Friday, October 30, 2009

Oprah Wants Us to Have Cheap Shoes

The Oprah Winfrey Show is giving out a coupon for 50% off your entire purchase at Payless Shoes. From what I've heard, this even applies to sale and clearance items. But it's only good TODAY! Check it out...

The cool part is that you can print out a coupon, or they'll text you a code you can show the Payless cashier. So if you're like me, and your printer is frequently sketchy and/or out of ink, you can still get in on the deal.

We're going today. If this works, I might have to change my opinion of Oprah from total hate, to just minor hate. :)

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Monday, October 26, 2009

Massive Toy Reorg

After the kids birthday party I let them have free reign over the downstairs area of our house with their new toys for a week. At the end of that week I was pulling my hair out and wondering how in the world I was going to get it all organized and back on track. So after some careful thought and discussion with my husband we decided it was time to crack down on the "one thing out at a time" rule and "pick up after your done with it" rule.

Up until this point I had been very lax on the clean up the toys rule. Having three very young kids made it pretty low on my priority list each day. It was faster and easier for me to just do it. I didn't want to fight them on it or take the time to teach them how when it was time for a nap or time to head out the door, so I just let it slide. Yes, I'm terrible, but it was how I survived the day and it worked for me for the first 3 years. That all changed after I did my major toy, book and game reorganization.

First thing I did was sort out all the toys that they have out grown or just didn't play with that often. This had been tough up to this point because I was holding onto all the baby toys for my youngest, but he's old enough now that I could purge them all. All those toys are now off to homes that can use them. This is going to become a new practice of mine at least once a year.

Second I took stock of everything we had left and made a rough list of where I wanted them to "live". I also determined approximately how many totes I'd need to make my dream a reality. My goal was to get all their toys up into the tops of their closets so they would no longer be able to pull down whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted. I figure as they get older and are used to the new rules I'll be able to put them back down at their level. For now, no way.

Then it was off to Fred Meyer to take advantage of a tote organization sale they were having. $1 for each of the small totes and $2.50 for the medium ones. I was so excited! I overbought, afraid of running out in the middle of a cleaning streak, and knew I could return the unused ones when I was all done.

The third step was to go from room to room, pulling toys down, putting them into their tote and moving them to the room that was to be their new home. The only time to do a project like this is when the kids are awake, so it made the project a little more tricky with them wanting to play with anything I got down to organize. But I also used it as an opportunity to teach them why I was doing it and how we were going to be changing our toy playing time.

The final thing I did was label all the totes. I color coordinated the labels by room. Addison pink, Ethan Blue, Austin Green, Family Room Closet Orange and Garage Play Area Purple. This way not even my husband could get confused over where things belong. :)

The whole process took an entire week of my "spare time" during the day. But man was it worth it. I felt like a new Mom after it was all done and I'm happy to report that the kids have responded very well to the new rules. We have a cleaner, less chaotic and more structured house now and my kids definitely thrive in that type of environment. I find that they play longer and better with something when it's singled out and only available if they've chosen it as their toy to play with. They've caught on to the "clean up when you're done" idea and although they still need coaching, are doing so great! Goes to show that it was truly my lack of effort that was setting us back this past year or so. Now we're all set!

Here are the final results. And I'm proud to say that if I went and looked in these closets right now they would look exactly as these pictures are. :) YEAH for organization!

Addison's closet and shelving unit. I put labels with little pictures on the drawers of the shelf unit so that she'd know what went in each drawer.

Ethan's closet. I forgot to take a picture of Austin's closet, but it looks very similar to the rest of the pictures. :)

Garage play area. SO nice to get all the toys up off the main floor of this space.
And finally the downstairs hall closet. This took the most work because it has all the kids craft stuff in it. It was overrun and totally chaotic prior to this, so it feels wonderful to have a place for every type of craft supply and to have it all labeled and put away. I'm a lot more motivated to get a craft out for the kids now, and that's a great thing.

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Saturday, October 10, 2009

Mealtime Simplification

In most ways, I'm a pretty typical mom. I talk to a lot of other moms both in real life and online, and I feel like I'm pretty up to speed on the current trends in parenting. And in one case, I know I am an outcast. Mealtimes.

