Blogs You Must Follow

So…I was actually going to post about Black History Month, which begins today.  But as I was doing some research, I realized that what I really wanted to do was going to be a bit more involved than what I had planned on.  So I had to come up with something else.

Waaay back when I was in high school, I had a blog on Digital Expressions, where I was one of the top bloggers.  Of course, back then, I was just writing to write, I had more time, and I’m pretty sure “blogging” wasn’t even a term yet.

Skip ahead 10 or 11 years.  Now I keep finding all of these blogs that I need to follow.  I’m not even sure how it started–Pinterest, maybe?  In any case, I found a handful that I now follow “religiously”, for lack of a better term.  And because I always find great stuff, I feel they’re worth sharing.  Check them out!

Hope you enjoy these as much as I do!

Best Free Android Apps for Parents (Also According to Us!)

Okay, so last week I gave you the list of our recommended free apps for kids (on android devices).  This week, I’m presenting you with our list of our recommended android apps for parents.  Whether you use them or not may depend on how old your child is and what stage she’s in, but nevertheless…check it out anyway.  Hopefully you’ll find something useful.

cozi


Cozi
We absolutely LOVE this app!  We’ve had it for over a year now and use it all the time–from scheduling, to “to-do” lists, to grocery lists.  We each have a wish list on it, so I don’t have to remember what everybody wants when it’s time to buy gifts; we can color code each person, and have text or email reminders sent to each person at a specified time before an event.  Add extra alarms or additional features for a nominal cost.

Parent App Logos


First Aid
Self-explanatory.  Have a boo-boo that you don’t know how to fix?  Check out the American Red Cross First Aid app.

life360


Life 360
For anybody in your family who has a phone (especially those teenagers!), add the app to all phones and create a username and password.  Wherever the phone is, you will be able to track it.  I’ve used this when my husband leaves work late (and I’m panicking), but I’ve also used it to find my phone when I left it at church.  You can also check in, request a check-in or call for help using the buttons on this app.  I’ve never had to call for help using this app, but I’ve checked in when it’s late at night or can’t talk.

focusonthefamily


Focus on the Family
Sign up and login with Focus on the Family to view articles and advice from this Christian resource.  For those of you who love Focus on the Family and/or whose children already receive Clubhouse, Clubhouse Jr., or watch JellyTelly, you’ll enjoy this app as well.

workingmother


Working Mother
The Working Mother app is another one of my favorites, because it allows you to be interactive with your Working Mother magazine.  If you receive this magazine but don’t use this feature, download it, because you can find some additional information when you scan the icon in your magazine.

giftstogrow


Pampers
I know I’m not the only mom who loves Pampers–or Pampers Gifts to Grow points!  For a simple way to record your points (rather than logging into your account), download this app, type in your code, and go!  Nice and simple.  🙂


Which free parenting android apps do you love the most?

Rewarding Kids for Good Grades (Minus the Big Bucks)

A+ PaperEvery three months during the school year, we come to this point where the kids bring home this piece of paper with cryptic marks on it hoping that maybe they’ll get some reward for all of their hard work during the school year.  And every time this happens, I sigh because I can’t reward my kids with money.  Let’s face it: the economy stinks, and if you’re used to rewarding your kids with money for good grades, you might just be breaking the bank nowadays.  That’s how it is.

But this summer I came up with a reward system for reading books, and I felt this might just do the trick for report cards too.  Our kids will bring the report cards home today, though I won’t get to see them until tomorrow (Wendy and Cinderella are at their mom’s, and Rapunzel didn’t go to school today due to illness).  Wendy will come home with a good report card as will Rapunzel, and Cinderella’s remarks has me worried about hers.  Hopefully we’ll be able to reward her too. Here are some of the things our kids get excited about when it comes to rewards without money:

