Nifty vs. Thrifty

Sunday, May 30, 2010

My Favorite Thing to Make For a BBQ

Everyone loves kabobs at a picnic or even just for dinner at home. They are fun, easy, and can be made with almost anything. Your options are endlless! Look through your fridge and cut up any veggies, meat, or even some fruit for a perfect meal. If you are going to the store and want to stay in your budget, get whatever is cheapest. You can cook the items without any prep or add a marinade for an extra zing!

If you want to add an extra surprise, you can make dessert kabobs with marshmallows, strawberries, or anything else that you like. Offer some chocolate sauce or carmel for dipping and your crowd will go CRAZY!

PS. If you don't have skewers, you can pick them up at a local grocery store. If you're using wooden ones, don't forget to soak them in some water for 20 minutes!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

What We Can Learn from Hollywood's Most Famous Parents

One of Hollywood’s biggest couples, Will and Jada Pinkett Smith, has appeared to survive the stress of Hollywood. We think our lives are stressful, but how do they manage along with two huge careers and a whole lot of media attention?

Oprah recently interviewed this amazing couple and they revealed some interesting ideas about how they view the family unit. First of all, they have designed a family business plan. I am a huge fan of goals and plans so this definitely sparked my attention. They decided that they need a plan to “facilitate and encourage the individuality of their children.” What a great idea!! They also mentioned that they expect their children to find their own way to add to the family group, neighborhood, and humanity.

As a person who has ADD, I definitely think staying on a plan is helpful to stay focused on your priorities. If having a respectful, happy family is a priority than it makes perfect sense to have a plan so everyone is on the same page and knows their role and expectations.

So, how do Will and Jada keep the spark alive in their relationship? Check out this clip I have a hard time understanding how Jada Pinkett Smith has to work at being attractive to her spouse (considering she is so freakin’ beautiful!) but I’m sure every couple has challenges in this area at times in their relationship. It’s nice to know I’m not alone at having to work at keeping my sex life alive sometimes! But I believe that keeping your love alive as a couple, keeps the family alive as a whole.

Finally, the Smiths’ allowed their young daughter to shave the sides of her hair and shave a star design into it. Hmmm…If my daughter asked me if she could do that, how would I respond? That’s a tough one! Well, I would not be excited about it for sure, but isn’t it my job to encourage her to be proud of who she is, make her think she is beautiful no matter what, and encourage her to be creative? Will explained, “Your children can have as much ‘freedom’ as they can handle, then if they make a mistake you have to pull back those freedoms. Not necessarily in punishments, but revoke some freedoms.”

It’s a struggle to pick your battles when your children want something that you don’t especially like, but isn’t it our job to encourage individuality? After hearing the Smith’s perspective, I will think again when my daughter asks me for something I think is absolutely ridiculous.

I find this Hollywood couple to be such an inspiration to the everyday family. Although we look at them like they ‘have it made’, I am convinced that living in the spotlight has tremendous challenges. Although, every family has their problems, I really admire their motivation, devotion, and respect for one another and feel we can all learn from their ideas….I know I have!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

6 Tricks to Make Every Kid Like You

It’s a big misconception that if you are not a “kid person” you can’t learn to be. When I was younger, I never thought I'd be a kid person like I am today. Actually I was a little afraid of them, o.k, very afraid of them! Here's some things I have learned along the way.
Most of the people you know that seem like they have a “natural knack” with children usually have at least a handful of jokes or sayings that they always use to make children laugh. Although some people have a natural enthusiasm, making children laugh it is a skill that anyone can acquire.
1. Ask for a high five. Put your hand up and ask for a high five. When a child goes to hit it, move your hand and say “you missed! try again!” moving your hand higher. Then allow them to actually accomplish the task! This is always a classic game for kids.
2. Ask an age appropriate question. Ask child how old they are and when they answer say “5 years old?!” as if you can not believe it!! Kids get a kick out of it!
3. Show interest in what you think they may enjoy. If you are trying to talk to a child at an event, ask them what their favorite ___ is. Think about something related to the event you’re attending such as, “What is your favorite sport?” if you’re at an athletic game or “What is your favorite thing about being a big sister?” if you’re at a family picnic.
4. Avoid open ended questions. Sometimes it’s good to provide a few choices, such as “Is gym class better than art class or the other way around?”
5. Keep it positive. If the child seems unhappy about something, you may want to try distracting them instead of discussing the problem. Usually, the problem is something they can easily forget about.
6. Identify with them. If the child seems a little shy, you might try saying, “are you feeling a little shy? I get shy sometimes too!”

