Stay With Me

My kids are three of the most important things in my life.  Ever since they were born they relied on me, their mother, for everything.  While they were young, there were times when that was exhausting.  If you are a parent you know exactly what I am talking about.

  • Late night feedings
  • Middle of the night illnesses
  • Waking up early because as soon as the sun hit their window they wanted to bound out of bed and play
  • Cooking
  • Cleaning
  • Laundry
  • Doctor’s appointments
  • Playing whatever they want
  • Watching whatever they want, as many times as they want
  • Teaching them everything you can about life and the world

Exhausting?  YES!  Worth it?  ABSOLUTELY!!!!!  I have delighted in being there every single step of the way with our kids.  Luckily I was able to be at home with them or on the same schedule as them for over 10 years while they were young.  This made them rely on me even more for things though, since there were a lot of times that Daddy was at work and I was there with them.  I was the first one they asked to do something or for something.  I was also a lot of the time the one that they wanted when they were upset about anything.  I was at all of the school programs, and PTA/PTO meetings.  I wanted to do everything in my power to give my children everything they wanted and even more.  Isn’t that what all parents want for their children?  Of course it is!

Sure there were moments during all of the craziness and stress that I just wanted and needed a break.  But I never once wanted my children to not want or need me.  Even when I was not with them, I was still thinking about them no matter where I was at the time.  Each of them was always on my mind.  I wanted to know what they were doing, if they missed me, if they needed me, and if they would be upset that I had been away from them for this period of time.

The emotions that I described in the above paragraph has not changed. I still feel exactly the same about my children.  When they are at school, or at a friend’s house, or when I’m at work … I miss them. My heart aches to spend more time with them and to enjoy every moment.  Actually, my heart hurts for this time even more now than ever before.

My oldest daughter is turning 16 in a few short months.  She is a sophomore in high school.  She used to want to sit with me and sing songs, color, play games, watch TV, and just snuggle.  Now she is busy with her friends, extra curricular activities, and looking at colleges.  She is in the beginning stages of making plans to leave the nest.  She is strong, confident, and independent.  She asserts her ability to think for herself and make her own decisions and be her own person.  That’s exactly what we wanted for her, right? We wanted to teach her how to grow into a strong, caring, compassionate, intelligent, hard-working, and all around amazing adult, right?  Then why on earth does it hurt so badly?

My son is 13, and he is such a funny character.  He used to love to spend his time in my lap or snuggled up under one of my arms doing just about anything.  He would run and play and laugh at just about any given moment.  Now he is about to finish up his 8th grade year and embark on the journey that is high school.  He is already talking about what college he might want to go to and what team he will want to play fro when he gets drafted in the NBA.  He’s got big dreams, and a big personality to match.  Once again, he is growing into all we had hoped he would be.  And still it hurts …

My youngest daughter is 11, and she is quite the pistol.   She has always been my snuggle baby.  She was constantly wanting to play, or learn new things and be with me no matter where I was.  It hasn’t happened all the way with her yet, but I’ve now been through it twice so I see all of the signs.  She’s growing up just like her siblings did, and she too is pulling away from me and becoming so independent.

They are all doing exactly what they are supposed to do. They are growing up, and becoming independent.  They can’t rely on me for everything forever.  But the thought of them leaving and going out into the big, bad world all on their own is more than terrifying.  Not because we haven’t prepared them for it, but more because I know what’s out there and I want them to just stay with me …

“Stay with me, the world is dark and wild.  Stay a child, while you can be a child … with me.” The Witch in Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods.

Here’s hoping that we can enjoy lots more fun before they all run off and leave me behind in the dust to move on to all of the bigger and better things that life has in store for them.

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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.

Product Review: Disney Paint Stamps & Stencil Kit

I recently purchased a Disney Paint Stamps & Stencil Kit at Home Depot to use while painting my daughter’s room. The kit I bought is a Tinkerbelle kit, however there are several varieties available including Winnie the Pooh, Cinderella, Buzz Lightyear, and Mickey Mouse. The Tinkerbelle kit includes 2 paint stamps, one flower and one butterfly, and also a stencil that looks like pixie dust.

I chose this kit because the price was right and also it appears very easy to use. The finished room photos look so amazing and the instructions were simple, so I gave it a shot! After painting the entire room, I waited for the walls to dry completely, then I started with the stamps. The kit included the stamps but no instructions on how to properly use them. This concerned me since I had never used painting stamps before. I applied paint to the stamps and checked to make sure there was not an excess of paint in any area of the stamp. I then placed the stamp in the desired location on the wall. I gently pressed on the stamp to make sure that the image was successfully painted onto the wall.