  • Extra time on the computer: this is big for Wendy and Cinderella–not so much Tinkerbell and Rapunzel.  We give 15-minute increments, so every A would give them an additional 15 minutes (though it doesn’t have to be used up all at once).  I think we’d still want to reward Bs, so we might consider giving 5-10 minutes for every B.  This also works for the Wii, the iPod, whatever electronics you have in your house.
  • A chance to stay up late: of course, all of the kids would love this one.  Again, we like the 15-minute intervals, especially for those straight A students.  5-10 minutes for every B.
  • Extra dessert: This is another favorite.  I know you’re not supposed to reward with food, but there are other options to choose from if you don’t like this one.  Our kids love their dessert, and this would only allow one dessert per day for each A.
  • Your choice of movie: This isn’t as popular in our house, but it’s still a good one.  We watch a movie every Friday, so for the kid who likes to pick out the movie and usually has to settle, this will work.  His/her choice of the movie for each A.  You could also do this for the radio in the car.  Our girls always bicker over what to listen to, so this gives them the opportunity to be in charge for a while.
  • Quality time: we offer our younger daughters 30 minutes of extra “snuggle time”, since it’s most coveted, but this will work for older kids too–doing whatever they want to for one hour, half an hour.  If you’re busy like I am, this will mean a lot that you take some time out of your day to do what they want to do.
  • Special dinner: Some kids will appreciate just having their favorite meal for dinner.  For an all-around good report card, reward your child with their favorite dinner to show just how much you appreciate their hard work.

Additionally, some business will offer rewards for As on your child’s report card.  Keep an eye out around that time of the year or contact your local businesses to find out what they offer.  It seems to be different everywhere you go. How do you reward your children for their hard work?

7 Things You Need to Know About Staying in a Hotel

Empty Hotel Room

I had every intention of pre-posting for this weekend, but nothing worked out the way I planned.  One thing I did discover this weekend is that neither Wendy nor Cinderella has ever stayed in a hotel before!  What an interesting experience.  They were so excited.

Needless to say, I needed to give them the scoop.  And what better subject to post on since I had to brainstorm anyway.  No sense in wasting precious brain power!  So here are the rules I laid out for them:

1) Never leave the room without your room key!

2) Do not order room service.

3) Don’t open the door to the adjoining room.

4) It most certainly is okay for you to open the packaged soap on the counter to wash your hands (one of the girls learned this the hard way).

5) Leave everything cleaner than or as clean as you left it.  This is a rule my grandma always taught us, and I try to carry this on.  I’m sure the hotel staff appreciates the courtesy.

6) Rule #5 does not mean you can keep things.  You can keep the free coffee packets, the paper/plastic cups, and the toiletries, the notepad and then pen, but don’t keep the key cards or the towels.  I know people who have kept one or the other.

7) Always do a sweep of the room before you leave: top to bottom, under beds and dressers, bathroom closets.  Make sure you have everything–because we’re not coming back for it.

What are some of your tips for staying away from home?

These are the main ones I came up with

Tinkerbell’s Top Picks for Show and Tell

If you have a preschooler like I do, you’re probably familiar with show & tell.  Your kid brings something in.  She shows it to the class.  She tells the class about it.

I often wonder how Tinkerbell describes her show & tell item.  At home, it’s more like this: “It’s my doll and I like to play with her.”

Well, today was show & tell day.  And pajama day.  Which we love.  But that’s a story for another day.

I’m starting forget already what we’ve already taken for show & tell.  But we still have half of a year left, so we’re going to have to come up with more ideas.  The trouble is getting Tinkerbell to pick something she hasn’t shown before.  Well, here are her top go-to items when show & tell rolls around:

  • Ty Beanie Babies: Cats one day, monkeys another day–this will last you quite a while
  • Dolls: Tinkerbell has taken in her LaLaLoopsy dolls already
  • Stuffed Animals: If you have a plethora of stuffed animals like we do, this will last you a while–but take notes, because you’ll forget which one you’ve taken in already
  • Pets: One little girl brought in her guinea pig, which was definitely a hit.  The important thing to remember about taking pets is to ask the teacher ahead of time.  There may be extreme fears of animals or allergies.  We don’t want that.
  • Special Keepsakes: We’ve only done this a couple of times, but each time we make sure we know what’s going to the school, and if it’s fragile we make sure we give it to the teacher and get it back from the teacher
  • Books: Favorite books are always a good show & tell go-to if you can’t think of anything else
  • Crafts: Some kids love arts and crafts and will love to show the class what they’ve done at home.  This morning we considered taking a craft that the kids did at church last night. Just keep in mind that if it’s not secure, it might fall apart during travel

Now that you have figured out what you’re going to take, you’ll probably want to apply a couple of rules for your child’s show & tell item.  We always tell our kids the following:

1. The item stays in your bookbag until show & tell.  Don’t play with it before show & tell, because it could get mixed up with other toys or we’ll forget about it entirely.