Children are simple beings and actually pretty easy to talk to. Keep questions and conversations simple and fun to gain a rapport or even just to have a little small talk. Don’t be intimidated! Most of the people you know that seem like they have a “natural knack” with children have at least a handful of jokes or sayings that they always use to make children laugh and guess what, they learned them from someone else! Although some people have a natural enthusiasm, making children laugh it is a skill that anyone can acquire. Children are not from mars, they just see things in a simpler way than we do! Also, it takes practice to learn how to talk to kids. If you bomb a few times, that’s o.k but don’t be afraid to try again!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Should Mommy and Daddy Call it Quits?

First off, let me start out by saying that I do not have an M.D, PhD, or XYZ next to my name. I am not a perfect mother, perfect wife, nor do I have the perfect family. I am just a plain Jane (with some experience and knowledge might I add!) But for some reason or another many of you out there like what I have to say. I like to create a forum in which I encourage others to express their opinions on the subject, so feel free to comment below!

Everyone deserves to be happy. Wouldn’t you agree? Life is so precious and it is a shame to spend your life in misery. But many people do it and some don’t even know they are unhappy. Some don’t even know they are depressed.

The family unit is a very simple one; parents are the core of the family. There is a big misconception that kids always come first and the kids are all that matters to the parents. I don’t believe that to be true. Granted, they are a huge priority and responsibility but if they always come first, the family will not be balanced and the children will feel like they are responsible for everything that happens (because that’s how the family is operating!) The thing is, that’s not a good feeling for a kid because a kid wants to feel like their parent is in control. It’s actually quite SIMPLE! If you are happy, they will be happy too. Sure you can buy your children great toys, dress them up, and take them on grandiose vacations. But the truth is, you can not buy happiness…you have to create it!

So, how do you know if you should stay in a marriage if you are not happy with your significant other? As always, I think it’s helpful if you attempt to look at it in a relatively factual and SIMPLE way. Relationships can be very complicated (especially once you have children). Every marriage goes through bumpy patches (at times they can feel like mountains!). If you step away and look at the big picture, it will help you to identify the problems and solutions. Core values are the principles in which your family is built upon. Here are a few values that I believe are necessary (from both partners) for a marriage to be successful and therefore creating a positive family experience.

Commitment – Do you completely trust one another and feel committed to make a marriage work?
Similar values and interests – Do you enjoy some of the same activities and are you on the same page about what’s most important for raising children?
Respect – Do you and your partner talk to each other in a respectable manner?
Kindness – Do you compliment each other, smile at each other, or do nice things for each other?

Think about these values and what’s most important to you. If you are still struggling with this difficult decision, try marriage counseling. I think it’s a shame that many people get separated before utilizing this great resource. If you have children, I think every resource should be utilized before throwing in the towel. Its best if it can be utilized before either party ‘mentally’ throws in the towel. If the towel is ‘thrown in’ and all options have been exhausted, then perhaps it’s better to go your separate ways and create a new positive environment for your children. In my opinion, a child would rather be in a happy home that is separated rather than an unhappy family home.

Every couple has challenging times but figuring out the difference between a bump in the road and generalized unhappiness will help you create the life you want and the life that is best for your children.

Friday, May 21, 2010

How Do We (as Parents) Protect our Kids from the Negative Affects ofTechnology?

I remember the 80's when cable t.v first came out! 32 stations including 5 kids cool!! Not only can I watch cartoons on Saturdays mornings but I can watch them anytime I want! I remember my mom worrying about me watching too much cable t.v (in the confines of my living room) when I was a child. Now there's no where you can't access ANYTHING which makes our jobs as parents a little more difficult but definetly not impossible.