After removing the stamp, I noticed the image did not fully transfer, and the paint was running. I immediately caught the dripping stream of paint running down my freshly painted wall. At first I chalked this up to me being new to stamps and tried it again. Only to still have trouble getting the image to transfer even remotely close to what it should look like according to the package. However, one I had started, I had no choice but to finish continue on to finish the job. Once the stamps were all completed, the finished product looks decent. However, in my opinion, it looks nothing like the example photo included to show the finished stamp.

The stencil was a totally different story. The kit did include directions on the proper use of the stencil. I followed the package instructions word for word. The end result was beautiful and my little girl loves it! It was so simple, she was even able to help me with painting the stencil. My only wish is that another stencil had been included in the package, or a longer stencil. It was a bit frustrating to move the stencil every few minutes. Of course they do sell additional stencils, I just had not purchased additional stencils since I was not sure how it would look on the walls yet.

If I wanted to purchase another Disney Paint Stamps & Stencil Kit, I would not buy it. I would only buy the stencils and forget all about the stamps!

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: 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!

Simple Dinner Recipes

Are you always in a pinch at dinner time? Do you constantly find yourself grabbing convenience foods out of the freezer? Is a take-out menu more familiar than your own pantry? If you said yes to any of the above, then maybe it is time for you to find some simple dinner ideas to make meal time easier and less stressful.

We all know it is more expensive to eat out all the time! But, do you realize how pricey it is to purchase convenience foods? Those frozen, ready-made meals that are found at the grocery store are busting many grocery budgets too! Dinner can be simple even without those freezer meals. Of course, I have nights when I order take-out, or grab from my freezer. However, a while back I made a choice. Each week I strive to make more home cooked meals than convenience foods or take-out food. For my family this is not an easy feat! As the mother of three children, it can be very hard to put together a meal that every one wants to eat. To be honest, that alone could drive any cook mad! All the cookbooks in the world can’t help with that problem! I have found that experimenting on my own with ingredients that I know my family enjoys can turn into something wonderfully delicious!

Here are a few ideas from my kitchen. These are all quick meals, and tips for ways to grab from the freezer and still have home cooked food! These of course are just a few of my families favorites.

Tacos are one of the easiest meals to make. You can use whatever meat your family prefers: ground beef, chicken, or turkey. It is so simple to brown the meat, season it and throw the toppings out for everyone to dig in! Did I also mention it is delicious? Well, it is! another bonus for tacos, it is the perfect meal for each person to make just how they want. If you have a picky eater around they can make their own choices as to what goes on their taco. Hard shell, soft shell, cheese, lettuce, tomato, salsa, sauce, sour cream, beans, so many choices you just can’t go wrong! I even found a simpler way to make tacos. “Is that even possible?” you say. Yes it is! You don’t even have to stand at the stove cooking this! It is a crock pot version that is absolutely delicious! Just throw thawed meat, a can of refried beans, a cup of salsa or a can of tomatoes and diced chiles, one packet of taco seasoning, and about half a cup of water all into a crock pot. Let it cook all day long. Once you are about ready to eat fill your taco shells with this meat mixture. It will knock your socks off with the flavor! You can even use this meat mixture in any of your favorite Mexican food casseroles. Plus I have a family of five, and we always have taco meat leftover. I throw the leftovers into a freezer safe container and then I toss it into my freezer. What a great home cooked meal in my freezer that is ready whenever I need it!

Next time you think about stopping at your local sandwich shop, keep right on driving and make sandwiches at home instead. We always have lunch meat and bread at our house so this is a really easy one for me. We love throwing together our favorite sandwiches and making a salad or our favorite canned soup. For variety you can grill the sandwiches, toast the bread, or heat the lunch meat. BLTs are one of our favorite sandwich night choices, You could even make sloppy Joe’s instead of flat meat sandwiches. Plus if you aren’t in the mood for typical white bread, just grab some specialty breads at the store when they go on sale, throw them in the freezer so they are there fresh and ready whenever you have sandwich night! I love grabbing deli loafs and burger buns and even white and wheat breads when they are one sale. I have a steady supply in my freezer of breads for just about any occasion. This makes sandwich night a great simple meal and you didn’t even have to stand in line at the sandwich shop and watch someone else make your food.

Casseroles are another wonderful way to make dinner simple. Most casseroles can be thrown together the night before hand. Then you leave them in the fridge until you are ready to cook them. Once you get home from your busy day, put your dinner into the oven and let it cook while you wind down. You don’t have to worry about chopping any ingredients, or cooking anything. Just put it into the oven and wait. Not to mention, many casseroles can be frozen. So why not double up your recipe the next time you make a casserole. Then your family can eat one right then for dinner, and have an extra to put into the freezer for dinner on another night! We eat lots of casseroles at my house. It is an easy way to slip vegetables in on my picky eater and also a comforting food for the adults too.

