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: 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!

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!

How to Avoid Sibling Rivalry

I am the mother of three great kids. It amazes me how when I am with each one individually they are so different than when the other children are with us. Sometimes it seems that I am dealing with three little Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’s. The problem is they are all wanting my attention and my attention gets stretched out as much as possible, but at times it still isn’t enough to go around.

I began to try to figure out ways to help fight back against sibling rivalry in our house. Here are a few tips that I have found extremely helpful!

Comparisons
Let me start off by saying that “never” is not a word that I use lightly. So when I tell you this tip, please realize how serious it is. Never compare your children to one another. This is so easy to do and not realize that you are even comparing them. Think back to the last time you told your kids to clean their rooms. One child got the job done quickly, and the other child took much longer. When you check in on the slower child, what did you say? Did you say something along the lines of, “I am so glad that you are taking your time and getting the job done the right way.” Or did your statement sound more like this, “Why is this not finished yet? Your sister/brother finished her/his room over an hour ago!” If you said something similar to the second statement, then you were comparing your kids. Even if you are the perfect parent, your children are going to compete against one another. That is inevitable, however, the better we can get at not comparing our children to one another, the less the children will feel the need to be better than the other. The best thing to remember is that each child is different and one child may be better at one task than the other, but that other child is going to be great at another task. Recognize these differences, and acknowledge that your child is doing their best at each task, or push them to strive for their best no matter what the task is! All you want is that child’s personal best, which may not necessarily be the same as your other child.

Falling into this same category, is playing favorites. This can not help any sibling rivalry situation. The only thing that playing favorites will do is make things much worse! Beware of favoring a certain child over another. Your children do notice it no matter what age they are, ad chances are they will not forget it.

Cooperate, don’t compete
Let’s use dinner as an example for this tip. I know I have children who like to dawdle at the dinner table. Instead of having the children try to beat each other to finish first, set a timer. The children can each try to beat the clock and finish eating their dinner before the time is up. This way they are not competing against each other. This works the same for picking up toys, books or clearing the table. Whatever the chore or task, this timer trick will work. Not only does it keep the children from competing, but it also helps them to cooperate with each other on many occasions. An added bonus with the timer trick, it turns just about anything into a fun activity. Cooperation works when it comes to fun projects too, not just the difficult stuff. If you are having the children make something for a holiday gift, have them all cooperate to make one gift instead of having each of them make their own gift. This way each child can use his or her own strengths and not feel like someone else did a better job.

Routine
If you find that your children are arguing at the same time each day, then it may be a time to change your daily routine. Something as simple as moving dinner up by half an hour can make a huge difference in the way your children react to one another. Making sure that you have a set schedule for your day makes children feel secure because they know when to expect meals, bath, bed, and any other activities that your family does on a daily basis.

Attention
The main reason that siblings bicker is because they want the attention of the parents. It does not matter what kind of attention they get, as long as they are getting attention. To a child, any attention is better than no attention. So a child will get attention any way that they can. Sometimes children will achieve the attention they crave in positive ways, other times in negative ways. You need to teach your children that negative attention is not the appropriate way to gain time with you as a parent. Negative actions will have negative consequences. The same must happen for positive actions, reward those with a positive reenforcement. There are always going to be circumstances when negative actions will happen. No child is perfect, and they will do bad things. This is one of the many ways that a child learns. It is our job as parents to help guide them toward making more positive choices rather than negative choices.

Family Time
An easy way to fight back against sibling rivalry is to show your children how much fun you can all have together as a family. Family time is a blast for everyone. Decide on a weekly or monthly activity that you all can enjoy as a family. It could be a ball game, a day at the park, a trip to the zoo or museum, a movie, or even a game night. See my other articles to find great ways to enjoy family time together.

Time & Space
Children need to have individual time to themselves or with a parent. Having time alone to do what they want without a sibling joining in or tagging along can change a child’s attitude around completely. I know that I need time to myself on occasion and this can be important for children as well. Each child should have their own time in their own space and not be interrupted during this time. Also, time just you and each child on an individual basis is just as important. Sometimes children are more willing to open up and discuss situations that are troubling them or even things that they are proud of if it is only you and your child. They need to have solo time with each parent so they have time to connect with each of you and feel important to each of you.

Even if you follow each of these tips, arguments will happen between siblings. The best thing to do in this situation is to sit and talk with your children about the best ways to handle conflict. This varies from one family to the next. Some families prefer children to work things out on their own, other parents want to be involved in the solutions. It all depends on which way works best for your family.

Even with sibling rivalry, my life would not be the same if I didn’t have my sister, and your children’s lives would not be without their siblings. I can’t imagine growing up all alone, without my sister. Life just would have been missing something! Arguments or not, siblings are something to be treasured and loved. Remind your kids of that when conflicts do arise. One day they will appreciate these life lessons that they were able to learn early on thanks to their siblings!

