Sunday, November 24, 2013

She's Crafty- DIY Advent Calendar

I finally pulled off my craft moment this holiday season.  Making a homemade Advent Calendar.  Oh and sidenote here, have I mentioned I am not the craft person? Well, if I have instructions and time (what's that?) I can be crafty, but I am not someone who can come up with these cute ideas on my own.

I had planned to do this one last year, but just never got it together with a 5 month old and 2 year old at home. So I started early this year and was determined to get it done!  I ordered my favor tins from Amazon last month, printed out my numbers last week and bought the hole-punch and frame at Michaels last night.  I am super proud of myself for getting it all together before December 1st- wish I could say the same about my holiday shopping list.

So of course I stole the idea from a few bloggers I read and tweeked it a bit.

Here is what you will need:
Wilton Favor Tin (25 tins)
Magnet stickers (I got 40 for 1.99$ at Michaels)
Magnet Frame (5.99$ at Michaels)
Printables, see below
Modge Podge matte formula
Fiskars Squeeze Punch X-Large, Round 'n Round

After you purchase your cute favor tins, print out your printables of numbers and the things 'to do' each day. I found these 2 options to be the cutest printables: Makoodle  and DavetDesigns.

Then take your hole punch and punch out the numbers and idea circles with your 2 inch hole punch.

Then paint a thin coat of modge podge on the front of the number, and glue to the INSIDE of the clear plastic top. Allow it to dry. I am not the best modge podger and mine still had a few bubbles on it, but hey, it's homemade and it looks like I worked hard at it. Plus it's a great instruction to give to your 3 year old to help you with the project.  She did great with painting on the glue and she feels like she was a part of making our calendar.

Here is an example of the right way to modge podge from makoodle (clearly not from my examples today):

But, I will grace you with a picture of my own workspace from today... a work in progress:

After they have dried, then you just peel and stick on the magnets to the back.  Very easy, even a 3 year old can do this!

Then you place the instructional circles inside of your tins. The bloggers I listed above have ones printed out you can use and makoodle has some blank ones you can fill out with your own family traditions.

Then you place them on the magnet board and voila! Oh and I haven't decided yet if I should put a '25' in the middle or not, since we usually didn't have Day 25 on ours when I was growing up.

I think it's so cute!  Now I just have to decide on where to place it...hmm...hang it on the fridge, put it in a plate holder to display, nail it to the wall? Ideas??

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Behavior Problems at School?

With the start of the new school year and parent teacher conferences going on, things are bound to get a little sticky when you have a preschooler.  My conference is next week and I am anxious to hear what they have to say.  I've heard they can sometimes be hard to take, especially if they tell you to think about holding your child back to start Kinder, or, sigh, that your child has 'behavior problems.'

I'm not kidding that this past week, 4 mothers have talked to me about their child reportedly having 'behavior problems' at preschool/daycare.  I just kind of blankly stare for a second into space because I think to myself, they are talking about 3 year to 4 year olds, right? And I know these kids come from well adjusted homes without verbal and physical abuse or trauma going on.  What child this age isn't throwing tantrums and 'not listening'? I figure these teachers making these accusations aren't new to working with kids.  Haven't they heard of the word 'temper tantrum' before?  Ahem. Definition: a small child crying, flailing, sometimes hitting and biting, and/or screaming when they don't get what they want = all toddlers and preschoolers.

I feel so bad for these mothers, because it's hard dealing with hearing anything negative about your child.

So I could go onto huge tangents here (like I haven't already), like how to handle any behavior problem, early ADHD symptoms, the Spectrum symptoms, what to do when your child acts out at school, how to talk to teachers, should we get them evaluated, blah blah...

But for now, I am going the easy route with just a few suggestions.  If you have some concerns, here are a few things to get started:

1) Talk to your child's doctor.  There are so many things that could cause children to have some behavior problems. Food allergies are a big one. I've read recently that gluten allergies (a sensitivity to gluten, NOT just celiac disease) can mimic hyperactivity symptoms as well as some autism symptoms. So it's worth it to get your child tested for all food allergies as well as iron levels, etc.  Also, your doctor can determine if your child is getting enough sleep, as lack of sleep can cause severe hyperactivity.

2) Meet with your child's teacher AND director.  Get specific information about what is actually going on with your child and have them write down what it is the child is doing.  Is the problem occurring the same time every day?  Maybe the child is hungry if it occurs before lunch, or tired if before nap time.  Is there another child that instigates it more?  How does the teacher react?  Try to get to the root of what the cause is to help figure out a solution.