As a parent (at least until a child is 18) , we are responsible for keeping our children safe and healthy. It is OUR responsibility to make sure that not only are they staying clean, active, and healthy but that they are using their noggin to exercise creativity. As difficult as it is to keep tabs on technology and say no when "all their friends are doing it", it is necessary and they will thank you for it later.

Think about when you were a child. When did you discover the best trees to climb, your favorite hiding spot, or cool games to play? Most likely, it was when you were bored! Think about it. If you google the benefits of these activities on children's IQ or creativity, there will be an abundance of research proving the benefits of children playing independently without added guidance or accessories.

It is natural for children to want do things that are easy. But as a parent, we can set boundaries in our child's leisure activities that will encourage them to be independent and creative. Children may whine a little or complain but that's o.k (after all, they are kids!) But if we stand strong we will be proud of the outcome.

As I always say, everything in moderation. It is IMPOSSIBLE and unreasonable to think that your child should not have ANY technology. Lets be real here. What I'm saying is to monitor and assess situations and put focus on other activities (sports, walks, swimming, sledding, or games to name a few). With the help of your guidance and assurance, your kids will be jogging their creativity (and enjoying it!)

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Top 5 Reasons to Take Time for Yourself

Take time for yourself and you will reap HUGE benefits. By time for yourself, I don't mean sitting on the couch for 15 minutes. I mean getting outside the house and engaging in something you really enjoy. If you don't know what you would do, try something..anything!

1. It will improve your marriage. Many marriage counselors will agree that having your own hobby or interest outside the home will improve your relationship with your spouse. If your husband/significant other takes time for himself, you will not resent it and instead appreciate that it's needed on both ends. If parents start to put kids first they will loose themselves and their marriage will suffer as well. Always make time for yourself and help your spouse get his time as well.

2. It will make you a better mother. There is a huge misconception that if you are a good mother than you give up everything for your children. If you take time for yourself you will be more patient and refreshed when caring for your children. When you became a mother, you did not loose yourself. Granted, your identity changes but you still need to be who you are and enjoy the things you used to do before having children.

3. It will improve your health. This goes along with #2. If you want to be an active participant in your children's life or be around for your grandchildren, you need to take care of yourself. You are worth it and deserve a stress reliever.

4. You deserve it. You work hard, everyone deserves a break! Right?

5. It will help you regroup. It's no secret that breaks help people to think clearer, be more successful, and happier in general.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

My Experience with Postpartum Depression

My experience with postpartum depression was very life changing. It happened about six months after my daughter was born and hit me like a ton of bricks. Thankfully, I have a tremendous support system that helped me get through it and get the help I needed. Here's my story.
During my fifth month of pregnancy, I stuggled with the decision as to whether I should go off of my anti depressants during my second trimester of pregnancy or not. Unfortunately, there is not a lot research about the effects of a mother using antidepressants during pregnancy to help with my decision. Like many decisions I have to make as a mother, this one required making the best decision I could without a lot of information and using my motherly intuition (I hate those decisions!!) AHHHH!! When seeking advice from other people, my doctor told me one thing, the pediatrician said another, and yet friends and family said "Don't worry, you will make the right decision!". ARGGG! Eventually, I came to the difficult decision to go off of the antidepressant during the second trimester.

Depression is something I have struggled with for most of my life. I know the signs and symptoms that I typically go through when the onset occurs. My family and friends are great at keeping an eye on me and keeping things positive overall. I have been on antidepressants before and although I would prefer not taking them, I would also prefer to be engaged in life and enjoy the wonderful gifts around me.

I went off the antidepressant in month six of pregnancy and everything was going well. I was doing everything I was supposed to do to take care of myself (exercise, therapy, healthy eating, etc.) and I was also enjoying the anticipation of having a baby with my amazing husband. Things were going very well during the remainder of my pregnancy (and even the first few months of life with my daughter) but then things started going down hill.

I'm not sure what triggered it but I started feeling "the blahs" for a few bad days and before I knew it, I was in full blown depression. Boy did it suck! I couldn't stop crying, had not energy, did not want to get out of bed, and was just miserable. I would feel guilty about being a miserable person to be around which just compounded the problem even more (not to mention the disconnect with my daughter and all the guilt associated with that!) Unless you've been through depression yourself, you can not understand the magnitude of difficulty to function in your daily life.

