bay. For when it gets really bad, you can slather baby's head in olive oil, massage, and then slough the flaky chunks off with a comb.

Comb - I wouldn't even bother with a brush.
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Sunday, November 28, 2010

This Week's Meal Plan 11/29/2011

Pumpkin Spice Cereal
Yogurt, pureed peas, O cereal
Hummus Sandwich, chopped fruit, yogurt melts
Pasta Risotto* (pasta, chopped veggies, cheese, butter), chopped fruit
Salmon Stix, string cheese, chopped veggies **
Pumpkin Spice Cereal
Yogurt, Veggie Bites
Baby Bolognese, chopped fruit
Baby Foodie French Toast, pureed peaches
Pasta Risotto*, chopped fruit
Baby Bolognese, pureed zucchini
Pumpkin Spice Cereal
Yogurt, veggie bites
Salmon Stix, applesauce, chopped veggies
Pumpkin Spice Cereal
Hummus sandwich, chopped fruit
Chicken Bites*, chopped veggies
Baby Foodie French Toast, stewed apples and blueberries
Hummus sandwich, chopped veggies, yogurt melts
Chicken Bites*, pureed peaches, O cereal

BF - Breastfeed
* - Recipe from Superfoods for Babies and Children by Annabel Karmel
**- The chopped veggies are a mix I prep at the beginning of the week. This week I’ll dice up zucchini, eggplant, and a red bell pepper and keep them in a bag I can dip into for meal-sized portions that can quick-steam in the microwave.
Salmon Stix and Veggie Bites are HappyBaby products that can be found in the freezer section.

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Saturday, November 27, 2010

Snapshots of Cute Stuff 11/27/10

The blog was a little slow this past week because we, crazy family that we are, went on a ROAD TRIP! We had a great time, and some of the pics this week will be from the trip. But I want you to know that before we left, I had two of my roughest mommy weeks ever. Both babies were waking up several times a night, so consequently, I was sleeping about four or five hours a night. This is okay for a night every now and then. But when it's every night for two weeks, it's... not. Add to this the little virus that our family traded around for the second week of this. Linus seemed to catch the worst case of it, and was running a fever, drowning in snot, and coughing himself awake all night. This all managed to get *mostly* better on the road trip, so when we walked back in the door of the house yesterday, it was a little like walking in on my own archaeological site. I'm keeping it real here, folks.

Now for the fun stuff.

There's something super adorable about a tiny little girl and her daddy, isn't there?

Why isn't this kid wearing any pants? Well, look in the background. He has managed to crawl out of his pants several times now. Just leaves them behind.

There's a lesson to be learned here, specifically that puffy pink coats don't fit into baby carriers very well. Doesn't she look comfortable?! 

Blue puffy coats don't work so well either.

And now, just for laughs... You know that point where you just can't pose anymore? The point where "Stand over there" is no longer an option? Here you go.

This has been Snapshots of Cute Stuff.
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Friday, November 26, 2010

Best Baby Registry Ever: Breastfeeding Edition

Pump - For appointments, date nights, building your supply, expressing milk for mixing with cereal, and building a freezer stash, you'll need a pump. If you can afford it, get a double electric. I'm a big fan of the Purely Yours from Ameda. Ameda has a patent on their tubing system, which is designed so that milk can't get up into the tubes. Is it expensive? Yes, but if you do a little looking around on Ebay or Craigslist, you'll find that they hold their value pretty well. (Translation: If you resell it you'll make back a good portion of your moolah.) I think the best deal out there on a new one is through If you've never ordered from them, you can get a promo code for 10 or 15% off. Oh, and don't buy the more expensive package with the carrying case. That's what I use the bag the formula company sent me home from the hospital with for (bwa ha ha ha!!!).

Breast Pads - For wearing around the house when it doesn't matter if you're lumpy, get some washable cloth pads. For leaving the house, I recommend Lanisoh disposables. They're absorbent and are smooth enough so as not to inspire curious strangers to stare at your chest.

Nipple Butter - I have a lanolin allergy, which led me to seek out lanolin-free Earth Mama Angel Baby Nipple Butter. In nearly a year of doing twice the normal amount of breastfeeding, I've never had a problem with chapping or cracking, so that should tell you that it's miraculous stuff. I've also used it as baby chapstick. At $14ish for a tub, it seems expensive, but that little tub lasts a good while.

