Coping with Eczema in Children

I never thought of a skin condition as a chronic illness. I always thought a little itching was not that bad, just rub some cream on the rash and it will get better. This was well before I had to watch my child struggle with the affliction of eczema. I realized how serious a skin condition can be the first time I had to put socks on my infant’s hands to keep her from scratching herself until her skin was open, weeping and bloody. For those with eczema, it is more than just really dry skin or a patchy red rash. They can’t just put cream on it and make it better. It is a daily battle to not scratch even though it feels like tiny bugs are crawling all over their body. It is a ritual of lotions, creams, and moisturizers several times a day. For me, as a parent of a child with eczema, all I can do is have hope that tomorrow we will wake up to not have to worry about any of this anymore.

My daughter was diagnosed with eczema, or atopic dermatitis, at her two month check up by her pediatrician. She is my third child, and I knew something was different and that this was more than just the normal dry skin that new born babies sometimes experience. Luckily at this point, she was too young to agitate the condition by scratching. At first the pediatrician told us to use oatmeal baths and moisturizers. Being a work at home mother, I was able to put moisturizers on her several times a day. After two months of moisturizing, there was no change. At four months old she was prescribed a topical non steroid cream. It seemed to help a little and worked for a few months. As she got older the condition did not get better, it worsened spreading all over her body. To make matters worse she would scratch and rub her body until the skin was raw. We would do everything to keep her covered so she could not scratch and make it worse. This included cotton footed pajamas at bed time, socks on her hands, and tights instead of socks for her feet. At age one, my daughter was prescribed a topical steroid cream. This also seemed to help matters for a short period of time. She seemed to do better on it for a few months then the condition would inflame again, and seemed to come back even stronger than it had been before.

By age two, we were just about at our wits end. She was suffering so much and nothing we were doing was helping her at all. The pediatrician then referred us to an allergist and put her on an oral medication for ten days. Those ten days were glorious. Hardly any scratching, and she almost completely healed. The first day off of the oral medication, the eczema was back. We were heartbroken. The allergist ran tests to see if my daughter was allergic to something that may be causing the eczema. He found a few mild allergies and we did the allergy control for 6 months. There was still no change in her condition. After this, we opted to see a dermatologist. The dermatologist diagnosed her case as severe. She told us the best we can do is to manage her condition with proper care and medication until she outgrows the eczema. One important thing we learned from the dermatologist is not to use topical cortisone creams on eczema. In many cases this will only worse the itching.

It has now been a year since we have been to the dermatologist. My daughter’s eczema is not gone, but it is much better. We are managing her condition with a combination of medications, moisturizers, and oatmeal baths. Many people have made suggestions to us on different remedies to try for our daughter, some we have tried, others we have not. Each case of eczema is different and what works for some, may not work for others. Below you will find a list of remedies we have tried, or been told about. Hopefully one of these will help you or someone with eczema in your life.

Oatmeal bath, either store bought or homemade. We currently use a homemade one.

Moisturizing lotions, oils, butters, or jellies, we have tried so many of these that I can not even name them all. What works for us is to find one that doesn’t burn or sting when applied and stick with it until it doesn’t feel good anymore.

Noxzema, use this as a cleanser for the entire body. According to several people I have spoken with regarding this, originally it was not called Noxzema and it cured someone’s eczema. They wrote to the company about the experience and that is how the cleanser got the name Noxzema. (http://www.amusingfacts.com/facts/Detail/noxema.html)

Crisco, yes I do mean the shortening. I know it sounds crazy, but it worked for a while for us. This was suggested by our allergist. It works as a moisturizer similar to petroleum jelly, just thicker.

Prescriptions will of course been to be prescribed by your physician. Here is a list of the different medications my daughter has been prescribed. This list is only meant to inform you of the different treatment options that we have been offered by our doctors. My daughter has been prescribed topical steroids, topical non-steroids, oral steroids, anti-allergy medications, oral anti-itch medications, oral antibiotics, and topical antibiotics. There may be other treatment options out there that could work for you. Consult with your doctor to see if prescriptions are necessary in your case and what combination of medications will work best for you.

After almost 11 years, eczema is still a daily struggle for my daughter and for our family. I hope by writing this article someone else will be more informed and have better tools to deal with this condition.

Planning the Perfect Spiderman Birthday Party

Is your little boy crazy about Spiderman? Then why not throw him a Spiderman Birthday party? Here are some tips for making the party fun for the kids yet simple for you.

I always find the best way to start planning for any party is the guest list. Once you know how many people to plan for then you are ready to focus on the rest of the details. After finishing the guest list, it is then time to get the invitations ready. You can either purchase character themed invitations from a local or on-line party supplier or you can make your own invitations using Microsoft Word’s invitation templates. The invitations need to be mailed out two weeks before the party date. This way all of your anticipated guests have plenty of time to make sure they can attend and RSVP. Just a side note, I have noticed that most people do not feel the need to RSVP anymore, so when you send out the invitations, make sure you are prepared for all of those people to attend.