5 Gifts Every New Mom Should Get

I have been a new mother three times. I had baby showers with two of my children, my second child came the day of my shower so it was canceled. I went to the baby store and made a registry and got lots of wonderful gifts. Some things I thought I needed, but never used, other things I thought I needed and could not have lived without! Here are a few things that I wish I have given to new moms, or that I wish I had been given, or that I wish I had received more of at my shower.

Food
I know this seems like a strange request, and you definitely will not see it on any baby registry. However, when you are recovering from giving birth, tending to a newborn baby, and possibly other children, meal times are your least favorite part of the day. However, it is very important for you to eat well, and your family to eat well during this time. If you have a friend that just gave birth or will be giving birth soon, a wonderful creative gift is meals for her and her family. One thing not to forget though, is dinner is not the only meal of the day. Sure dinner is usually the most complex of the three meals in the day, but when you are being pulled in every direction like a new mom feels she is, every meal can be complex. Take by a few meals that are frozen or ready to eat. If they are frozen meals, then make sure you include instructions on the food container on how to cook them. You could also take by some muffins and fruit. You could even make a breakfast casserole or two that can be frozen and cooked at a later time. These meals will be such a huge help to the family! I have heard many new parents say that they are fine and don’t need any thing, however when I brought by those meals they were so appreciative and really did need that help.

Diapers
This is a huge necessity with a new baby. I was always amazed at how many diapers we would go through in a day. Such a little tiny thing and they go through about 10 diapers a day on average. Standard packages of newborn sized diapers have 40 diapers in them. This means that you will go through a full package of diapers every 3-5 days. You certainly don’t want to run out of diapers, and running out to the store with a newborn is not always feasible. New moms are not supposed to drive for the first two weeks after giving birth and if you had a cesarean section that time may be even longer. Diapers are always a good bet. when I give diapers as a gift I like to give size 1 diapers or larger. That way they have diapers for when the baby grows. They do grow out of the newborn size diapers fairly quickly.

Wipes
Pretty much the same as diapers, very important to keep on hand. The last thing you want to do is have to grab some of your nice wash cloths to wipe a dirty bottom. Wet paper towels just do not work the same, trust me on this one! Wipes are not expensive and grabbing a package of them while you are at the store to give to your friend would be a nice way to show that you are thinking of them. When I do this, I grab the refill packages. This way I am not purchasing another box when they probably have several already. They just open the refill package and put the wipes into the boxes that they already have on hand.

Clean up!
Similar to the dinner dilemma, keeping the house straight is a challenge after having a new baby. Mom is so busy making bottles, breast feeding, changing diapers, and rocking that new baby keeping up the house usually drops down on the priority list. What a wonderful gift for you to come over and help tidy up, or even purchase a month of maid service until she can get back onto a better schedule. A clean home makes for a calmer environment for everyone int he family, which helps baby to be calm too.

Babysitter
It is very easy for new moms to feel overwhelmed. With all they have going on, many times they are not getting much sleep, or some days they don’t even get time to shower. What a treat it would be for a close friend or family member to come by and watch the baby for a little while for her. That way mom can nap or shower and not have to tend to baby too.

These suggestions are not the fanciest gifts in the baby store, but they are definitely practical and will be appreciated greatly by the new parents. Take it from me, a mom of three, these simple and practical gestures will mean an easier time for the new parents. When there is a new baby around, anything to make life easier is a good thing!

10 Great Games for Family Game Night

For the past few years, my family of 5 have had a weekly family night. I am sure we had family nights before this, but it was not necessarily a weekly occasion. This family night has become something that our children look forward to each week. We chose Friday as our night for family night. It seemed to work best for us and our schedules.

Since starting our family night, we have done a variety of things to enjoy this family time. Our favorite thing to do by far is play games! Playing games together is such a wonderful experience. It is a great time to teach your children about life, and a great time for you to learn from them as well. Here are some of our favorites.

Yahtzee
The game of Yahtzee has been around since 1956. It is a classic dice game. The object of the game is to get as many points as possible by rolling 5 dice into certain combinations. Some of these combinations are 3 of a kind, 4 of a kind, full house, straights, and Yahtzee (also known as 5 of a kind). There is also another way to earn points with the dice, by rolling as many of each number at a time as possible. If you were to roll four ones, you would choose whether or not to count that as 4 of a kind, or as your score for your ones. The game is over once all of the score boxes are filled. If you do not roll a certain combination then you take a 0 for that score box. This game is by far our families favorite game to play on family night. The kids learn about numbers, counting, and winning and losing. They have a blast rolling the dice. Even our youngest enjoys the game! Amazingly, she wins most times that we play. It must be beginners luck!

Uno
This card game was introduced in 1971. You must have a special deck of cards in order to play. The deck has 4 different colors and special cards. The object of the game is simple, be the first one to use all of your cards! Just don’t forget to say “uno” when you only have one card left, or else you will have to draw two cards. This game is a great game for all ages. My almost 4 year old can play with only a little bit of help. This game can be long, so make sure you are prepared for that. last time we played I was hoping for an early night and we played Uno for several hours. It was a blast the whole time though!