Milk Storage Bags - Lanisoh wins again. Their bags are reasonably priced, non-leaky, easy to seal, and easy to label.

Breastfeeding Pillow -Make sure you choose something that lifts Baby close to your boobs without you having to bend over. This will a) save you a lot of back pain and b) free you up to do other stuff like reading this fine blog.

Nursing Bras - Check into Bravado. They make 'em in a nice range of sizes and have some pretty cute non-underwire bras, which is no easy thing to find. They are a bit pricey, but if you check for promo codes or sign up for their e-mails, it's not hard to get 20% off. They're also available on Target's website and

Nursing Tops/Dresses - Nursing tops would be a nice thing to have, but if you find yourself breastfeeding during the summer months, you MUST get yourself a nursing dress. Take a second to think this through... What do you do when it's time to nurse? You lift your shirt up... can't do that with a dress, dear. And every gal has to have a cute sundress. Milk and Expressiva make some adorable ones that no one will be the wiser about.
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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Public High Chairs

Yesterday we managed to find a restaurant where BOTH of the high chairs offered for my children to sit in were completely functional. Wow! How sad is it that that was something to celebrate?

Seriously, one would think that in these litigious United States that restaurants would be far more careful to ensure that the furniture for their most vulnerable customers would be safe, but, oddly, that's not the case. What's more, it's clear that a good number of the flawed high chairs out there arrived that way from the manufacturer. (Uh, two female straps do NOT a buckle make.)

Is this your experience as well? I swear that at least one of the high chairs we're given to use is broken about nine out of ten times.
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Friday, November 19, 2010

Baby Foodie French Toast

Baby Foodie French Toast

We all have priorities. Ironing isn't one of mine.

For babies 9 months and up

I use a full slice of bread and give half to each baby. It will work just as well with half a slice for one baby.

1 slice whole wheat bread
1 egg
2 teaspoons breast milk or formula
A couple of drops of vanilla extract
A couple of dashes or cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice

1. In a small bowl, whisk the egg. Add the milk, vanilla, and cinnamon. Whisk to mix.
2. Dredge the bread slice in the egg mixture.
3. Melt a small pat of butter in a skillet (I prefer cast iron due to its nonstick quality) over medium heat.
4. Cook bread on each side until golden brown.
5. Slice into fingers and serve.

For the curious: The fruit in the picture in a mixture of stewed apples and blueberries.

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Best Baby Registry Ever: Bath Edition

With the end of my first year of mommyhood on the horizon, I've been reminiscing a lot. Some of the memories make me teary. Some of them make me grin. And some of them are just so darn educational that it kills me a little to think about all of this hard-won knowledge going to waste. So I bring to you, pregnant friends and Google stumbler-upon-ers, The Best Baby Registry Ever. These are the choices I would make if I had it to do over again.

Today, Bath Edition.

Trukid Bath Products - The Environmental Working Group keeps a list of products in their cosmetics database with toxicity ratings on a scale of 0-10, with 10 being the most toxic. Trukid's shampoo, body wash, and lotion (all products we use) rate a 2. Compare this to Johnson & Johnson No More Tears Shampoo and its rating of 5. The Trukid product isn't "tear-free", but considering that the "no-tears" effect is achieved by adding a chemical that numbs the eye, I'm okay with that. Furthermore, the Trukid products smell terrific. You know how natural/organic products can have a certain... *smell* about them, but Trukid has a yummy citrusy fragrance.

Real Towels (Not Baby Towels) - One of the best baby shower gifts I received were big, thirsty white towels with washcloths sewn on as hoods. Baby towels get outgrown awfully quickly and just don't absorb very much.

Thin baby washcloths for the bath - It's a lot easier to get into all of those tiny creases and folds with a thin washcloth than with a thick one.

Thicker baby washcloths for cleaning up after meals - When you're trying to wipe off layers of goo from somebody's face, you want something cushy and absorbant. Keep these near your feeding area.

Bath Seat or Infant Tub - We used a seat instead of an infant tub. The pro of this is that now I sit it outside the tub and use it as a holding area of sorts for moving babies in and out of the tub safely. The con is that when they were at the pooping in the tub stage, it meant having to drain and clean the entire tub instead of just the infant tub. Whatever you choose, I wouldn't invest much money in this item.

