Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Mom's Night Out

I sometimes get jealous when my husband goes out with his friends.

I admit it.

Even though he tells me to make plans with my girlfriends, I rarely do because we all have little ones and finding nights where our husband's are home and the kids aren't sick and we actually have any energy to leave the house...

It sometimes is just to much effort.

Until Breaking Dawn came out.  I sent a message to a friend asking if she wanted to go. She had agreed weeks ago to be my "date" when it came out since my hubby wouldn't be caught dead watching it even though he went to see Bridesmaids with his buddies which was mildly concerning (he claims it was the only thing in that they hadn't already seen, which was probably true...probably).  She even watched all the previous movies to prepare for our night out.

We were wild.

We went to the 9:50pm showing AND ate popcorn, ate candy, and drank sugary beverages.  We both made it through the movie without a bathroom break which was a miracle in and of itself.  She is several months pregnant and my bladder isn't what is used to be before three kids.

Then, my friend asked if I needed anything from Walmart or Wegman's since both were still open and their shining lights were beckoning.  I said no but when she asked if I was sure...

"Well, just because we don't need anything doesn't mean we can't walk around," I replied 

We browsed the toys and Christmas decorations in Walmart and ended up needing a cart for all the goodies we found.  We busted a move in the one aisle while wearing the animated/singing Christmas tree hat (me) and the sock monkey hat (her).

Like I said, we were pretty wild.

And when we left, we even went through the door marked "Enter" rather than the "Exit".

It was after one when I got home-several hours after my normal bedtime which is usually around eighty-thirty or nine. 

Wild mommies, that's us...

Saturday, November 26, 2011

My First Experience as an Extreme Couponer

My sister-in-law came for Thanksgiving at our house prepared for her annual CVS run.  She even had a spreadsheet of all of their deals and how to make the most of her money.

She asked me if I wanted to come along?  Of course!

We deviated along the could we resist mint chocolate M&Ms (and at 4/$6 when you counted the ECB rewards)?

At the end we kind of winged it since they were out of a few things but for $29.97 with $16 in ECB that I still need to spend (so technically I spent $13.97, right?) we got a good deal.  I only bought things that we would use to so there will be no stockpiling in our basement.  My theory is if I keep using the rest of my ECBs to buy things that earn ECBs, I'll keep getting my money to work for me. 

My sister-in-law was right, you do get a rush doing this!  It was actually fun but of course my sister-in-law was the one who did all the work.  She said she spent hours this week working out the best deals and how to group the transactions.  I'm not sure I could spend hours taking the time to do this weekly.  Actually, I am not sure my husband would tolerate me spending that kind of time.  No doubt about it, it is a lot of work.

It also helped that we had an awesome cashier who was very good-humored about the whole thing and didn't mind us doing several transactions.

While we were out shopping, my mother-in-law was finishing the meal prep along with the guys who were watching the kids and being good sports about our little adventure. 

Now I'm off to make Chex Mix with the yummy Chex cereal we bought even though it is only 7:30 am!

Our score

Friday, November 18, 2011

Explaining Being Thankful to a Preschooler & A Thanksgiving Craft

I wanted a craft to do with the girls but that wasn't to labor intensive since their attention span is pretty limited.  I love countdown projects to help teach numbers so that is what I decided to do.  I cut out 7 leaves using a template (printed on cardstock) that I found online.  If you need help finding one just google leaf template under images and you'll find a bunch of templates from which to choose.

I let the girls choose the colors of scrapbook paper that they wanted and then I traced the leaves and cut them out while they played pre-k and pretended to read Thanksgiving books that we've been reading together.

They put the stickers on the leaves and then we talked about what it meant to be thankful.  That is not an easy concept to explain to a 4 and 2 year old.  It took me days to come up with the right words.  Why is it that the simplest explanation is sometimes the hardest?  Last month Emmy's preschool collected food for the local food bank and I had talked with the girls about why we were collecting food and I had introduced the topic then.  I've tried to keep it simple.  We had talked about basic needs and what we need to live.  I explained to them that we have lots of things that we should be thankful for, things that make us feel good and even safe.  Emmy's pre-k was scheduled to have a trike-a-thon to benefit St. Jude's so we've also talked about how being healthy is something we should feel thankful for also.

When we did this craft, I asked them what things made them happy. I used some prompts to such as things they liked to do or things they liked to play with or people that they liked to be around. 