2. Take it out for show & tell only and put it right back in afterward.  Don’t take it out after show & tell.  We apply this rule for the same reasons as #1.

What are your favorite go-to show & tell items?

The Best Free Android Apps for Kids (According to us!)

If you haven’t already noticed, there is a plethora of apps out there nowadays.  So many people are using tablets, touch-screen phones, iPods, and other devices and there are so many choices for apps!  Educational apps, game apps, potty training apps (yes, I’ve used this one!), silly apps, dumb apps…you get the idea.

Well if you’re like me, you can’t just spend oodles of money on apps for yourself, let a lone your kids!

If you’re having trouble deciding and want to keep things at a minimal cost, here’s what we recommend:

Coloring Book App and Coloring Book 2 (Lite) App


ColoringBook and ColoringBook 2 (lite)
Coloring Books: What more can you ask for?  Pick a picture and color away!


Fish Farts Kids AppFish Farts Kids
No, I’m not kidding.  My kids will sit there for at least 5 minutes (many times longer than that!) playing this game.  Pop the bubbles or press the fish to make them fart for points.

Kid Mode
Kid Mode AppThis is by far my favorite app!  Set safety features, change preferences.  Tons of games and videos tailored for the age of your child.  They can even send you video messages and vice versa at no cost!  Limit which characters your child can view and read more books for a nominal price.  My kids would play for hours on this app if I’d let them.

Kindergarten Math Lite
Kindergarten Math (Lite) AppThis is a very simple game and not really attractive, but it helps teach younger children about adding, money, and various other math skills.  Rapunzel loves this app.


Littlest Pet Shop
Littlest Pet Shop AppI don’t really like this game for me, but my kids love it!  They can pet, feed, and play with the animals, buy new animals, buy new homes.  I just make sure they don’t buy anything with real money.  My little girls are always bugging me to play this one.


My Little Pony
My Little Pony appThis is actually one of my favorite apps, and I play it all the time.  Sad, but true.  I won’t let the kids play this one because they spend my coins.  (Terrible mom, I know.)  When I did let them play this one, they did love it.  Rapunzel likes to play “ball” with the ponies the best.  Oh, and spend my coins.

Piano Perfect App

Piano Perfect
Simple, yet entertaining.  Kids can press the keys or play along with a song–without banging on the keys (that’s the best part)!

Sight Words AppSight Words
Another simple app, this one shows sight words.  Better than flipping cards, if you ask me!


Sudoku Fun
Sudoku Fun AppThis game is seriously addicting!  When I first played it, Prince Charming couldn’t understand why I couldn’t stop playing–but there are so many levels, you just can’t help but beat them all.  He finally downloaded the app, and now he’s worse than I am!  If you like Sudoku, this is a good one.  Older kids love it as well.  Best of all, if you bomb a level, you can do it over.  🙂


Unblock Car
Unblock Car AppThis is another app that can keep you going for quite a while.  Move the cars around to make way so you can get your car out of the parking lot.  Use as few moves as possible.  This one is also good for the older kids.

What’s your favorite free app?

I Had a Makeover!

After several weeks of enduring BLAH appearance on my blog, I finally sat down (for several hours, I must admit) to put together a header and a logo for my page.  I added some color (just a dash!) and a little less rigid of a structure.

I couldn’t help myself–I had to use pink.  And I wanted to use a daisy, because to me they symbolize simplicity, freedom, calm, beauty.  And also because they are my favorite flower, of course!