One of my huge pet peeves are teachers that teach preschoolers because, "well, I am a mother to 4 grown children, so I have experience with kids." ah, no you don't.  Just because you had a litter of children, does not make you someone who is able to actually work with kids and teach them.  How teachers respond to children, aka discipline techniques, are HUGE!  I can't tell you how often I hear things said at schools by teachers that make me cringe!!  One example was a 1st grade teacher at an area elementary public school who hit a child on the head with a pencil and told the poor child, "come on, use your brain!!"  I about died when I witnessed that, because I thought to myself, who knows what she does when I'm NOT observing her classroom!

3) Brush up on Child Development.  I used to see a lot of parents as clients who expected far too much out of their 3 year old.  There are a lot of books and articles out there on what to expect socially, mentally, physically and cognitively out of children at different ages.  Once you get a grasp of it, then you can have a good educated discussion with the staff at your child's school about realistic expectations.

4) Lastly, and this is the hard one, look at what is going on at home.  Not to point any fingers of blame, as parenting is already a guilty profession, but look at your child's home life.  Are they involved in too many activities that could be stressing them out?  Are there marriage problems at home, stress of having small kids and your spouse arguing in front of the kids too much?  Discipline techniques? Getting enough sleep? Eating well balanced meals and not too much sugar?  Are mom and dad spending enough time with them at home? Big changes at home such as a pregnant mom, a new sibling? A move to a new home?  Job changes? etc..... Remember that children do not adjust as well as adults to change, and love routines, so if there are changes at home, they could be acting out and will need more time to adjust.

Relax. Breathe. It's only preschool at this point. They are not delinquent youths yet, so don't worry about the ankle bracelets. You are already doing what's right and listening to the feedback from the schools and taking an active role in helping your child.  Early intervention is key.  If you feel that your child needs to go beyond these beginning steps and does need help, find a child psychologist for testing (for learning disabilities, cognitive testing, etc.) and talk to a play therapist to help.  For a local play therapist directory go to

Monday, November 4, 2013

Meatless Monday

Today we started our Meatless Mondays.  As a mom, I am always trying to get my kids to eat better and eat more fruits and veggies.  But lately it's hard to get even a them to eat something like a banana, don't all kids love bananas?

We also try to eat organic as much as we can but.. sigh.  It's so expensive!  But I do the dirty 13 produce anyway. I've been reading a lot of articles and books on GMO's (genetically modified foods) and pesticides and how these environmental hazards have been causing so many illnesses (leukemia, autism, celiac disease)- it's pretty scary.  So I go the organic route as much as possible.  And don't get me started on the nitrate-free, preservative free, non-hormone, antibiotic free.  I mean, shouldn't foods be free of these things anyway?

Lately all the meat and poultry products have labels talking about 'all natural' and 'hormone free'.  We all know that eating red meat is something we need to cut back on for health/heart reasons but cutting back on eating meat can also help reduce eating all of the yucky additives they feed the animals and add to their products.  Plus cutting back reduces the greenhouse emissions associated with livestock production.

For me personally, I haven't eaten meat or pork (or wild game for that matter) since I was 18.  Yes, I get weird looks from people, especially living in Texas, the prime capital for meat eaters!  I have several reasons for not eating it, mostly because I never liked it as a child, but also because of the health benefits and animal rights.  But for my meat eating family, I now try to buy fish that is Wild Caught (less mercury and toxins) vs Farm, and buy meat products for them that are organic so they are free of the additives. But expensive as anything!

And if the additives in meat and fruit doesn't scare you, I also just finished reading the book Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth about Wheat, Carbs, and Sugar--Your Brain's Silent Killers (12$ Amazon):

It was pretty eye opening about how much the wheat grain has changed in the past 30 years due to changes to the crops (the genetically modified stuff). Basically the author talks about wheat gluten and how many of us are sensitive to it, causing ADHD, dementia, anxiety, depression, etc.   He also talks about how bad additives are and how much processed, sugar foods are damaging to our bodies.

So what are we supposed to eat if everything has toxins in it?  Seriously, it's pretty scary.  

So I vowed last night to get back on track and feed my family a good diet by starting Meatless Mondays. 

In case you haven't heard of it, it's a program that was started by Paul McCartney to encourage people to see the value in eating less meat and save money too. And being on one income, I love saving money!

If you need help getting started on trying to go meat free one day a week, there's a great cookbook about it The Meat Free Monday Cookbook: (19$)

It's definitely easier than you think.  We started with a really good Fall dish, Butternut Squash Lasagna (pictured at the top) from my fave low fat blog Laalosh! Click here for the recipe (oh and I used frozen organic chopped squash- much easier!).  The kids liked it for the most part, as long as it has cheese :) It was really good and makes for great leftovers.   And that's another benefit of eating meat free, the vegetable dishes last longer than the meat ones for left overs, just saying.

We'll see how long we can keep up with our Meatless Mondays and nitrate free, hormone free, antibiotic free, organic, non GMO, no preservative lifestyle.  It's pretty exhausting AND expensive. Anyone have any suggestions on how they keep their families diets healthy?