Bath Toys - Our favorites include the letters that stick to the side of the tub, squirty things, stacking cups, and bath books.

Bath Mat - When Baby starts sitting in the tub without a seat, you'll need a mat to keep too much slipping and sliding from going on. Seriously, you need one of these. It's a safety issue.

Veteran mommies, what did I miss?
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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Spoon Me!

On the way to our fun family outing this past weekend, we stopped for a take-along burrito. Just as we were about to leave with our bag o' burritos in hand, I stopped.

"Wait! I need to get spoons!"

"Why do you need a spoon for a... Oh, okay."

Not following? Fast-forward a few hours to the point in the family fun outing when all of the teethers and toys had been dropped on the ground. What's a mommy to do when the car is a good thirty minutes away? Start pulling spoons out of the diaper bag.
The spoon is the greatest, free-est, widely-available-est toy out there. When you stop somewhere, swipe a couple for the diaper bag. They're good for mouthing, banging on the stroller tray, or conducting gravity experiments. Oh, and saving the day.
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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Booby Traps

I'm little, but I'm spunky. So during my pregnancy when other women said discouraging things about breastfeeding, I gave that smile that Southern women do and fortified my resolve to succeed at breastfeeding. Maybe it's not exactly inspiring to say so, but my desire to prove those women wrong got me through some of the tough titty times.

Where I'm from, there are three big cultural deterrents to breastfeeding:

1. The belief that it's weird and gross
2. Scandal at seeing breastfeeding in public
3. The belief that breastfeeding an older baby or toddler is somehow perverse

Number one never really bothered me so much. I mean, that's what boobs are for. No matter how vigorously the Victoria's Secret models writhe around in their underwear, the fact remains that breasts are baby-feeding equipment.

Number two was a little harder for me to get over. I don't like making others uncomfortable unless they really, really deserve it. But as time went on and breastfeeding become more of the status quo to me, I worried less and less about others being offended by the very normal act of a mother feeding her child. I do, however, make sure to cover up.

As we approach the one year mark, I find number three cropping up in my thoughts from time to time. People educated in the benefits of breastfeeding understand that those benefits extend into toddlerhood. But the problem is that so many people AREN'T aware of the benefits of breastfeeding. Will it deter me from continuing what has thus far been a fantastic experience with obvious positive results? Absolutely not. Because I'm spunky. But I do think a lot about others who have no support.

Once upon a shopping trip at Target, the babies and I were meandering about the baby section. In the next aisle, I heard a pregnant woman telling her friend that she might be interested in breastfeeding. The friend laughed and said, "You're not going to breastfeed!" in that I-know-you-better-than-you-know-yourself sort of way. The pregnant lady sighed and said, "I know."


In ten years, I hope that breastfeeding will be the cultural norm in this country (as it is in so much of the rest of the world), but in the meantime, there are lots of "boobytraps". Here's an article that meant a lot to me when I was struggling with my anger at situations like being told the only place available to feed my children was the bathroom.

Here's to being a spunky mommy!
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Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Christmas List

There are only so many cool toys out there for one-ish-year-olds. Then again, if you're trying to narrow it down, it can seem like there are so many cool toys for one-ish-year-olds. Either way, here are some highlights from Linus and Veda's Christmas List if you're looking for ideas for your own list.

1.  Smart Trike 3 in 1 Deluxe Tricycle - Not only is this thing cute as a button, but it adapts to growing toddlers. I've also been told that tots do well in these at places like the mall or the zoo. By do well, I mean they don't get as bored as they would in a stroller. Grows with Baby and prevents meltdowns? We'll take two!

2. Flip N' Tip Fred - Fred is just one of the WOW (I mean that as a brand of toys - not a sentiment)toys that made it onto the list this year, although he may be the coolest. He's a recycling truck that requires NO BATTERIES (and isn't that a dream in itself?). He has bins to sort, he flips trash into the back, he compacts the trash, and he makes engine noises.

3. My First Scribbler - We'll be getting one in pink and one in blue. Drawing without making a mess? Yes we can! I'm counting on these to get us through some car rides.

4. Personal Growth Chart - Not only are these Land of Nod charts beautiful, but they're also going to be a great keepsake for the babies.