Next, you need to make a decision on a cake. You can order a Spiderman themed cake from any local bakery or supermarket. You can also make your own cake. I find that making my own cake saves me quite a bit of money. There are a couple of options when making your own Spiderman cake. You can purchase a Spiderman shaped cake pan from a specialty baking shop. This choice is a bit more complicated to decorate, however it is well worth the effort once you see the finished cake. You could also make Spiderman cupcakes. There are several ways to do this, here are a few of my favorites. Cupcakes decorated with Spiderman Faces, or web designs, or you can even do web designs and put a Spiderman figure on top.

If you want something different than cake, you can always make crispy treats instead, or in addition to the cake. Rice crispy treats are easy to shape and color. You can make them in to Spidey heads, or even web shapes. If you are not ready for a complex decorating job, you can always get your local bakery to transfer any Spiderman picture onto edible image paper. There is a charge for this, however it is usually very minimal. You could even take a photo of your son dressed up as Spiderman, and then your cake is absolutely one of a kind! The image is easy to place onto any cake. You want to make sure the cake is ordered, pan or supplies are purchased, or the image is able to be turned into an edible one, so start the cake process about the same time that you send out the invitations.

Now comes my favorite part of planning a child’s party, the games and activities! There are so many ways to make the party memorable. Below I am going to list several of my favorite ideas. Depending on the age of the kids that will be attending you party you should choose 2 or 3 activities for them to participate in.

Spiderman coloring pages printed from the web or taken from a coloring book

Pin the spider on Spiderman

Capture the villains! Use silly string as web, and place pictures or action figures of the Spiderman villains around the yard or room. Let the kids shoot the bad guys with “web” If you use action figures, this would make a great party favor, the villain that each child shoots, they get to take home as a favor!

Spider crafts. There are tons of spider crafts out there. Just do a search on the web for Spider crafts and you will get tons of options!

Spiderman dodge ball. The birthday boy is first to be Spiderman, and all the guests are the villains The final villain left standing is next to be Spiderman. You can continue on with this through all of the party guests. Another great idea is to use a ball that looks like Spider man’s head for this game.

A child’s party is not complete without favor bags to send him with the friends that attend. You can purchase a variety of character themed goodies at party supply stores. Some of these stores may even have bags already filled and packed for you, so you don’t have to worry about filling the goody bags. You don’t want to just send home toys though, the kids will want to find something yummy in the bag as well. Spiderman fruit snacks, fruit rolls, or even red and blue candies make great choices for this theme party!

The final week before the party is the time to get all of the final details into place. Pick up all the snack foods, drinks, and other party supplies. You will need cups, plates for food, and also plates for cake and ice cream. Make sure you don’t forget napkins and plastic silverware. You will also need to make sure you chill the drinks ahead of time and have plenty of ice on hand too. You will need to order balloons from the floral department of the grocery store, or from the party supply store near you.

The day of the party everything should be all ready. The cake should be picked up right before the party, or made the day before. All decorations can also be put up right before the party. As the guests arrive you will be calm and collected and be able to enjoy the party along with your child. Don’t forget to take lots of pictures of the birthday boy enjoying all the web-slinging action at his party. He will remember it forever, and I am sure you will too!

Product Review: V-Smile

If you want to get your child a video game, but also want them to learn while they play, then a learning game is a great choice for you! There are a wide array of learning game options to choose from these days. I have purchased several of these for my children including the V-Tech versions of this type of toy.

V-Tech’s versions of the learning game toys are called V-Smile and V-Smile Pocket. The V-Smile is the unit that plugs in to your television, and the V-Smile Pocket is the handheld game. There are a wide variety of games for these units, any of the games can be played on both units. This is a great benefit so you don’t have to have separate games for each unit. The games come in all of children’s favorite characters and are very educational. Each game is clearly labeled with what age group will benefit the most from that game. These games teach letters, colors, shapes, numbers, and even phonics and math! The concept of these games is wonderful, but does the product hold up to the hype?

We purchased the V-Smile unit the first Christmas it was on the market. My son wanted a learning game so badly and this one seemed to be the best fit for him. It was used on the home television and had lots of character games he likes. The games were right in his age range for him to have the best opportunity to learn, plus with him being at home with me during the day the stay at home version was fine for him. At first my son was in love with his new toy! He had a blast playing the different games and learning so much from them! Then came the first draw back. This product does not come with an AC adaptor, and it goes through batteries like they are going out of style! I could not keep batteries in the house for this thing! I was never able to find the AC adaptor available in the store. They always seemed to be sold out. And when I tried to order it on-line shipping was almost as much as the adaptor itself, so I wasn’t going to go that route. Then it seemed I was all of the sudden having to checng the batteries a lot more often. Once every few days. Then the unit stopped working all together. I contacted customer service to see if there was a problem with the unit since we had only had this for 3 months. The customer service representative walked me through different things to check for a problem. I was told to reset the unit and then it seemed to be working properly again. My son was so happy to have his game back! Then a few weeks later it happened again. The game would not come on at all. I tried changing the batteries, still would not come on at all.

