Sales Tax Holiday 2017

Have you heard about the Sales Tax Holiday? This one-time sales tax holiday occurs at various times in the year and includes clothes and school supplies. In states like Ohio, just in time for peak back-to-school shopping!!!

Click here for more details and to find out if and when your state is participating!

Mark your calendars & happy saving!

P.S. Ohio’s Sales Tax Holiday is Aug. 4-6, but many other states participate as well and have other dates. Click the link and save some money.

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One moment = 17 seconds

Did you know that? I didn’t. But apparently, I had been using the “one moment!” phrase so often that my five year old counted how long a “moment” was. Oops!

I was very thankful that in this “moment,” he got up to only 17 seconds as I am well aware that many of my “moments” last much longer.

A parenting phrase that I learned long ago {and clearly omitted from my vocabulary} is one that I do believe is key to helping kids understand the importance of your time and, in essence, what time is.

When your minion asks you to come over or do something while you are cleaning/working/sneaking Easter candy, etc… rather than saying, “one moment,” use the following phrase:

When I am done with ___________, then I will come look at ___________.

This phrase is important for kids since they:

  1. are learning the concept of time;
  2. feel that what they are showing you is important and they value your opinion;
  3. realize that you have projects you are working on that are important too; and
  4. learn from your example.

If you continue to let your children believe that a “moment” is actually 7 minutes, don’t be surprised when you call them to dinner and they don’t come right away. They think they will be there in a “moment,” your definitions are simply different.

My eldest has actually started using the phrase in her vocabulary and, honestly, it works nicely. “When I am done reading this chapter, then I’ll come play.” {So far, she uses it at appropriate times.}

Little children, however, have no concept of time. Our minions are learning how to tell time and I definitely have been called out on my kids more and more.

“Mommy, you said we would leave in 2 minutes, but you are still talking to Miss K.”

Yes. Yes I am. So, the next time my little one asks, my response will be: “WHEN I am done chatting with my friend, THEN we will leave.” 🙂

Have a great day!

Baking Mix Recipe {i.e. faux Bisquick}

When the weather cools, I get into my comfy Autumn clothes and into making my comfy Autumn meals 🙂

A family-favorite is chicken or turkey pot pie. I love these meals too as it allows me to easily convert leftover meat into a brand new dish – saving money while keeping the menu fresh.

In one of my FAVORITE BOOKS that everyone who wants to save money should read, Miserly Moms, Joni McCoy offers a wide variety of DIY recipes that allows you to create your own at home so you can save $$$ on the name brand items. The Baking Mix recipe an essential one for me. This recipe makes about 10 cups and can be used in any Bisquick recipe – we typically use it for pot pie and drop biscuits, but pancakes and waffles are easy options too!

The thing I like about this recipe is that it is the epitome of store-bought mixes… it’s so easy to do, we just don’t know HOW.

By having the recipe available to create your own, you have the time-saving option that the convenient boxes offer, without the cost.

So, here you go! Here is the Faux Bisquick Recipe!

Ingredients:

  • 8 c. flour
  • 1 1/4 c. nonfat dry milk
  • 1/4 c. baking powder
  • 1 T salt
  • 2 c. shortening

Directions: Combine flour, milk powder, baking powder & salt in a very large bowl. Cut in shortening until it resembles coarse cornmeal. Store in tightly closed covered container. Makes about 10 cups.

Voila! There you go!

Now, you can easily make several meal options for any meal of the day 🙂

Good sites to use this with:

ad-bakingmix

Have a great day!
Andrea-sig

Opt Out of School Pictures? Can you do that?!?

We have been getting school pictures every year since our first minion started Kindergarten, as you are supposed to do. It is not the best “frugal” option and this year, I think we found a very solid alternative.

Cost savings

At our previous school, we had the option of purchasing a picture package and/or the file alone which they would email. There were cute backgrounds ranging from a plain color to a pretty garden. These were all pretty reasonably priced and so it was not absurd for us to do this. We could purchase the file alone for $10 and then print them ourselves. More info on that below.