On the back of the leaves I wrote the girls' responses.  Some of their responses were:
  • Mommy and Daddy and Ryan (of course)
  • Grammy and all of their friends and Alex and Thomas (their cousins)
  • being able to dance (Madison said somersaults, not surprising for the little monkey that she is)
  • food especially marshmallows and cocoa (which I am not sure count as a food group)
  • their dolls
  • Emmy said her teachers (how long will that last, I wonder???)
  • playing tag
  • their house and their room
  • playing in the leaves
  • scarves and gloves (which are even more fun to play dress-up with)
  • blowing bubbles
  • bicycles and cars
And then they lost interest and wanted to hang the leaves.  I just used some ribbon I had laying around, clothespins, and removable hooks which I had in a drawer on which to attach the ribbon.

Here is the finished product:

Each day we're taking down a leaf and reading what they are thankful for.  For Thanksgiving, we'll either hang them all back up or make them into napkin rings by making a ring with a strip of paper to put around a napkin and then gluing a leaf on each ring. 

How have you explained thankfulness to your child?  What do you have to be thankful for this holiday season?

Friday, November 11, 2011

"Look Mom, I Can Write My Name"

Emily started learning how to write her name over the summer.  She would scrawl haphazard letters that were sometimes almost indecipherable on the paper in front of her. 

After lots of practice at home and preschool, she has gotten quite good at writing her name.  She shows how proud she is of her "new" accomplishment by writing her name on papers, cards, and even the newspaper.  She has also started drawing pictures that are recognizable (such as her stick figures that do somewhat resemble people).  Notice I say usually since her recent drawing of rocket ships also kind of resembled potato people.

Since she has been really good about only writing on paper, if I am doing laundry or some other task while her siblings are napping and she asks for paper so she can draw at the table or practice writing her letters, I usually say okay.

I hand her paper and always remind her to only write on the paper and nothing else unless Mommy says it is okay.  I recently stopped reminding her to only write on the paper because I assumed she "got it" after I have repeated it at least a hundred times and because she hasn't written on the table or any other surface in months. 

My mistake.

After walking into the kitchen after walking through the downstairs collecting stray pieces of clothing since my children love to play dress-up about ten times a day, I walked into the kitchen to find marker, washable mind you, on most surfaces in my kitchen.

How much havoc can a toddler wreak in five minutes?

Her name was written on the fridge, the polka dots that decorated her rocket ships in the card she had been working on for her dad also had been drawn on my kitchen stools, and she had scribbles on her booster seat and even her brother's high chair.

After me explaining that the proper place to write was on paper, I handed her a wet cloth and had her wipe down everything on which she had drawn.

I was reminded yet again that no matter how responsible and helpful she can be for a four year old, she is still only four years old.

Just like I am thankful for magic erasers and hand sanitizer, I am also thankful for washable markers!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Do As I Say Not As I Do

I realized recently how often I inadvertently use the "do as I say and not as I do" on my children without speaking a word.

Take for instance, the abundance of Halloween candy in my house.  It took up two large plastic seasonal bowls with ghosts and pumpkins while anything inedible went into a small basket.

My kids kept trying to sneak candy off the counter.  The 2 year old even went as far as to use her talking grill (which is THE most annoying toy we have had since her talking vacuum was escorted from our house after Emmy started using his phrases to critique my cleaning skills) to stand on to try to reach the candy bowls.

Then, it was put away into the pantry but not forgotten by my children who are like little pitbulls.  They were allowed one piece a day (two if you count the pretzels or fruit snacks that I let them have for a morning snack).

Of course, my husband and I were like dogs with bones, digging for the best pieces.  I scored Peppermint Patties and Reeses Peanut Butter Cups while he would take the Skittles and Mike and Ikes.  We had more than one or two-triple or quadruple what we allowed the kids before dinner.  My hour at the gym three times a week probably didn't even make up for the calories I've consumed.

And then I got busted by my oldest who wanted to know why Mommy was eating a piece of candy when she couldn't as a morning snack (it was 11 am and right before lunch).  Here I thought I was being stealthy.  Then, she asked if it was like soda where only mommies and daddies could have it.  I just nodded my head.  Yes, it is just like that.

Then the mommy guilt set in as I realized I wasn't living up the example I wanted to set.

Finally, the candy had to go.  Not only was the guilt eating at me since I have no self control and was foolish to think I would but I was getting sick of the candy.  We made up bags for family and friends' children who didn't get to go trick-or-treating because of the snowstorm that disrupted Halloween plans or because of sickness.

The rest of the hard candy in addition to the two bags of candy that I had picked up for 50% off (just because it was on sale) after Halloween went to Operation Gratitude.  A friend graciously collected everyone's candy and dropped it off at a local dentist who planned to send it to the troops.  She collected over 8 1/2 pounds of candy-probably from parents who were feeling like I was.