My son and I were getting very frustrated at this point. I called customer service back and this time no matter how many times we reset it, it still would not work. So they suggested I send the unit back in since it was evidently a faulty one and they would send me a new one right out. I sent it back in and waited for the new unit to arrive. After a few weeks the new unit still had not arrived, my son was getting very impatient waiting for this. So I called customer service to check on the status. I was informed that they had received my unit and that the new one would be arriving in only a few days and they gave me a tracking number. I tracked the package and just as they said it would be arriving in just a few days. The day came and went for the package to arrive. I called customer service back because my sn had waited all day for his package and he was very upset that it had not come as it was scheduled. This time the customer service representative showed no record of them receiveing my faulty unit. However, my replacement unit came the next day, some how it got left behind on the dock instead of being put on to the truck for delivery, just my luck. This second unit worked much better, however my son was really disgusted with it not working and didn’t play it nearly as much since it had been such a hassle the first time around.

Since the new unit we were sent appeared to have no issues, we decided to purchase the handheld version of the V-Smile, the V-Smile Pocket, as soon as it came out. That way my son could use all the games he already had. After purchasing this, we ran into the exact same issues as with the standarad V-Smile. We returned it and got a new one. My son was so disgusted with the whole thing, he didn’t even want them anymore. I took them and sold them on ebay. Both of the new units appeared to work fine, but my son didn’t want to take the risk of them breaking again. So we sold his and bought him a different learning game instead with the money he made from selling the V-Smile units.

I am sure that other people have had better experiences with this product, however our personal experience was a nightmare. It was very hard for a 3-5 year old child to understand why his toy had to be sent back to the company because they made a bad product. The patience of a child that age is very thing and making them wait forever for a new toy just is not feasible. A child’s product should stand up to the test of time. In my opinion the V-Smile does not do that!! My advice if you choose to purchase the V-Smile, be cautious. Keep your receipt, and also all handbooks to all games, and to the unit and any accessories you purchase. Make sure that you contact customer service for any issues. If there are buigs in your unit get them taken care of as quickly as possible, if you wait over a year they will not replace your product. Another suggestion, if any sort of warranty is offered, BUY IT! With this product I have a feeling, you just may need it.

Product Review: Leapster Learning System

Educational games have become just as popular as non-educational games. In some cases they may even be more popular! There is always some new toy to help your child learn colors, shapes, letters, numbers, phonics, and math. Leading the way in this ever growing market of educational toys is Leap Frog. Leap Frog was one of the first companies to combine hand held video games and learning toys into one amazing toy, the Leapster.

The Leapster started out with just one style, silver and triangle shaped. Now you have several options to choose from! You can pick a triangle shaped, or a rectangle shaped. You can choose from the colors silver, pink, and green. You can even choose from the systems now Leapster TV, Leapster L-Max, and the standard Leapster. The wide array of games that Leap Frog has manufactured for the Leapster systems can be played on any and all of the 3 available systems. However, that is only one of the many benefits of choosing the Leapster for your child. I have purchased Leapster;s for all three of my children through out the past several years. The benefits of purchasing this system continue to grow as your child grows. Games are available for children starting at age 3, all the way up to children age 12. The games vary from Video Cartridges, to Arcade style educational games, to Electronic Books, and even Art games. The games are even available in a variety of characters that your child more than likely already knows and loves.

The original Leapster includes Learning with Leap. In the older version of the Leapster this came in cartridge form, however, in the newer version it is not in a cartridge it is automatically included inside the system, no cartridge needed! Leap is one of Leap Frog’s own original characters. This game has so many different ways for your child to learn and grow. Some of these learning games include: 1. Painting pictures. 2. Rabbit River 3. Chicken Coop 4. Shape Shop and 5. Catcher Fields. The picture painting game gives your child a variety of pictures to choose from that they can paint in any way that they like. In Rabbit River, your child helps rabbits get across a river by jumping on logs. Some times these logs have letters or numbers on them that the child has to identify in order to get the rabbit across. In the beginner levels there are no letters or numbers. As the levels get higher your child has to know the sound the letter makes or be able to count by 5s to get the rabbit across. At the Chicken Coop, your child will be able to learn by matching pictures. In the Shape Shop, is a game where you help mice build things with different shapes. Finally in Catcher Fields, you catch different items in a bucket. It may be letters or sounds. There are bonus games for when you do well too! Loads and loads of fun for any child! And all of that is included with the purchase of the original Leapster system. I am not sure which games are included with Leapster TV or with Leapster L-Max. We have not purchased those, only the Leapster. All of the games that we have have different degrees of difficulty as well. Games that my 3 year old can play, can also be played by my 5 year old just by changing the level. Even my 7 year old enjoys playing these games on the higher level as a refresher course! Plus you can expand your Leapster game library by purchasing more games that teach different skills, or that are more difficult. Some of the available titles are Spiderman Electronic Comic Book, Disney Princess Enchanted Learning, Letterpillar, Cosmic Math, Junie B Jones, Batman, and School House Rock and this doesn’t even scratch the surface of the available games. Some of these games even allow you to unlock codes where you can go to the Leap Frog web site and download special surprises after you have completed certain levels! My kids have loved going to put in their codes after accomplishing a hard task!

You can also purchase accessories to go with your Leapster. They have Leapster bags or cases to carry your Leapster and your games. The case does not hold as many games as the bag, but both of these come in very handy whenever you are on a long car trip!You can also purchase charging stations. However, I have not had an issue with batteries running out too quickly yet and my kids love to play their Leapsters!