The current "right" way to be a mom is to make one thing and that's what your kids eat. "I'm not a short-order cook!" is what I constantly hear. Or that people don't want to raise picky eaters, or they have to try bites of everything, etc.

My theory is a little bit different. It was primarily born out of desperation. My husband works most nights, and mealtime is just not a battle I am going to wage on my own every night. I'm just not. But also, I just don't believe in making your kids eat what you fix. Everyone has food preferences, some more than others. Why should my kids have to like the same foods that I do? For instance, my daughter doesn't like spicy foods, but we do. How many times do I want to sit at a dinner table "making" her eat something spicy? Zero, is my personal answer.

So here's what we do: The same dinner is served to everyone, usually along with a fruit or vegetable that I know my kids like. You eat what you want to eat, and you're done when you want to be done. When EVERYONE is done, if you are still hungry, you can have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Here's why this works for us. First of all, my kids RARELY end up asking for a sandwich. Either they are really hungry, and they'll end up either eating or picking at dinner until they're full, or they weren't really hungry, in which case they don't need a sandwich. But if they do have a sandwich, so what? Wheat bread, peanut butter, and jelly a pretty balanced meal.

I have one relatively good eater, and one very picky eater, and this works well for both of them. My huge disclaimer is that my kids are all still little. I don't know if this would work for for bigger families, or families with older kids. But for me, it's most important that mealtime is a happy, peaceful time of the day, and that my kids learn to listen to their bodies and eat what they need to in order to be full. And that's what works for us.

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Friday, October 9, 2009

The kids birthday party

So I thought I was going to be able to post a whole bunch of tips about my kids birthday party here, but after spending an entire week writing and posting pictures of the party on my personal blog, I don't have it in me to write any more. The posting with all the decorations is probably the most informative if you're looking for ideas.
The key to the party planning was starting about a month in advance, buying and prepping everything before hand and extensively using MS OneNote to keep track of all the things I needed to buy, prepare, set up and remember. If you've never used OneNote, and you have access to it, I highly recommend it. Especially to those of you that are organization freaks like myself. It's awesome!
Here is the link to the decorations post if you're interested in checking it out:

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Monday, October 5, 2009

Deal at Target this week

At Target this week they are having a good Motts deal. If you buy 5 of their juices or applesauce 6-packs, you get a $5 Target gift card. At my Target the 6-packs of applesauce are $1.69 (making them 69 cents each) and the juice was $1.79. The packs of applesauce had lots of yummy flavors too, like peach, strawberry, and Granny Smith apple. I think you can do this multiple times in one transaction.

So, if you needed an excuse to go to Target this week, now you've got one! Off you go!

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Friday, October 2, 2009

How the Internet Helps Me Pretend I Know How to Cook

Shhhhh.... I have a secret. I get compliments nearly every time I bring a dish somewhere. And my secret is Although my husband is a chef, I'm not. And we both love to look for new recipes online. The great thing about Allrecipes is that it's like the of the cooking world - gets a LOT of traffic from regular people, who rate the recipes and recommend changes. If a recipe has 4.5 out of 5 stars with 2,987 reviews, it's going to be good. And most of the people on Allrecipes are just normal people, not fancy chefs or anything.

For those of you who use Allrecipes, what are your favorites? Mine are:
Caramel Apple Pie II
Mom's Macaroni and Cheese
Sugar Cookies With Buttercream Frosting
No-Bake Cookies III
Sloppy Joes

If you've never used Allrecipes, try it out. There are great new adventures in food, along with a million versions of the classics. The key is when you do a search, sort by rating rather than relevance, so that the highest-rated recipes come up first. It's also fun to click on a category such as Soups and Stews, and see their 20 highest-rated recipes. You can save favorite recipes to an online recipe box, and print them out to keep in a recipe box or binder.

I feel a little silly writing this post, because in my head I feel like everyone must use Allrecipes as much as we do. But I know that's not actually true. So if you've never tried it, go take a look around!

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