5. Tickle Monster Laughter Kit - This "kit" includes a book and tickle monster mitts. What a great way to learn to enjoy books. The book and the mitts are sold separately as well if you're either not into books or not into tickling. And if that's the case, may I ask why?

What super-cool items are on your little ones' lists this year?
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Thursday, November 11, 2010

Snarky Parenting Book Rant

Readers, please get out your parenting books and turn to the chapter (or page or paragraph) on twins. Don't tell me the title of the book. Now, without ever having read the book you're looking at, I'm going to summarize the author's advice for parents of twins. Let's see... Get plenty of rest, ask for help, and neglect the housework. Am I right? Ding, ding, ding! It's not a Jedi mind trick, folks, most parenting books offer the same lame-o advice about raising twins.

Get plenty of rest - Ha! That's sweet.

Ask for help - Yes, because my friends and family have so much free time on their hands. I'm sure that after working fifty hours a week or wiping their own children's tushies all day, they can't wait to clean my bathroom and make me a lasagna. When family members or close friends offer help, I absolutely say yes, but no way am I going to ask other people with full lives to add something else to their own plates. Life is hard for everybody.

Neglect the Housework - Actually, I prefer that my children NOT eat debris off the floor or sit in a tub that's growing its very own ecosystem. And besides, what could be more depressing than spending all day in a dump?

I get it, Book Author, you want your book to have a wide market, and since twins are pretty common these days, you and your editor thought you needed to weigh in with a little expert opinion. Pssst... you're not fooling any of the twin mommies.
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Tuesday, November 9, 2010

5 Nutritious and Easy Non-Sandwich Lunch Ideas

1. Black Beans and Rice - Use leftover rice and spoon some canned black beans on top. Heat and add any (or all) of the following: salsa, cheese, avocado, sour cream, onions, cilantro, lime juice, tomatoes, guacamole, etc.
2. Pasta Salad - Add chopped bell peppers, grape tomatoes, celery, imitation crab, and Italian dressing to al dente rotini pasta. Round out the meal with a piece of fresh fruit.
3. Bean and Cheese Burrito - Spread canned refried beans on a tortilla and sprinkle with cheese. Microwave about 20 seconds, or until the cheese is a little melty. Add lettuce, tomato, sour cream, and taco sauce and roll it up.
4. Apple with Peanut Butter and Cheese, Baby Carrots - Slice the apple and spread with peanut butter. Serve alongside a few pieces of cheese and baby carrots.
5. Hummus with Pita Chips ans Baby Carrots, Grapes

What's your go-to nutritious lunch?
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Monday, November 8, 2010

The Long Paci Goodbye

Last week the babies celebrated being ten months old. This has prompted a small but controlled freak-out on my part. Ten months... that's almost a year! And here we are still using bouncy seats and pacifiers! Okay, the bouncy seat usage seriously needs to stop (as evidenced by my little guy breaking one with his 18 pounds of human flesh). The pacifiers are still okay for now, but since pacifiers are supposed to be a thing of the past by one year of age, I know we've got to start weaning off of them now if we're ever going to be ready for such a milestone by twelve months. And so we have begun the Long Paci Goodbye.

My kids love their pacis. Look how happy they are.

Despite every warning I'd read in baby books and heard in my breastfeeding class about not introducing the paci prior to one month of successful breastfeeding, the pacis came out the day after we came home from the hospital. We'd been up all night (and when I say all night, I mean NO SLEEPING) with crying babies who set each other off about every fifteen minutes. Thanks to postpartum hormones, I spent the entire night involuntarily crying even though I was thrilled to have left the hospital with two healthy, though tiny, babies. When the grandmother reinforcements arrived in the morning, I was a mess, and my mother convinced me to try the pacifier. Ta da! Magic.

The paci has been such a frenemy. Helped the babies go to sleep? Yes. Required constant insertion for a few months? Oh yes. We bought clips to have them with us always, for I pity the fool who finds herself without a pacifier in the throes of a grocery store meltdown.

We've had a good run, paci, but your days are numbered. This month we're only using the pacis to fall asleep with. No more casual playtime paci nips. Next month I'll try to segue into using them only if we're having a really hard time falling asleep.

We can do this, right?