If you are planning to invest in a hand held educational game for your child, a Leapster is definitely the way to go! It is versatile, durable, and fun! My family gives it an A+!

Planning the Perfect Strawberry Shortcake Birthday Party

Is your little girl as sweet as Strawberry Shortcake? She is? Then a birthday party centered around this sugary sweet character and all of her friends is the perfect choice for your little sweetie! Here are some suggestions from my daughter’s recent party with this theme.

As I have stated in my other party planning articles, always start witht he guest list. It isn’t a party unless you have all of your friends and family there to celebrate with you. Invitations can be purchased at your local store, any store with party supplies will have them. You can also choose to order your invitations on-line. Many on-line party supply sites also carry party packs including many of your party necessities. You can also make your own invitations using any card making software or by using Microsoft Word. YOu can even make Strawberry shapes from construction paper and let your child help you cut them out and decorate them! To give your guests ample time to plan to attend and to RSVP, mail invitations at least two weeks prior to the party date. Even if you do not hear back from everyone on the guest list, still be prepared for all you invite to attend. The simple act of an RSVP seems to be a dying art these days.

This sweet them gives so many options for yummy foods. Since all of the characters are named after foods, the options just go on and on. Of course the main attraction of the food at any birthday partyis the birthday cake. YOu can always order a cake from a local bakery. I have even seen bakeries put a bunch of cupcakes together into the shape of a strawberry and then ice the cupcakes all together as one cake and decorate as a strawberry. It looks almost as good as it tastes! This “cupcake” cake would be easy to do on your own as well. You can also purchase a Strawberry Shortcake cake pan from a baking specialty shop, or on-line. This does require more decorating, but once you see the finished result, it will be well worth the additional effort! Cake plans need to be made at the two week before mark also. Either order the cake from the bakery, or find whatever pans you may need to make the cake of your choice. Do not put off the cake until the last minute, this is one detail you do not want to let slip through your fingers.

After you finish all of the planning for the cake, it is time to have some fun planning the other foods for the party. Here are some of the food ideas I had to choose from when planning our party.

1. Orange Blossom Cookies – I made simple spritz cookies and added a bit of orange extract to the batter. I used a flower shape disc on my cookie press and made these. I even had my daughter add orange sprinkles to the tops of the cookies. You can even use sugar cookie dough for this same thing and roll it out and use flower shaped cookie cutters. These of course are in honor of Strawberry’s friend, Orange Blossom.
2. Strawberry Shortcake – of course this one is the obvious option. You could have this yummy dessert instead of cake or in addition to cake.
3. Blueberry Muffins – I made miniature blueberry muffins, another recipe inspired by one of Strawberry’s friends, Blueberry Muffin.
4. Lemonade – this is always a great party beverage. You could even make a lemonade punch for more pizazz. This came from Strawberry’s twin friends, Lem and Ada.

There are tons of other options as well. All you need to do is do a search for Strawberry Shortcake and Friends and see all the character names to get inspired.

Now it is time to decide on party games. You need to first consider the age of your child and the children that will be attending the party. Make sure to choose age appropriate games and crafts.

1. Strawberry Shortcake coloring pages is great for any age. You can get these out of a coloring book, or print some out from on-line. Just do a search for Free coloring pages and you will find a multitude of sites that offer all different pages with all different characters. Print them out and you are ready to go!
2. Pin the tail on Pupcake – You can draw or purchase, or print out a large picture of Strawberry’s dog Pupcake. Have the kids pint he tail on him just like pin the tail on the donkey.
3. You could decorate cookies or cupcakes or rice crispy treats with the kids. One of Strawberry’s friend’s has her own bakery and this would be fin for older kids!
4. Strawberry crafts – You could make strawberries from construction paper or pipe cleaners or many other materials.
5. Strawberry patch – You could buy or make fake strawberries and hide them in the yard, then have the kids hunt for them. You can give them buckets or baskets to put the strawberries into. These baskets or buckets can double as their goody bags!

Speaking of goody bags, no party is complete without these special packages of special treats to thank your friends for coming to the party! You can find all kinds of neat goodies for the take home bags. Anything candy, cookie, or cake related would be perfect. Candy shaped erasers, and notepads with pictures of sweet treats ont hem would be great for any age. Also you can get small Strawberry Shortcake dolls for a small price, these would also be a good choice to send home with your little guests. Strawberry candies, and even strawberry fruit snacks would make a yummy addition too. You can even purchase ready made goody bags and character themed toys at your local or on-line party supplier.

The final seven days before the party get all the final items ready. Make a trip to the store to get all the final necessities, drinks, plates, cups, napkins, plastic silverware, any other snack foods you may want, and extra ice. If you want balloons make sure to order these at least 3-5 days in advance. You can order them from a florist or party store near you. You will need to pick the cake up the day of the party or make it a day ahead of time.

All of the details will fall right into place come party day! You will love watching your little sweetheart enjoy her party with her friends. Plus all of the adults will thinkt his is the best party ever! They may just all want you to help them plan their next party too! Enjoy your party, I know we enjoyed ours!