So while I taught my children all about the "do as I say not as I do" or the "when you're older and a mommy or daddy you can do it to", I also taught them about sharing and not just with mommy and daddy (or that's what I'm telling myself).  It's called the glass half full philosphy of parenting.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

A Favorite Family Photo

Every year around this time, I try to get a picture of the kids to use for our holiday cards.  I usually have already picked out our card design on Shutterfly since I like Shutterfly's selection for our Christmas cards and I am if not anything else, a creature of habit (or as I like to say a person who just likes traditions).  On my side of the family, someone usually gets some kind of photo gifts also and Shutterfly has a large selection of items that would appeal to any grandparent or aunt or uncle.  One year I got a photo jigsaw puzzle for my grandfather and magnets for other family members.

This is usually the best I can do:

After trying for a few days (never in a row since I would go crazier than I already am),  I usually admit defeat and we find ourselves sitting in some studio somewhere waiting amid other families in their holiday best to get their family portraits done.  My attempts in recent years to just get the girls' pictures turns into a family portrait by then.

This summer after finding out that an acquaintance who I got to know through our local mom's group (before her family moved to Florida) was coming up and doing mini photo sessions, I immediately booked a mini session.  She is immensely talented and her photos are stunning.  She is the owner of Maria Felton Photography.  I was hoping and praying that Ryan would have arrived by then (it was about two weeks before I was due) but alas he didn't arrive until almost a week after he was due (of course). 

 (I need a new frame that doesn't cut off so much of my husband's head!)

One thing I learned on this day was that the best picture isn't always the one where everyone is looking at the camera and sitting perfectly still.  This picture totally captured Maddie's personality and Emmy's silly smile which is why we fell in love with it and why it is now on our mantel. Madison has a thing for monkeys which isn't a surprise to anyone who sees this photo since she is practically upside down. 

This photo session was also fun since it was about capturing our family naturally outside.  We were in the alley behind the Crayola Factory (one of the girls' favorite places) in Easton where The Purple Cow Creamery is located.  Music was playing from the School of Rock on the corner and amazingly, there were no tears for once.  It seems someone always has a meltdown when we get our pictures done in a studio.  Emily also loved that Maria had her singing and being silly (which she is quite good at)! They were also able to move around instead of being cooped up inside.  It probably didn't hurt that we bribed the kids with ice cream from the Creamery afterwards either.  

What is your favorite family photo?

This month Shutterfly is planning "Family Photo Days" to help families capture the perfect holiday picture to use in creating their holiday cards.  It is also to help make consumers aware of Shutterfly's line of holiday cards.  Some of the activities they have planned include helping people host Family Photo Days, a downloadable toolkit with lots of creative tips on capturing the perfect holiday picture, and you can even enter their Holiday Photo Contest and receive 5 free cards just for entering (if you win you get a year's worth of free cards).

This week I am going to try again using some of the tips Shutterfly provided in their toolbox to try to get a holiday card worthy picture all on my own.  I even bought Santa hats for all three kids and I am going to try to take a pinwheel shot with all three kids lying down and looking up outside since it is so warm out this week.  Hopefully, I'll be able to have the patience to try to get the perfect shot.

Have you started your holiday cards yet?  If not, what are you waiting for?

I was compensated with 50 cards from Shutterfly for participating in their "Family Photo Days" promotion.  All opinions are my own.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Betty Crocker Review & Giveaway

Need something to go with a warm glass of cocoa?   What about a way to use up some of that extra Halloween candy?

With busy schedules, we can't always bake from scratch and for those of us not baking extraordinaires and maybe somewhat cooking challenged, we rely on box mixes.  New Milk Chocolate Traditional Brownie Mix from Betty Crocker© can help you whip up a treat in no time at all.

I made these brownies last weekend just in time for the snowstorm that buried the east coast in snow. My family loves to make "loaded" brownies with whatever I have on hand.  I added peanut butter and semi-sweet chocolate chips to the batter with a pretzel crust.  The kids (and adults) loved them.  With all the Halloween chocolate that we now have in the pantry I can put some of my children's favorite chocolate bars in the food processor, chop them up, and then add them to my next batch of brownie mix.

For some original recipe ideas using a boxed brownie mix, check out the Betty Crocker website.

To help you whip up some chocolatey goodess in your kitchen, Betty Crocker and MyBlogSpark have teamed up and one lucky TPMG reader will win a Betty Crocker Prize Pack containing a brownie pan, a mixing spoon, a Betty Crocker apron, and a box of Betty Crocker Milk Chocolate Traditional Brownie Mix.

Enter to win a Betty Crocker Prize Pack (a brownie pan, a mixing spoon, a Betty Crocker apron, and a box of Betty Crocker Milk Chocolate Traditional Brownie Mix)

Mandatory Entry (Must be completed for all other entries to be valid): For whom do you plan on baking Betty Crocker Milk Chocolate Traditional Brownies?