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Saturday, November 6, 2010

Snapshots of Cute Stuff 11/6/2010

One night when I had Veda perched on top of the bathroom counter while I was brushing my teeth, she managed to grab one of the baby toothbrushes. They still prefer the finger brush, but I've been holding onto the big kid version the dentist sent home to them. Fussy though she had been, the toothbrush calmed her little soul, and so became one of our new favorite toys. In particular, it has made Veda's diaper changes much more manageable, as she had recently started doing a horrible crocodile death roll as soon as her britches came off.

They really do love each other, but they have no problem stealing from each other.

The babies have also started playing with Mimi. Here Linus is playing Mimi's raccoon game, which involves tugging the raccoon and then throwing it. We've not advanced to throwing it yet, but tugging we can do. Mimi is LOVING this development.

This weekend we went on a little train ride followed by a short aquarium visit and pit stop at the aquarium cafe. While this is a horrible picture, can you see the fish? A giant window of swimming fish in front of the table makes dining with babies so much more pleasant. I think I may have even tasted my food a couple of times.

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Thursday, November 4, 2010

5 MORE Parenting Lessons I Gleaned From My Teaching Career

1. Kids behave as they are dressed.

As a teacher, I loved a good field trip, especially one to the theater. As part of the day’s participation grade, I would require theater-going students to dress up (i.e., shirt tucked in, wear a belt, no holey jeans, preferably no jeans at all). Aside from getting to share the fun of attending a performance, I loved theater field trips because the students were automatically better behaved. It’s both wonderful and surreal to see a farty freshman boy holding the door open for someone and walking about like a normal person. (You do understand the normal ambulatory manner of a fourteen-year-old boy can best be described as a galumph, right?) It happens at prom, too. Well, until the dancing starts. Don’t make me remember the “dancing”.

Naturally, there are limitations to this. A fussy baby in a tuxedo is still a fussy baby. Maybe even a screaming baby. But for older kids, I swear it works.

2. Avoid humiliating a child whenever possible.

Nothing good will ever come of it. All it does is teach the child to humiliate others and to resent you. When I was teaching I did as much discipline as I could with a whisper, a brief conversation behind my desk, a one-on-one conference right outside the door, or with a post-it note discreetly placed on a desk as I patrolled the room.

All people want to save face, children included. Besides, you’re just a bully if you use your power over a child to humiliate him or her (on purpose).

3. The hallway tactic

There’s a very popular classroom management book called Teaching With Love and Logic (and there’s also a parenting version called Parenting With Love and Logic). With a lot of success, I used the book’s major strategy. To avoid humiliating the child, to avoid a power struggle, and to avoid letting the child evade acknowledging his or her mistake, you follow these steps.

  • When a conflict begins, refuse to participate in front of the entire class and ask the student to step out into the hallway.
  • When you’ve collected your thoughts and can be non-emotional, step out into the hall for a brief conference. Ask the child why he or she thinks you were angry/upset/whatever.
  • If the child understands that what he or she did was wrong and apologizes, step back in and move on (but not if this is a repeat offense - in that case, more severe action is needed).
  • If the child says “I dunno” or some variation of this, calmly say, “Well, I’m going to go back in and teach the class while you think about it some more. I’ll be back in a few minutes.”
  • Almost always, the child is ready to admit his or her mistake and apologize by the second time you go out to the hallway.
This translates to timeouts. I don’t like discipline plans where the parent straightaway tells the child what he or she did wrong (although this may be appropriate for some situations, such as when dealing with a very young child). The lesson from the timeout will be much more effective if the child has to come up with the answers for him or herself.

4. When something boosts a child’s self-esteem and gives him/her joy, do not take it away as punishment.

If only I had a dime for every parent-teacher conference I sat in where the parent threatened to take an extracurricular activity away if the child didn’t start doing his or her homework. First of all, this is not a logical consequence. Secondly, kids don’t not do their homework because they love a subject and feel confident in their ability to master it. Taking away an activity a child feels successful at only digs the down-on-myself hole deeper. More logical consequences would be going to a tutor, not being allowed to watch tv/play video games/play outside/do much of anything until all homework is done. If the child is lying about homework, then honesty is one of the issues in play here, and the consequences should also be geared toward demonstrating that trust is important. Leave the area of life that the kids feels like a winner in out of it.