Holiday Visiting

I remember being a child and making coupon books for my mother for Mother’s Day. The small handmade book would have several coupons in it for things like a hug, a kiss, a clean room, breakfast in bed, and so on. My mother always loved those home made pictures and coupon books, or else she just told me she did! Now I am a grown woman and a mother myself. The thought crossed my mind as I mapped out my families plans for the upcoming Mother’s Day weekend. Where is my time to relax and enjoy a quiet moment on Mother’s Day? My schedule for the holiday weekend goes a little something like this.

Friday – take the kids to school, work, clean the house, do the laundry, pick up the kids from school, make dinner, have family fun time (our Friday night ritual), get the kids to bed and any other chore that pops up.

Saturday – breakfast, get all three kids bathed and dressed, get myself bathed and dressed, drive an hour and a half to visit my mother and my grandmother for the day, drive an hour and a half back home, cook dinner, clean up, get the kids to bed and do more laundry.

Sunday – breakfast, get everyone bathed and ready again, drive an hour to visit my mother in law for the day, drive an hour back home, cook dinner, clean up, get the kids to bed, and do laundry yet again.

Where in this packed schedule is there time for me to bask in the joys of motherhood or enjoy this holiday at all? Don’t get me wrong, I am thoroughly looking forward to each moment that I get to spend with my mother, grandmother, and mother in law. Each of them are such wonderful women and I love them all dearly. The problem is not just with Mother’s Day or Father’s Day. It is every holiday. At Christmas time it is the same thing. Days of packed schedules and no real time for our children to sit and enjoy the gifts they have received or to learn the true meaning of the holiday. We are too busy carting them from one place to another to just enjoy time together during the holiday. At Thanksgiving, we find ourselves so stuffed from eating three separate Thanksgiving dinners over the course of the weekend, that we may need to be rolled home instead of drive ourselves home.

I found holidays much simpler before I was married with children. Back then, I only had my parents and extended family to worry about seeing on any given holiday. Those were simpler times. Then I got married and that added a whole other set of parents and extended family to see on each holiday. Then you add in children that you are having to cart around with you each time you go visit anyone. You have to carry diapers, bottles, changes of clothes, baby wipes, formula, baby food, pacifiers, and whatever else your child needs to make it through a day away from home. Not to mention keeping the child entertained in the car while you drive to and from your destination, or keeping them occupied while at your destination. Luckily, I have wonderful parents and in-laws that have toys at their homes to entertain the children so we don’t have to bring something along to keep them happy at the grandparent’s house. Many people are not so lucky though. You begin to feel like you are taking your entire home with you. As you drive, thoughts start circling in your head. “Why can’t they come to visit us?” “Don’t they realize how hard it is to travel with children?” “There has to be an easier way to do this every year?”

After the whirlwind of the holiday ends, you sit down and start trying to think of a solution to make things easier the next time around. Thoughts of trading off each year and only visiting one set of family each year instead of all of them every year. Well, that isn’t fair of course. Then the family you don’t get to see that year will feel left out, and you will miss seeing them and so will your children. What about having everyone to your place instead? Well, this poses a whole other set of issues. Do you have room for everyone at your house? Would everyone be willing to travel to you instead? Every option comes to the same conclusion. This is the way it has been done for years in ‘my’ family.

I have found, there is not any real solution to this problem. Of course you feel obligated, they are your family. You love them and want to be with them and enjoy the holiday with them. They raised you and cared for you just like you are doing for your children. It is a matter of respect, love, and devotion to your family and your roots that keeps you running on every holiday. As my husband has said in years before, our parents had to travel with us when we were young, they have earned the right for us to come to them. Now it is our turn to teach our kids to not forget about their roots, and to continue loving and cherishing family even once you are grown and have a family of your own. It is an important lesson for every child to learn. At times while traveling from place to place on the holidays, I find myself frustrated and tired. The kids may be fighting in the car, or cranky and tired of riding for so long. Whatever the frustration is at that moment, I try to remember how much fun we had while visiting this time, or how much fun we will have at the next place. I try to remind my children of those things too.

Why do we feel obligated? Because that is the way it is, and I don’t think it should be any other way.

Product Review: Coppertone Water Babies – Quick Cover Lotion Spray

A few weeks ago we wanted to let our three children go outside and play in the sprinkler. I was getting them into their swim suits and getting towels ready for them. When I went to the cabinet to pull out the sunscreen I realized we were all out. Instead of calling off all of the fun, I ran up to the store to buy a new supply for the summer. When I arrived at the sunscreen aisle, I was amazed. There were so many choices! They have screens, blocks, lotions, sticks, balms, oils, sprays, waterproof, sport, UVA, UVB, and not to mention all of the different SPF choices! I focused my search on the children’s products. The majority of the children’s sunscreen products that I found that day were 45 SPF at the minimum. That was the one constant in the children’s sunscreen products, a high SPF.

SPF
SPF stand for Sun Protection Factor. I know what you are thinking. Great, but what on earth does the SPF number actually mean? It is basically the amount of time that a person can be exposed to sunlight without getting sun burned. According to Wikipedia’s definition of SPF, a person who would normally burn in 12 minutes of sun exposure without sunscreen, once protected by a 10 SPF sunscreen they could then be out for 2 hours, or 120 minutes, before getting burned. So the SPF multiplies the amount of time that you can be out in the sun by that number. The higher the SPF the longer you can be out in the sun without getting burned.