Meatloaf seems to strike fear in the heart of many cooks and eaters. It is an easy meal to make, but it is also easy to not make properly. My husband is a big fan of meatloaf, I was not. When I was first cooking for my family I did not want to make meatloaf. Finally one day I started searching for different types of meatloaf recipes. I found tons of recipes that are not your typical meatloaf. Lots of these recipes are crock pot meatloaves, Italian meatloaves, Mexican meatloaves, turkey loaf, chicken loaf, you name the style there is probably a meatloaf out there to fit! I was floored. I always thought meatloaf was boring, but not anymore. My family happens to love the Mexican version that I found. Experiment and find one that your family enjoys. Once you know which one the family likes, make a few and throw them in the freezer. It is so easy to pull one out and throw it into the oven. While the already cooked meatloaf is re-heating in the oven you can open up some canned vegetables or whatever side you like best get it good and ready. This is one meal I do not think I have seen in a family size portion at the local market, but man it tastes so good right out of my freezer! The crock pot versions we tried were good too, but I couldn’t seem to get mine to hold together as well when cooked in the crock pot. Just search in your favorite cook book or on your favorite recipe site and find the meatloaf that sounds the best to you and give it a whirl. I know that you will be pleasantly surprised, I know I was!

Seafood is becoming more and more popular these days. I love to grab a few bags of frozen seafood whenever it goes onto sale at my grocery store. My favorites are frozen tilapia and frozen shrimp. When I buy the frozen shrimp I get the raw shrimp with about 31-40 shrimps in each bag. You simply take this out and cook with it. The shrimp simply gets thrown into a pot of boiling water, cook for 5-10 minutes and they are done. You can add them to a pasta dish with some sauce and it is an instant meal! The tilapia or any other fish can be quickly sauteed in your favorite seasoning and paired with some rice or steamed vegetables and you have a quick and simple meal that is also healthy and fairly figure friendly too!

These are only a few of my tips, but I hope you find them helpful in making your evenings more simple. I know it is such a great feeling being able to sit down and enjoy a meal together with my family. Whether I slaved all day, or only 10 minutes on the meal. Sitting down with my family talking about our days and enjoying dinner is one of my favorite pastimes. Hopefully these hints will help it be one of your favorites times too!

Bear Creek Soup Mix

Soup is such a wonderful meal. It is warm and it always hits the spot! I find that it is the perfect quick meal. Even though there are tons of delicious canned soups on the market these days, lots of times I am not in the mood for a canned soup. I want to feel like I have made something on my own, but who has the time to slave in the kitchen all day long to make a delicious soup?

Recently while perusing the aisles at my local grocery store, I found myself browsing the soup shelves. I scanned each shelf looking for some soup that I had not tried yet. Then something caught my eye, a pouch. What type of soup comes in a pouch? A soup mix comes in a pouch! I picked up the pouch and read the instructions. It seemed simple enough and since it only cost $4.19 I figured it was worth the risk. I only purchased one variety at first, Cheddar Broccoli. A few weeks went by and I never made the soup, then the night came. I was not in the mood to cook, but I didn’t want take out either. I stood in the pantry staring at all of the food wondering what to throw together. Then I saw the pouch again. I knew it was time to try out the soup. I grabbed the pouch and headed back to my kitchen. The directions on the package said to bring 8 cups of water to a boil. That was easy enough! I filled my pot with water and waited for it to boil. Once the water came to a boil, I whisked in the soup mix just as the directions say. I reduced the heat and let the soup simmer for 10 minutes. It says on the package for variety you can add bacon, ham, broccoli or corn. I decided to be adventurous! I added some fresh broccoli that I had in the fridge. I cut it up into bite size pieces and threw it into the pot of simmering soup. Then I decided I wanted to add some meat to my soup. I had some ground chicken waiting to be cooked, so I browned it quickly in a skillet and added it to the soup as well. I let the soup continue to cook on low until we were all ready to eat.

The smell coming from my kitchen was phenomenal. My husband and I couldn’t wait to eat! We each got a bowl and filled it up with 2 big ladles full of soup. This was some of the best soup I have had in a long time. I was amazed! How could this powdered soup mix be so delicious? I still have no clue how it works, but it really is wonderful. I have since bought 2 more varieties of this soup mix. In our pantry right now I have three mixes, Cheddar Broccoli, Creamy Potato, and Minestrone. We have already made the minestrone once and it was also delicious. The only thing I added to it was a few handfuls of frozen mixed vegetables. I can’t wait to try these again and add other things to it, or maybe even not add anything and have it as an appetizer instead of my full meal.

Bear Creek soup has been around for a while, but I am so glad that I finally picked it up off the shelf and gave it a try. It makes a ton of soup for the family or even some for a couple with leftovers for days! Next time you are at the grocery store, you should definitely give Bear Creek Soup Mix a try!

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!

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