Life
That is the game, of course! This game was first on the market in 1860, however was revamped to the version we all know today in 1960. This was one of my favorites when I was a child. You get in your car and literally move your way through life. You go to college, get a job, get married, have kids, the whole nine yards! It is so much fun to play with your children even when they are small. They giggle and laugh about all of the different things that The Game of Life throws their way.

Pictionary
This team play game is a blast for those families out there with artistic ability, or even families without it! Your team has to guess what you are drawing. This can be much more difficult than you would think!

Scattergories
This game is best for families with older children. The rules say it is for ages 12 and up. This is a fast paced game where you must think of items in certain categories that all start with the same letter. It seems easy, but it is actually rather difficult at times. It is so funny to hear what each team comes up with each round. I have played this game and laughed so hard I was crying. It truly is a blast for any family to play!

Charades
To play this game, you do not need to buy a special deck of cards, or even a board or dice. It is all about your own creative imagination and how well you can act out your thoughts. This is also a better game for older children. I have tried to play it with my younger ones and it seems to just frustrate them more than they enjoy it. This is another game that will have you all laughing until your sides hurt.

Battleship
I know, this seems like it is not a family game. It is originally meant for only two people. However, my family of 5 loves playing this together. We will get into teams and play against each other. The teams decide together where to place the ships and where to hit next. It really is a great game to play as a team. the game doesn’t take that long to play either so you could even play more than one round if you wanted!

Twister
This is one for everyone to get up and get moving with! It is a mat with different colors and you have to contort your body in order to put your hands and feet on the right colors without falling. The last one standing wins. Of course, many times this winds up in a big pile up which is just as much fun as winning! This also should be played with players that are all about the same size. If there is an adult falling onto a smaller child, someone could be hurt.

Sorry
The game is called “The game of sweet revenge”, it is family night need I say more? What family member won’t enjoy sabotaging another family member’s game? It is just a blast to play this tricky board game!

Jenga
A tower of toppling blocks make for a very tense time! Each player takes turns pulling out a block from the tower. as long as the tower doesn’t fall the game is still on. You make the tower fall and you lose. This game is great, because each time you play there is only one loser, so everyone else wins. Plus the game does not take a long time to play, so several rounds can be played in the same night.

No matter what game you play, whether it is one of the games I mentioned above, or some other game that your family enjoys, Family Game Night is the perfect way to spend time together as a family!

Product Review: Play Wonder Play Kitchen

My daughter loves to help out in the kitchen. It is one of her favorite things to do. It doesn’t matter if I am making breakfast, lunch, dinner, or a snack she wants to be in the kitchen helping me. Since she has so much fun helping me in the real kitchen, we felt like a toy kitchen would be a great choice for her birthday gift.

I began my search on-line. I looked at several different toy store websites to see what I would find. Many of the toy kitchens that I found were made from plastic and looked somewhat like a real kitchen. I wanted a kitchen that would be more durable and that my children would be able to play with for a long time. For some reason a plastic kitchen just did not seem to be that toy to me. I began searching for wooden kitchens. I found several of these, however they all were so expensive. Plus many of them came in several pieces that had to be purchased individually, and each individual piece came with a large price on the tag. As with many families, we don’t have a money tree in our back yard waiting for us. We wanted to buy a kitchen, but we also had to be mindful of our wallet.

Then one day on a trip to Target I saw it. An adorable wooden blue kitchen set. My daughter happened to be with me and she immediately ran over to the display toy and started playing. I was afraid to look at the cost of the set, but I looked anyways. $59.99. What? Could this be too good to be true? My daughter wanted to take the kitchen home right then, but i told her that she would have to ask for it for her birthday and wait to see if she got it or not. I decided to do some more research on-line. I looked at the reviews on the Target website and the only complaint seemed to be that it was a bit difficult to assemble. I figured my husband and I could figure that out and that it would be well worth the extra effort to assemble the kitchen.

We bought the kitchen for her birthday and put it together ourselves. It took us a few hours to get the kitchen together, our 5 year old son even helped. Before we could get the kitchen put together our daughter was already playing with the accessories that came along with it. The following accessories are all included with this set: kitchen sink, frying pan, cookie sheet, rubber scraper, wooden spoon, spatula, whisk, cutting board, and hanging rack. The set is a combination of a stove, oven, refrigerator, sink, and cutting board area. The stove has two burners. The refrigerator has a door with a handle and two shelves to store all of your play food. The oven has a see through door and two shelves for baking.

We have now had this toy for almost a year and it has held up perfectly. We have never had to put anything back together or worry about any pieces being broken. The only issue that we have had to deal with has been the rubber end coming off of the spatula. We just put it back on and the kids continue to play. There are also tons of accessories to go along with this kitchen. All are sold at Target in stores and on the stores web site.

All in all for the amount of money you pay for this set you are getting amazing quality. My family members were floored that I only had to spend $60 on this kitchen set. It looks like it is a much more expensive kitchen set. This toy will spark your child’s imagination over and over again. You will never know what he or she is cooking up next. My kids are always playing restaurant and family with the kitchen. The set really allows their imaginations to take them away to their own little world. That world sure is a fun place!

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