To receive additional entries:
*Become a follower of TPMG (if you already follow just leave a comment that you do) (1 entry)

*Become a fan of Betty Crocker and/or TPMG on Facebook and leave a comment here that you have done so (1 entry each)
 *Follow Betty Crocker and/or TPMG on twitter and leave a comment here that you have done so (1 entry each)
*Tweet (maximum of once daily) about this giveaway and don't forget to leave your twitter name
Copy and paste: Win a Betty Crocker Prize Pack Giveaway at #TPMG (ends 11/20) (1 entry per tweet)

*Add The Practical Mom Guide to your blogroll or display the blog button (5 entries)

*Post about this giveaway on your blog (5 entries)

This giveaway will end on Sunday, November 20, 2011. I will announce the winner on November 21st here at The Practical Mom Guide. All winners are chosen randomly. If I am unable to contact the winner or they do not respond within 48 hours, another winner will be chosen.

Contest only open to U.S. residents.

Good luck and thank you for participating!

*Betty Crocker through MyBlogSpark provided TPMG with a prize pack to review and a prize pack to use in the giveaway.  All opinions are my own.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Weekly Deal Roundup

Many people this holiday season are being budget conscious including myself.  Normally, I list the week's roundup of deals found online on the Freebies page under the "Savings" tab but I figured I would also include it on the main page this week.  There are several freebies that include personalized Christmas cards and personalized photo gifts.  I know now is the time I start thinking about Christmas gifts and cards to send to family and friends so I always appreciate these deals.  What grandparent wouldn't love a desk calendar of their grandkids in their stocking?  You could even use the 100 free postcards from Staples as Christmas cards since you can upload your own images and include a family message on the back.  Just think of how much you would save by mailing postcards since it only costs $.29 each to mail them!

Weekly Deal Roundup

25 free prints at Walgreens with code FREE4X6 and a free desktop calendar FREE4U (only good Friday, November 4th & Saturday, November 5th)

100 free postcards from Staples with coupon (if ordering online just use this link but you will have to pay for shipping)

Sam's Club members can get a free sample of Simply Right Underwear , Huggies GoodNites, or Dove Daily Moisture.  You will need to provide your membership number.

"Like" Hallmark on Facebook and get a coupon for $5 off your $10 purchase (expires 11/ 15) 

10 free Pampers Gifts to Grow points with each of the codes CABRANDSVRNOV11 and FAC1011PR46DYHD

These promos are still going on:
Send an email to 5 friends about Shutterfly's "Tell a Friend" deal (75 free prints for them) and you will get 75 free prints to.

Get a free holiday card for someone in the military from Tiny Prints(Expires 11/15/11)

Try out InkGarden for free.  Pick one of their products (up to $13 value) and use the code ForFREE but you will need to pay shipping charges (Expires 12/31)

Free Lakeshore Learning educational apps for iphones, iPads, etc.such as Phonics Tic-Tac-Toe (ages 6-8),  Letter of the Day Interactive Activities (4-6), and Beginning Sounds Interactive Game (4-7). They can be downloaded for free until December 30th!

"Like" AST Enzymes and get a free sample of AST Enzymes Gluten Relief

"Like" NeilMed Sinus on Facebook and get a free NeilMed Sinus Rinse Bottle and 2 packets

Saving Cents With Sense has a list of freebies for Veterans Day

Tim Horton's is offering veterans and active duty military a free star spangled vanilla dipped donut at their U.S. locations

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Richness of Fall

I love fall and since having children this time of year has a richness that I had never fully appreciated before. This year though it felt like winter had muscled its way in and had overtaken fall with this weekend's snowstorm that dumped 6-12 inches of snow on us.  And now all of the Christmas decorations up in the stores and Christmas music being piped through the speakers doesn't help.

I had to remind myself that it is still fall.

Fall is...

...trips to the apple orchard to pick apples for crockpot apple butter.

 ...trips to the pumpkin patch for hayrides with straw tickling our noses and the search for the perfect pumpkin to make a jack-o-lantern.

...trick-or-treating or trick-or-trunking.

...hiking through a local state park with the leaves crunching and crackling underfoot.

Before having kids, apples came from the grocery store not an orchard and forget about carving pumpkins which would just result in one big mess.  Leaves just meant work raking them up into piles just for a big gust of wind to blow them around the yard again.  Now we bring them inside for leaf rubbings or leave the kids jump in them.  

What is your favorite part of this time of year?  And it is okay to say a day off of work for the Thanksgiving holiday!