UVA/UVB
These are the types of invisible rays that the sun puts out. Ultraviolet A & B rays can cause both short and long term skin damage. If a sun screen products says it has Broad Spectrum protection that means it is protecting against both UVA and UVB rays.

Let’s recap! SPF is the amount of time that you can be out in the sun. UVA and UVB are the types of rays the sun puts out. Broad Spectrum sun screen is better because it protects against both types of harmful rays from the sun. Now that we all have a better understanding of all the confusing letters on the¬†sunscreen packages, let’s go back to my purchase that day.

I wanted something that would be quick and easy to apply. Therefore, I focused my attentions on the sprays and sticks. In the end I chose to go with the Coppertone Water Babies Lotion Spray. I made my purchase at a Kroger grocery store and this specific brand was on sale for $8.99 for a 6 oz spray bottle. This was neither the cheapest brand or the most expensive brand that day.

Why did I choose this brand?
1. Easy of application – It is a lotion in a spray form. All I had to do was spray the lotion onto my kids skin and rub it in.
2. SPF – This product has an SPF of 50. This mean that my kids could be out in the sun 50 times longer than they could be without sunscreen on.
3. Waterproof – The bottle claims that this product gives ‘instant waterproof protection’ My kids were going to be playing in the sprinkler so I needed something that was not going to wash off during the first pass in the sprinkler.
4. Broad spectrum protection – it protects against both UVA and UVB rays.
5. Hypoallergenic – I have a child with a skin condition so this extra sensitive formula was important to me.
6. The bottle says it is #1 Pediatrician Recommended

Now you know what all of the letters mean, how much this product cost me, and also why I chose the product. That means it is time for the important stuff! Did the product live up to its claims and my expectations as a parent?

I am the mother of three children, each of them has very different skin from the other. My oldest child has skin that rarely burns. A nice olive complexion that just turns a gorgeous tan in the sun, however it is still very important to protect her skin from the harmful rays of the sun. My middle child has a fairer complexion that does burn fairly easy. Then my youngest child has extremely sensitive skin. She has severe eczema, many lotions sting and burn when we put them on her, so sunscreen is sometimes a big issue for her. No matter how bad it stings, she has to wear it in order to be out in the sun.

I put sunscreen on my middle child first. He is a giggly and wiggly five year old little boy. Getting him to stand still for me to apply sunscreen is a major task. The ease of the spray was wonderful for him. It sprays on quickly then I rubbed it in and he was done. He loved the fact that I was spraying lotion onto him. I had finished applying the sunscreen to his entire body in under 5 minutes. My oldest went next. She is a seven year old who is easy to manage when it comes to sunscreen. She also thought the spray was cool, but the ease of application was not particularly necessary for her. If I had only needed sunscreen for her, then I probably would have gone with a less expensive lotion rather than going for the more expensive spray on type. Now it was time for the real test. My three year old with a skin condition. I sprayed the lotion onto her arms and started to rub it in. Not a single cry from her! It was gentle enough that it did not agitate her eczema at all. This was a huge plus for me!

Even though the product says on the front of the bottle that it gives instant waterproof protection, I still had my kids wait about 30 minutes after the application before they went out into the water. I guess I am from the old school where good things come to those who wait, so we waited. Then out into the sun and water they went. The played out in the water and sun for the majority of the afternoon. They came in after about two and a half hours of playing outside. They were not in the sprinkler the entire time they ran around the yard and rode their scooters and bikes some also. That evening I put them into the tub and got them all ready for bed. Not a hint of pink or red on them. The next day I checked over them again to make sure nothing had shown up, not a hint of sun burn at all.

All in all, the Coppertone Water Babies Lotion Spray is a wonderful product. I think it is best for younger children since the ease of application is so important at the younger ages. I would definitely purchase this product again for my children. It was easy to use, worked just as the bottle says, and was not ridiculously expensive. I still have quite a bit of sunscreen lotion left in this bottle, but I know I will need to buy more before the summer is over. This will be the brand I go directly to next time I am in the sunscreen aisle!

How to Throw a Princess Birthday Party

My daughter is one of the biggest princess lovers that I have ever seen. I remember loving lots of things when I was a little girl, but I do not remember being so enthralled by something as she is. We have now had to have two princess themed birthday parties in her life of now 8 years.

The first princess themed party was for her third birthday. The second one was for her eighth birthday. However, she has wanted to have a princess themed party pretty much every year. I have had to coax her into other themes for variety. Each year the ideas have flooded us with how to make the Princess theme more fun, and even better. This year I felt like it would be one of the last few years that she would enjoy having a princess theme so we went for it.

First things first
Invitations are the first thing to do. You need to make a guest list. Start by deciding how many people you want to invite. After you make this decision you can focus on getting the invitations. You can always go buy Disney Princess themed invitations from a party store, that is the easiest solution to the invitation dilemma. However, there are lots of other options that you should explore too.

Making your own invitations is a lot of fun. If your daughter is old enough she could make the invitations herself. Let her be creative and you can assist with the finer details. If your daughter isn’t old enough then you can make the invitations easily too. Microsoft Word is an excellent resource to get creative. You can try out many different versions of the invitation. You can even go to the Microsoft website and download different borders to use. I also like going to a local stationery store and find some cute paper that is already bordered. You can either hand write the invitations or set up a template in Word and print them off.