At our new school, the background options are restricted to a blue-grey background unless you upgrade (i.e. pay more) and even then it is simply for a different color. The most basic package without the file costs $22 per child, with the “Most Popular Package” coming in at about $55… per child. I have three children. I do not plan to pay $165 for so-so pictures, especially when minion 2 comes into play. Which brings me to my next reason for opting out.

More options

Minion 2’s Kindergarten pictures were… well… how do I put this gently? She looked like she was going to stab the camera man. My husband and I have purposely not shared the photo online because we both firmly believe that it would turn into a McKayla Maroney-type meme. It looked as though she was thinking, “Take the d@m^ picture now so I can get the h3!! out of here!”

I love my daughter very much, but if she is not in the mood to do something, there is no way in h3!! you are going to get her to do it. Oh, you may try all you like. But as my family learned in the 45 minute wait for my daughter in the bathroom at Animal Kingdom at Disney World, if you ask her to do something she doesn’t want to do, you simply have to wait out the storm.

At an event for school this year, her 1st grade teacher pulled me aside to “warn” me that her pictures might not turn out. I simply started laughing and shared with her that it was a main reason we opted out of purchasing pictures this year. Her teacher even asked the photographer if they could skip Minion 2 and they informed her that they needed a photo for the yearbook. Oh my. We are still waiting to see the lovely picture they got this year!

Anyway, the ability to actually be with my children and select the background actually became a very fun activity for us.

My husband and I are not photographers, but we enjoy taking pictures. We took our minions to a park last weekend and we had so much fun finding places to photograph. If you aren’t confident in your photography skills, ask a friend or set up an appointment with a local photographer. In some cases, it may be cheaper than school photos.

Disclaimer: We have a Nikon camera with a couple of lenses for our use. This helps in achieving the professional results, but I do think you might be able to achieve similar results from an iPhone or Android phone.

Printing Options

*** Editor’s Note *** Apparently, Walgreens and CVS have both updated their photo systems to no longer allow for “Ultimate Value Pack” purchases. I am investigating an alternative at this time.

Did you know that Walgreens actually has an option to purchase a picture in a package that is very similar to the school packages?

Upload your photos to Walgreens.com (other sites might have similar features, this is our experience using Walgreens), then go to the page to “Choose Sizes and Quantities” and select the link below “Wallets” that reads “More Sizes.”

Note: Walgreen’s cropping tool does not work for the packs. For best results, upload portrait photos (not landscape) and crop before you upload.

screen-shot-2016-10-19-at-2-10-26-pm

Here, you will see additional “Packs.” For just $9.99, you can get:

  • 3 8×10
  • 3 5×7
  • 5 Wallet Sets (so the kids can pass out their pics to friends like all the others), and
  • 20 4×6 screen-shot-2016-10-19-at-2-12-58-pm

Added Bonus! There are ALWAYS coupon codes for Walgreen photos online (just google “Walgreens Coupon Code”) AND you get them within a day. We ended up getting three Ultimate Value Packs (one for each minion) plus some other 4×6 photos for us for less than $20. Compare that to the fact that the starting price at the school was $22, this was a no-brainer for us.

For our family, this allowed us to take a day and devote it to achieving the photos that the kids and we wanted. We were very pleased with the results and ended up with really cute photos of the kids altogether as well.

And, you can’t really deny the adorable results!

dsc_1309  dsc_1452  dsc_1294

I hope this inspires you as well! Enjoy the day as a family and be in charge of what pictures you hand out this year 🙂

Have a great day!!!
andrea-sig

Mommy Reset

Autumn ===> School & sports start. Chaos begins!!!

Now, don’t get me wrong, I love autumn and everything to do with it. BUT… it takes me a few weeks to get back into the groove. And this can sometimes make me feel very overwhelmed and guilty. Guilty I am not as efficient as I could be. Frustrated that everything is not falling into perfection. And simply tired from all the running around.