I began taking an antidepressant medication and expected to start feeling better within a few weeks, however, my problems did not seem any easier and getting out of bed was just as difficult. After going back to the doctor, I found out that I had a thyroid condition called hypothyroidism. Apparently, this is very common after childbirth and can cause many problems such as depression. I started a new medication to control my thyroid and began to feel more in control of my life after a few short weeks.

For me, life is a journey and learning from experiences is the only way to live life to the full extent. I try to not to feel sorry for myself when things like this occur and instead try to figure out how I can become stronger and better from that experience. Although this period of depression is something I never want to go through again, I learned a lot from it. I learned that I can not control everything. I am not super human and some things I have to turn over to my higher power (for me it is God). Letting go and also being an active participant in solving the problem can be very difficult balancing act. However, allowing God to take the reigns and take care of me as his child helped me to feel secure and confident that things would get better eventually. Difficult experiences like this one allow me to be a more empathetic, kinder, and more patient person.

Depression is a very difficult thing to go through, however, it brings out my sensitive and emotional side (which is a good thing!) Everyone deals with life's problems in a different way and no one deals with them in the best way possible all the time. If we didn't have sensitive, empathetic people in this world, our world would not be a nice place.

When dealing with difficult situations, the important thing is that we seek the help we need and make the best of the situation. As mother's, we are extremely resilient and strong and can get through most anything thrown our way!

Friday, May 14, 2010

6 Great Ideas for Rainy Day Fun!

1. Play with flashlights (or anything that has lights) in a dark room. Babies and children of all ages like this activity!

2. Have an indoor picnic. Lay out a blanket and pack a basket (if you have one). Use you're imagination and include your children in on the planning. You can pretend to put bug spray on or wear your hats!

3. Treasure hunts. Nap time is a great time to get this activity together. Hide pieces of candy (or some special treat) around the house. You can even put a healthy snack your kid likes in a sandwich bag. Write clues to each hiding place making the clues age appropriate. This is another activity that is good for all ages!

4. Hide and seek. Good, old fashioned hide and seek. Do I really need to explain?

5. Take cushions or pillows off the couch and play with them. Put the pillow on top of your child and tell them you're going to "smoosh them like a pancake". For some reason children go crazy when I do this!

6. Bake something. Plan ahead and prepare as much as you can. Let your child stir, put ingredients in, or turn the oven light on and ask them to "check on it".

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Christina Aguilera Talks about Motherhood

Celebrities often appear to live a fancy, eccentric, and over-the-top lifestyle. Sometimes, however, we get a glimpse inside a celebrity's life and realize that they are human just like you and me. Christina Aguilera was recently on Oprah making a profound statement about her experience as a mother. Here's what she said...

Christina Aguilera stated that "she feels sexier having had a child." She went on to say, "I think as women, our bodies go through such amazing things, and we are superhuman," she said. "We give life, we give birth, we are our child's source of everything. Our bodies are not our own for a time period, and we givingly and willingly do so for our child. But then when we get them back, you feel that much stronger and that much better and more confident. Sure, I have a difference in my body than before, but I'm more confident in that."

This is such a great message for all moms. We are so hard on ourselves when we look in the mirror and often forget how beautiful the entire journey of pregnancy and childbirth really is. Stretch marks and extra curves are dreaded but the truth is we really do become more beautiful as mothers. Thanks Christina for reminding us of all the beauty we possess!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Simple Brunch Recipe

This is a great meal for brunches, showers, and christening parties. The ingredients are easy and the directions are simple. Also, it doesn't cost you an arm and a leg! If you are taking it to someones house, cook the casserole for 20 minutes at home then another 10 minutes at the place of event. Enjoy! It's a crowd pleaser!