However you decide to go about getting the invitations, bought or made, you need to get the invitations out at least two weeks in advance of the party. This gives all the guests plenty of time to adjust their schedules accordingly.

Focus on the Food
The next thing you need to plan out is the food. The cake is always my first thought when I think of birthday party food. That is because without a birthday cake, it just isn’t much of a birthday party! I have to say my favorite thing to do is to make my kids cakes myself. I love the creativity in it and I love letting my child help with it. However, store bought cakes are always a good choice too. It is all about personal preference. Some people just don’t bake, others love baking. If you are not a baker, take your little princess to the bakery and let her help choose the cake, the colors, and the flavors. If you are a baker, this is the fun part! Have your child decide which flavor cake she wants. Then decide on what style cake you are going to make. When it comes to cakes, the possibilities are endless. For our first princess party we had a sheet cake that we put princess figurines on it and decorated accordingly. The most recent cake was a tiara shape and it had my daughter’s name written across it. However, while we were at the bakers supply store we found a castle cake kit. I am not advances enough to handle that cake yet, but maybe I can be ready for it for my next daughter!

After the cake is decided on you can focus on the other party foods. I like making suckers into magic wands or scepters. The little girls always love running around playing with them for a while before they eat them! You can make all the normal party foods that you like too. But I always like to throw in some fun themed snacks too. You could make cookies or rice crispy treats in heart shapes and write all the guests names on them. For some reason hearts and princesses just go together! You could also do this same thing with star shapes. Just make sure you use sugar sprinkles. They make the cookies or rice crispy treats sparkle, and what princess have you seen that was not sparkling?

Decorated to the Nines
A princess must always have everything done in a fantastic way. Therefore, the decorations are not to be overlooked. Head out to your local party supply store and start your search. Balloons have to be ordered in advance so make sure you do that first thing so you get the time that works best for you for pick-up. When choosing balloons you should look for the ones that are shimmery or sparkly, not just the plain colors. Choose your daughter’s favorite colors and have them scheduled for pick up on party day! You can pick up table cloths, streamers, cups, plates, napkins, and every other decoration you could possibly think of at the party supplies store. You can also look on-line for party supplies. Many on-line party suppliers sell party packs. These party packs include everything you will need. You can also make your own decorations from construction paper and tissue paper.

Party Games
No birthday party is complete without games! Princess parties are lots of fun with games. Games don’t have to have a winner in the end, they can just be an activity that everyone takes part in and enjoys. Here are a few options that we have always had fun with.

1. Pin the Shoe on Cinderella – similar to pin the tail on the donkey
2. Dancing princesses – similar to musical chairs
3. Color princess pictures – you can print these out from many on-line children’s craft sites or you can buy some princess coloring books.
4. Make your own tiaras, scepters, castles, or other princess item crafts
5. Older girls can do nails or put on make-up

Just a Small Favor
I am not really sure where this tradition started, but giving party favors has become a staple at birthday parties. It is a small way to say thank you to your guests for coming to the party. You can buy pre-filled goody bags at the local or on-line party supply store. Or you can come up with your own favor bags. I like coming up with my own. However, when I am pressed for time, picking up the pre-filled bags is super easy! When I make my own bags, I save money and my daughter gets to help pick out the things that she thinks her friends will like. This year we filled the goody bags with plastic rings, hair bows that I made, nail polish, glitter dust, and lip gloss. Any girly items will do great for a princess party. Toy cell phones, pretend make-up, chap stick, and candy jewelry are all great additions as well!

In the end, if you choose a few of these ideas from this article your princess party will be a huge success! People will start coming to you for great party ideas, and hopefully this article will help you think more creatively for your child’s future parties!

Summer Fun on a Budget

I have spent many a summer trying to keep kids entertained on a tight budget. Here are some of my favorites that we have done through out the years!

Fun In The Sprinkler
This is probably the easiest Way to have fun during the summer. The only additional cost is a bit added on to your water bill. However, your yard probably needs to be watered anyways, so why not let the kids play while the yard gets watered! Get the kids into their suits and put on plenty of sunscreen. Make sure you get into your suit and get your sunscreen on too. I know I can’t resist playing with my kids, but more often than not they will fall and need me to come and rescue them from being sprayed by the water at some point or another, so I always like to be prepared to get wet myself. Play time in the sprinkler is a great way to play with water guns and beach balls as well.

Craft Projects
Summer is a great time to play outside in the sun. However, many times it is just too hot to be outside. For days like this, find a great indoor activity! Crafts are a wonderful and inexpensive way to enjoy being indoors. Here are a few of my favorite summer craft projects!