This is the time of year that all three minions have activities. So, Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, we have soccer; Tuesdays and Saturdays, we have softball; and Thursdays, we have gymnastics. Sundays are for Church and family. Then, of course, we have homework and spouse time that need to be placed in here as well. Not to mention personal Mom{Me} time.

I know I’m preaching to the choir here, but WOW! The running around really catches up to you!!! I actually think I forgot was exhaustion felt like, but the last couple of weeks has definitely reminded me.

So last week, I took our household’s resting time {1:30-3:00-ish and after 8:00 p.m.} and made a point to do nothing. I recognized that I needed to reset or else I would become cranky and nearly useless.

The importance of Mom{Me} time is so imperative, and yet it always seems to be the first thing cut from the list. Why is that? Well, it’s because we are moms.

Moms are created to be nurturers, so when there is a need for our family, we fill that need. It is our vocation gifted by God.

We naturally put our sanity aside to keep the others sane 🙂

The good news is that the joy that our little ones have in doing the things they love actually help fulfill our hearts as well. This helps for a little bit, but at a point, you just need to take a guilt-free break before you break!

The problem for me is falling into old habits. I am very much a go-go-go person and I have created three on-the-go minions, so remembering to take personal time for me does not come naturally. I go until I can’t go anymore and then I need a reset.

So, basically, this is my reminder to all. TAKE PERSONAL TIME & STAY SANE 🙂

Once I regain sanity, I remember all my tricks and enjoy each moment more.

Key takeaways for you from this post:

  • Always find time for Mom{Me} time;
  • Planning ahead helps the days run smoothly;
  • This is a season in life and it too shall pass {far too quickly}.

Have a great day!!!
andrea-sig

Parents, Your Reaction Matters Most

While at the park today, we had an incident with another child.

I took five kids to the park – my three minions {8, 6, and 4} and our little friends {2 and 7 months}. We do this often and never have issues. While the two year old was playing on a train, another two year old came over and before you knew it, he scratched her face, starting at the eyes and going down to her lips. Oh, it was bad!

Here is where reactions matter.

The boy’s mom immediately picked him up and removed him from the situation, as did I with the little girl. His mom talked calmly with him. I talked calmly with our little friend. I consoled her and checked her face. I got her some water and cleaned her up.

I didn’t hear what the boy’s mom said to him at first, but she stayed close by – holding her son – and once my little girl was calm, we connected again. She apologized for the incident and checked to make sure the toddler was OK.

Yes, it sucked that it happened. But, when two year olds are involved, anything can and will happen. They are quick as a whip and don’t always have the words to communicate what they want. In this case, the little boy wanted to sit in the exact spot the little girl was.

Here’s what impressed me about the situation:

  • The mom reacted immediately. This was not a situation of negligence by any stretch of the imagination. He was quick!
  • The mom stayed. She could have taken her son and left then and there as a punishment for his behavior and/or to save herself from the embarrassment. But she didn’t. She stayed a few feet away holding her son to make sure we were okay.
  • The mom used the moment to teach her son. You know that whole cause and effect thing that we learn in science? Two year olds are still learning them. A horrible example, but he now knows what happens if he scratches someone. I heard her tell her son, “See what happened when you did that? It hurt her and now she is sad.”
  • The mom scolded in a loving way. She didn’t fly off the handle and shout at the boy. She didn’t scream “look what you did!” {Well, at least from what I heard.} She calmly spoke to the boy and used basic language so that he could understand how his actions hurt someone. By mom staying calm, it actually kept the moment calm for the four of us involved.
  • The mom did not make him apologize. I have read conflicting books/articles on this. From this, I feel that if you force a child to say sorry, they don’t necessarily understand it and it becomes just a word. When they comprehend what it means to be sorry, that is when it is meaningful. The mom apologized a lot, but I actually do understand her not forcing the issue.