Hope you enjoy the makeover as much as I do!  (Comments appreciated, by the way)

Crock-Pot Bacon & Cheese Potatoes

Bacon & Cheese Potatoes from Making the Most

Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 9 hours
Total time: 9 hours 10 mins
Serves: 4

 

Ingredients:
  • ¼ pound bacon, diced (we used Oscar Meyer, because it was on sale)
  • 2 medium onions, thinly sliced (I actually only used 1 medium yellow onion for a doubled recipe, since our family is a little picky about their onions.
  • 4 medium potatoes, thinly sliced (we used white potatoes for this recipe, because they were on sale)
  • ½ pound cheddar cheese, thinly sliced (we just used the generic brand of block cheese and sliced it in the food processor)
  • salt and pepper
  • butter (I used one tablespoon on the first layer and one on the second)
  • Green Onions (optional–we didn’t use it, because my kids would have had a cow)
 Instructions:
  1. Line crockpot with foil, leaving enough to cover the potatoes when finished.  If you’re like me though, doubling the recipe in our crockpot wouldn’t work like this.  I used one as a liner across the bottom and then cut a sheet to cover the top separately.
  2. Layer half each of the bacon, onions, potatoes and cheese in crockpot. Season to taste and dot with butter.  I used a little bit of salt and pepper and cut the butter into 6ths, dropping the chunks of butter evenly on each layer.
  3. Repeat layers of bacon, onions, potatoes and cheese. Dot with butter.
  4. Cover with remaining foil.
  5. The recipe says to cover and cook on low for 10-12 hours.  Since I didn’t wake up early enough to cook for 10-12 hours, I cooked on low for 9 hours, and it turned out just fine.

The family thoroughly enjoyed this meal, though next time I might only add half of an onion (at least one kid was picking them out).  This also isn’t the healthiest meal, but it sure was filling and it sure was good!

 Thanks to Moms with Crockpots for this recipe.

Book Review: The New Strong-Willed Child by Dr. James Dobson

Cover of New Strong-Willed ChildI must say that I enjoyed this book, The New Strong-Willed Child by Dr. James Dobson, much more than I enjoyed the last book I read.

While many seem to side against corporal punishment these days, Dobson does not.  He does this by providing research to support his position.  While unfortunately some individuals take corporal punishment to the extreme by punishing in anger and sometimes progressing to abuse, Dobson stresses that corporal punishment is not to be taken lightly.  The proper way to do so is by applying one smack on the rear end using a neutral object (not in anger but in order to discipline), followed by an explanation of what the child has done wrong and reassurance that the child is loved.

Dobson also does not recommend this as the only way of discipline.  He stresses that all children are different and that what may work for one child may not work with others.  I have already discovered this in my own household.  (For instance, time outs do not work for Tinkerbell.)

Not only does Dobson provide support for young strong-willed children, but he expands as far as adolescence as well.  (And if you’re the parent of a teenager, as am I, we need all of the help we can get!)

And of course, he also admits that there are some children that just need additional help, such as counseling or medication.  And I agree.  Not all behavioral problems are sociological in nature; brain chemistry and genetics must be taken into consideration for severely troubled children.

Dobson provides validated research for each position he presents, providing a sound biblical and psychological position on how to handle these strong-willed children.  I just finished this book last week so I have not been able to fully apply these measures, but I will be working on them.  Hopefully we will be able to figure out how to handle our own strong-willed child, Tinkerbell, before she gets to that wild adolescent stage.  😉

How to Live Your Life

The Dash PoemIf there’s anything that I learned about my uncle, whether throughout my life or just from the days after his passing, is that he lived a great life.  I’d have to say that, out of the three mortal men I admire the most, my uncle is one of them, preceded only by my grandpa and my father.

My uncle lived his life to the fullest.  Whenever he had the chance to laugh, he did.  If anyone could shine a light into a dark situation, he could.  He was loud when he wanted to be but quiet when he needed to be.  He was wise.  He was reverent.  He was kind.  He was respectful.  Not one person could say a negative word about him.

My uncle was a positive man and a role model to everyone he met.  He was an involved church member; a loving father, grandfather, and uncle; and a wonderful husband to my aunt.  My cousins said volumes about my uncle’s marriage with my aunt, and I can only hope that we can teach our children the way my uncle taught his.

Visitation on Wednesday was four hours long–and while that may seem like a long time, it was hardly enough.  From all over the country, friends and family came to say goodbye.  I can only hope I am that loved when my time comes.

This month, I have thought a lot about how I want to live out 2013.  I want to forgive those who hurt me in 2012 and move on.  I want to become a more positive and fun-loving person–like my uncle.  I want to be that person about whom nobody has a negative word.  It will take a lot of work, but with God’s help I will get there.

There are many different variations of this quote, but it’s said that we all have two dates on our tombstone: all that really matters is the dash in the middle.

What will your dash say?