5. You never know when something you say will forever be etched into a child’s consciousness.

If you give it some thought, you’ll realize that the things adults said to you when you were a kid that stuck with you probably weren’t things the adult planned out to be what you would stow away with you for the rest of your life. This means that you’ve always got to be very careful about what you say. The exceptions to the you-never-know deal are saying things like “You’re just not very good at math” or “You have ugly feet.” People remember stuff like that 100% of the time.

What about you? How did your career prepare you for parenthood?
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Wednesday, November 3, 2010

5 Parenting Lessons I Gleaned from My Teaching Career

Before I was a professional mom, I was a teacher for about seven years. Nobody's going to make a Hallmark movie about me, but I did have a sense of mission about it. Here are a few things I learned in the classroom that translate to the family room.

1. Make plenty of deposits to cover the times when you have to make withdrawals.

In The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen R. Covey (as in Franklin Covey) writes about an emotional banking system. Praise and positive interactions are examples of emotional deposits. Criticism is an example of an emotional withdrawal. To keep a relationship warm and fuzzy, you’ve got to make more deposits than withdrawals. This means you’ve got to tell a child you love him or her, praise him or her for a job well done, and tell the child about the good qualities you observe in him or her. Doing this builds the relationship so that when you have to dole out some discipline, the relationship and the child’s self-esteem remain intact. If you’re short on deposits, you risk the child resenting you, believing him or herself to be “bad”, or, in the long run, giving up since there seems to be no pleasing you.

2. Create an environment that encourages success.

Students are more successful in a classroom that is structured, designed to be used by about thirty clumsy people, and in which they have access to the resources they need. Rather than trying to maintain a pristine home in which you have to say no constantly, you’ll keep the stress level in your house much lower if you make your home kid-friendly.

3. You have to let people be who they are.

Back in teacher school, I believed that my great love of reading would likewise ignite a passion for literature in every student I taught. Are you laughing? I watched a lot of teacher movies, and I was quite young. Reality is that not everyone is going to become a Shakespeare scholar or go to college, and that’s perfectly okay. Some people are good at music, some people are good at math, and some people are good at fixing stuff. We need all kinds of people to make society jive. So many parents want to create mini-me’s or mold their children into the people they wish they had become, but the child will be much, much happier if you help him or her to become him or herself.

4. You are the decisive factor.

A popular teacher quote goes like this:
"I've come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element in the classroom. It's my personal approach that creates the climate. It's my daily mood that makes the weather. As a teacher, I possess tremendous power to make a child's life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration. I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated and a child humanized or de-humanized."5. Routine, routine, routine.

People, kids included, want to know what to expect. Flexibility is its own virtue, but having a general idea of how the day is going to go makes everyone feel more comfortable. In my classroom it was bellwork, reading time, lesson, closer. Kids liked being able to anticipate what came next. Similarly, my babies are much happier (and much better nappers) when we follow our eating, playing, sleeping routine. And happy, napping babies make Mommy very happy.

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Tuesday, November 2, 2010

November Challenge

I'm not big on New Year's resolutions. I'd much rather issue my calls to self-improvement throughout the year. This month I'm issuing myself a money-saving challenge. I'm going to start a price book.

Huh? What's a price book?

I came across the idea of a price book as part of the Home Management Guide found on Want What You Have as well as a strategy recommended by The Coupon Mom. A price book consists of a chart with columns for item, brand, store, quantity, cost, and unit price. It can help you save money in two ways (that I currently know of):
  • Knowing which store sells the item you need at the lowest cost
  • Knowing when an item is really on sale. Did you know that manufacturers pay for space in a grocery store's weekly circular? The price advertised may not actually be any lower than it normally is. It's a little retail head game.
Here is a handy-dandy template for making a price book.

Since our food shopping choices are limited by our family's food philosophy (see Our Family Food Philosophy), I think our non-food shopping is the budget area with the greatest savings potential. Therefore, I'll concentrate my efforts on getting information on non-food items.

For the next month, I'll take a notebook with me when I make a trip to the stores we frequent and make notes about the items we buy. When I've compiled some data, I'll enter it into a spreadsheet, or maybe I'll go more low-tech and print out a few copies of the template.

All of that information is going to come in quite handy for step two of this process. Step two involves a coupon database and a drugstore. But I don't want to spoil December's challenge.
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