1. Patriotic Crafts – With all of the patriotic holidays that happen to fall during the summer, it is a great time to work on patriotic crafts with the kids. This gives you an opportunity to explain the meaning of these holidays and he significance of the craft project for that holiday.
2. Outdoor crafts – These are crafts that are not necessarily done outdoors. They are crafts about the outdoors. You can make suns out of construction paper. If you live near the beach, you can make beach scenes in bottles with some sand and sea shells that you gather during a beach trip. You can gather flowers and press them or dry them. You can even make flowers from construction paper for an arrangement that will never need watering!
3. Sea life crafts – It is so fun to make underwater creatures as a craft. Fish, octopus, starfish, shells, you can make tons of different undersea animals and you can make tons of things from those animals! Picture frames, mobiles, calendars, the possibilities are only as limited as your imagination!

Summer School
I know the last thing that the kids are going to want to think about during the summer is school, but school will be back in session before you know it. You don’t want them to forget everything they learned the prior school year, and if possible you want to get them ahead of the game for the next year! It is a good idea to take a little time each day to go over the thing they learned next year and to prepare them for the new lessons coming in the next grade level. Reading books is a good way to keep them learning. You can also print out worksheets for them in a variety of subjects. There are several home school web sites that have free print outs available for you. You can also purchase a summer workbook that will have daily activities for your child according to their grade level.

Go on an Outing
A change of scenery is a good way to break the boredom. This change of scenery can be as simple as going to a park for a picnic. You can also go to a community pool, to visit relatives out of town, to the local zoo, or a children’s museum. If your kids are older you can even take a trip to a history museum or an art museum, these are great ways to keep them learning during the summer and have fun doing it!

Mix it Up
Normally you are the person making breakfast, lunch and dinner. Mix it up a bit, and have the kids help out with making the meals! You could choose one meal for them to help with each day or just one day that they get to help, whatever works best for you and your family. My kids love spending time helping out in the kitchen. Give them a task that is age appropriate. It could be measuring out some ingredients, cutting up ingredients, mixing up a batter or putting items into the bowl or pot. You can even let them help pick what you eat. This is a great Way to make grocery shopping with the kids easier too! They will be on a mission to get the items they need for their special meal!

Five simple tips, five days in every week, just pick a tip each day and your summer will fly by! You know what they say, time flies when you are having fun! With these tips, your summer will be more fun than ever before and it will all be inexpensive! Enjoy your summer filled with fun!

PTA/PTO Summer Planning

Summer may be all fun and games for the kids, but it is a very busy time for your school’s PTA. One of the last things that the PTA does before the school year is out is induct the incoming PTA board. This new board has to spend the summer learning all of the tasks that come along with their new title on the board. The planning sessions will be long over the summer since the board meetings are more than likely the only time that your PTA board will be able to get together to brain storm.

The first summer PTA board meeting should include not only the incoming board members but also the members leaving the board. This is what I like to call a meeting of the minds. The outgoing board member can help the new board member taking over that position by going over how they handled certain tasks and what things they think need to change or things that they wanted to accomplish but weren’t able to for whatever reason. This is such an important meeting. The passing of the PTA torch is more than just announcing who the new board members will be, it is teaching those new board members what being on the PTA is all about. You have to pass on any information that you have from prior years so they understand what has been done int he past sot hey can adequately plan for the upcoming school year.

During this meeting of the minds it is a good time for the new PTA President to stand up and tell everyone what he or she hopes to accomplish during the upcoming school year. The new board needs to set at least one goal for the school year during this first meeting. The President can throw out a few ideas for the year’s goals with his or her own goals for the PTA for the year. These goals could be just about anything. Some goals could be to purchase play equipment for the school playground, to increase parent involvement, or to start a new reading program. These are only a few ideas for goals, take your time as a board and make sure your goals are set before school starts in the fall.

Another important task for the summer is to decide what events the PTA will participate in throughout the year. If parental involvement is an issue at your school, then scaling back on the PTA events may be in store for your PTA. This is never something that a PTA wants to do, however, if you do not have enough help to pull off so many PTA sponsored events, then you may need to pick and choose which events you think are going to benefit the school and the children the most. If you have an over-abundance of parental involvement, maybe you can look into increasing the events that the PTA sponsors. This all depends on the situation at your school. Make our choices wisely and don’t over extend your PTA or else you will wind up with a bunch of burned out board members at the end of the year. This is the last thing that you want!

One of the most important decisions that PTA boards make over the summer is regarding fund raisers. How much money needs to be raised to accomplish your goals? What type of fund raiser is going to help you to raise that amount of money? Which fund raising company will give you the best payout? Are you willing to give up a percentage of the payout in order to get more help from the fund raising company handling all of the details? Do you want to do a selling fund raiser, a collecting fund raiser, or a creative fund raiser? These are all very important questions which need to be thoroughly researched and discussed by the entire board. Fund raisers can be a very sore subject for parents in the school. It always seems like the school is asking for money these days, so the PTA needs to choose the fund raiser wisely. You want the fund raiser to be something that the children and the parents can get excited about! Some typical selling fund raisers are wrapping paper, magazines, cookie dough, and candy bars. Some common collecting fund raisers are aluminum cans, and box tops for education. Some more creative fund raisers are auctions, carnivals, bake sales, and talent shows. Think over all of the options and choose a fund raiser that will be right for your school and your PTA.

Even though the summer is a busy time for the PTA board, remember to have fun while at the board meetings. Bring snacks and don’t forget that you are all working to make the school better for your children and all of the other children at the school. Have fun and enjoy all the planning!

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