In a few minutes, our little girl was fine, playing and smiling. We kept on playing for another hour {we were at a great park with lots to do!}. The mom came up to me as we were getting ready to leave and she thanked me for my reaction to her and the situation. It didn’t dawn on me that others might have been cold to her in that situation, but looking back, I do get it.

With all the mom-shaming, you never know who you may come into contact with. I could have very easily blamed her and shouted at her for allowing her child to do this horrible thing. But, let’s face it. I have three kids who have gone through these phases, or at least something similar. I get it.

Toddlers are fast little things who want what they want when they want it. When they don’t get it, they act out. In this case, it was at another child.

  • I know that it is simply something that happens.
  • I know the mom didn’t send him over to hurt us.
  • I know that the little boy is probably a good boy who was overwhelmed by all the play things and then felt cheated that my little girl got to what he wanted first.
  • I know that this mom probably just needed a moment of grace, as we all do from time to time.

Later, my minions were trying to figure out why the little boy didn’t just sit in the other seats – there were three available. Why did he need her to move? My only response was that sometimes two year olds are simply illogical. 

The best thing that we can do is to react in a positive way. Not only for our kids’ sake, but other moms’ as well.

Be blessed and have a great day!
andrea-sig

 

P.S. I came across this article and I think it fits perfectly here: Six Ways to Show Solidarity with Other Moms. 

Making Fitbits Work for Mom

My husband bought me a fitbit HR last month before a trip to Canada. I absolutely love it, BUT it does not count my “mom” steps!

You know… “mom” steps. Simple things like holding a baby, pushing the stroller, or pushing a shopping cart. Essential things that all moms must do.

Here is how a fitbit counts steps {from fitbit itself}:

Fitbit trackers have a finely tuned algorithm for step counting. The algorithm is designed to look for motion patterns most indicative of people walking. One condition for a motion pattern to be recognized as a step is the motion must be large enough. The algorithm implements this by setting a threshold. If a motion and its subsequent acceleration measurement data meet the threshold, the motion will be counted as a step.If that threshold is not met, the algorithm won’t count the motion as a step. Other factors can create enough acceleration to meet our threshold and therefore cause some over counting of steps, such as riding on a bumpy road. Equally, it’s possible for the algorithm to undercount (not meet the required acceleration threshold).

In plain english, your ARM MOTION and foot step must be involved in order to count.

The problem each “mom” step has is that each of these require our arm to be stationary. I discovered that each walk with the stroller was not counting! That means that literally thousands of steps were not being counted each day. No fair!!! I wanted to reach 10,000 each day like I had on vacation.

At first, I blamed my children’s little legs for slowing me down. Then one evening, when I realized I had less than 200 steps to go before hitting 10,000, I started reading my book while pacing my floor. After about 10 minutes of walking {way more than should be necessary}, I gained 42 steps! My arm was holding the book rather than moving with my steps. Grr…

So, I started testing the various tasks I did each day and discovered that with my fitbit on my wrist, my “mom” steps were not counting.

{Yes, I know these are very much so first world problems, but I wanted that little burst of pride I got when my fitbit vibrated to alert me I had achieved my goal. Shallow, yes. Still, what I wanted.}

How to resolve this and make my steps count!

I thought about putting the fitbit on my ankle, but

  1. Fitbit does not recommend this
  2. I don’t know if I would realize if it fell off, wasting money, and
  3. I didn’t want to look like a mom on house arrest.

So, I tried my belt loop. This worked really well!!! The first test was a biggie – the zoo! I easily achieved 2,500 just walking to an exhibit in the back. Great!image

New problem… I don’t always wear pants with belt loops. I do wear workout gear a couple days a week. Hmm…

Solution! Fasten the fitbit around one of the tank top sleeves. It’s not the most attractive, but it counts the steps and I will definitely be aware if it falls off.

Now, ALL of my steps count each day. Take that fitbit! #momwin

I am posting this as this was simply something that I was not aware could be an issue  and so I figure if I didn’t know, other mamas might not either. Don’t get frustrated, simply figure out a solution that works best for you.

Have a good day!
andrea-sig