French Toast Casserole

1 stick of butter
1 1/2 Cups of milk
6 eggs
1 tbspn cinnamon
1 cup of brown sugar
12 pieces of white bread
13x8 casserole dish


Spray casserole dish with Pam
Melt butter and mix brown sugar and cinnamon
Pour into bottom of pan
Double bread across 6+6
Mix eggs and milk
Pour over bread
Sit overnight
Bake at 350 covered for 30 minutes
Flip over bottom to top after baking

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Simply Egg-cellent Breakfast

You want to eat healthy starting from the beginning of the day, but your mornings are so busy that it gets away from you. I understand. Just getting my coffee (which is a MUST have for me!) is a big production and takes time away from everything else. Without a little preparation and planning you end up eating your child’s leftovers, a donut, or some type of quick carb-alicious breakfast! Here’s a great, simple way to eat healthy amidst a hurried morning!Whatever the diet is, nutrition/diet experts will agree that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Without a healthy breakfast, you will most likely start a day of sugar rushes and crashes leading to eating other unhealthy foods throughout your day. You might end your day by eating late in the evening (usually an unhealthy snack) leading to not being hungry in the morning. This is a vicious cycle of unhealthy eating causing weight gain and lethargy. So, don’t skip breakfast!!OMELETS are one of my favorite foods but often take a lot of time to prepare. Chopping up the ingredients and then cleaning up the pans all require a lot of time. Here’s my SIMPLE trick to eating omelets in a hurry.Buy a large pack of eggs (I buy an 18 pack). Pick a time when the kids are busy (i.e. Dad is home or the kids are napping or in bed). This is a time when you can focus on YOUR health (for once!). Get all your ingredients out (see below). Start cooking your LARGE batch of omelets to have throughout the week. Spray your pan with a little olive oil or some Pam spray. Use 3-4 egg whites for EACH omelets (I like to throw in a little of the yolk). Add veggies, garlic, salt and pepper. Get out a Tupperware container and put each omelets in the container separated by a piece of wax paper (or even just a paper towel!)WaaaLaaaa.. you now have your omelets ready for the week!! Just heat up each one in the microwave when you’re ready for a healthy, yummy, great start to your day!!Tips for adding some ZEST to your omelets so you don’t get bored:Use different veggies (I usually get whatever is on sale). The list of things you can add to omelets is ENDLESS-mushrooms (canned or fresh), tomatoes, peppers, onions, avocado, spinach are all great ingredients (just to name a few!) You can throw in anything you have that you want to use before it goes bad. Even shrimp or clams can add a great addition if you want to be fancy!Try different spices - Lately, I have been on an oregano kick but parsley, basil and many other spices add a great flavor as well. Garlic is usually a must have for me personally. I buy the minced garlic in a jar because it’s easy.Use different cheeses – Using different cheeses can really make an omelets taste different and add flavor. I love feta but will usually use whatever I have or whatever is on sale.
*****If you are really rushed-Whisk eggs in a bowl and microwave them for an instant breakfast!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Making the Summer Simple and Fun

It's getting close! Summer is right around the corner! Summer always seems to sneak up so fast and things can get a little crazy. Here are some ideas to help you avoid the craziness.

1. Plan, plan, plan. Sit down with your kids NOW and make a list of all the things they want to do this summer. This is actually a really fun activity itself! Try to think about what activities are realistic and within your time frames. Hang your list on the fridge so everyone can start getting excited for summer!
Call places ahead of time to see if you can purchase tickets in advance (I did this with the Easter bunny and it was great!) Remember how irritating long lines can be and plan accordingly.

2. Keep it simple. Having fun this summer does not have to cost a fortune or be anything extravagant. As I always say, presenting things in an exciting and fun way will get your kids excited too! Having picnics, learning to ride a bike, going to a stream, or visiting some friends are all free and simple activities that children love!

3. Budget. Set a budget for your summer activities. This will help you plan and if you have older children, this is a great chance for them to learn money matters. Give them a set budget and have them add up all the costs of activities. They will think that the starting budget is SOOO much money and then quickly realize how fast it adds up!

3. Be creative- Making a list of things is a great way to get all of you thinking outside the box. Write things on your list such as "learn to tie shoes", "give mom lots of hugs", or "make a music video". Make it silly and fun! This is an awesome opportunity to teach your children to appreciate things and not be materialistic.