Works 4 Me Wednesday: Occupying Little Minds
In my home binder I keep a list. It's an "ideas for grumpy kids" list. Somedays I have a lot to get checked off of my to-do list or my kids are just totally grumpy and I need something to keep them happy and occupied. It's on these days that I pull out this list. I thought I'd share it with you just in case things aren't always 100% hunky dory at your house. ;)
* Laundry basket ride around the room
*Let them play with an unplugged hand mixer or telephone or keyboard
*playdough on a cookie sheet
*Dress Up in Mommy clothes or Daddy clothes
*Use the couch cushions to make a fort (add a blanket too!)
*Scooping dry pasta or beans
*Throw some balls into a pac n play (balls sold here on Amazon)
*Dress up Stuffed Animals
*Magnets on fridge
*Pillow fight or jumping on the bed
*"Paint" with water and a paintbrush (on the linoleum or tile is a good excuse for a cleaning too)
*Let them paint the bathtub with watercolors (rinse clean)
*Let them "fold" laundry by giving them a laundry basket full of old scrappy towels and rags.
These are just a few of the ideas I've found have worked to keep my little ones busy and happy. What works for you?
Works 4 Me Wednesday: Thinking to Christmas
I cannot believe that Christmas is creeping up on us in just a few short weeks! If you've been following my site for awhile then you already know that I collect Christmas gifts all year round. As I stumble upon great deals I snag them up and stash them in a rubbermaid bin in my house. Then, when November rolls around I start wrapping and cross many people off my list. In fact, I try to make it my goal to have all my Christmas shopping done by Thanksgiving. This way I can enjoy the other holiday fun like making cookies and decorating! This year I am a bit further behind with being back at work full time, but I still have about 80% off my shopping done. I thought I'd share a few of the gift giving ideas I've come up with for this year.
Grandparents are one of the hardest people on my list to buy for. After all, they've seen it all, done it all, have it all... So, what does one get them? How about the gift of your time? Could you perform some household tasks to help them out? What about showing up as their chauffer for the day to run their errands? This year my sisters and I are putting aside one day to work together in the kitchen and prepare a week's worth of freezer meals for them to enjoy. This way all they will have to do is follow the attached directions to enjoy home cooked meals without the cost, time, or clean-up involved.
2) Friends of the Fam and Neighbors:
This year our family friends and neighbors are getting sundae kits. I've purchased holiday boxes from Christmas Tree Shops. I had an ETSY shop owner (go here) make hand stamped baggie toppers for me and I am placing baggies of sundae toppings in them. I am wrapping waffle bowls. And I am including homemade strawberry sundae topping and caramel topping in the kits. Place a new ice cream scoop or beautiful ice cream bowl in the box and you've got yourself a hoemmade and delicious gift for almost anyone on your list. Here's a picture of a similar kit.
3) The mailman, hair dresser, neighbors, teachers...
This very special group of people is also one of the hardest groups of people I have to buy for. I am suspecting they are difficult for you as well. This year I am giving them the gift of homemade jams, jellies, breads and other home goods. I've been working on this gift throughout the year as seasonal produce comes in. What if your talent isn't a culinary one? Could you make them a homemade apron and pair it with a muffin mix for them to make? Or how about stamping stationary with their initials? Could you bag some homemade potpourri?
4) Little Ones:
This year the little ones on our list are getting snack baskets. I had another ETSY owner (I totally could have made these myself but I just ran out of time. ugh....) make re-useable snack bags for me (go here). I bought collapsible totes (go here) and filled them with kid-friendly snacks (Goldfish, animal crackers, pretzels, oreos, etc.). I placed a few books for reading and a homemade fabric memory game (mine look a little different, but same idea) in each tote. Wallah! The makings of a mommy and tike date basket!
I would love to hear your ideas on what to give those hard to buy for people on your list this year!
Works 4 Me: Giving Thanks
Thanksgiving is just, literally, right around the corner. (Now that I've said it aloud I've terrified myself even more. I better get some food prep started around here.) It's easy to get swallowed up in the food preparation, visitors from out fo town, travel, and chaos of the holiday. But, this year, I caution you to step back and really savor the meaning behind the holiday.
The first Thanksgiving was truly a time of giving thanks. Sure, the Pilgrims had plenty they COULD have complained about. They had suffered immense hardships upon arriving in America and spending their first year here. Two months of travel on a tiny, crowded, disease filled boat left only half of the travelers alive among arrival. Not to mention, they were leaving a country that refused to allow them to worship in the way they wished. They had never known true freedom before. Upon arrival there was no one to greet them, to guide them, to lend aid. They were completely alone and probably terrified. But with God's protection, friendship from the Native Americans, and much hard work they made it through their first months here. And not only did they survive, but their harvest was plentiful. I can only imagine the rejoicing they did on that first Thanksgiving. They CHOSE gratitude.
I've recently tried a new approach to starting my day each morning. I have a 20 minute commute to work each morning. As I prepare myself for each day I take my drive in the car to say a prayer of Thanksgiving each and every day. I spend those quiet moments in the car going through my list of blessings. Sometimes I get to work still not having finished and I sit in the parking lot until I've "completed my list". Sometimes as I am driving I pass by certain homes or buildings that remind me of certain people. Sometimes it is a sign or landmark that reminds me. Other times it is the weather, a current event in the news, or an upcoming event in my day that reminds me of a blessing to be thankful for.
I could use my 20 minute drive to stress about the curriculum I am going to teach that day, my to do list at work or at home, or bills that need paid. I could turn up the radio and "jam" in my car. I could yell obscenities at fellow drivers. But, I don't. I make the choice each morning to start my day off with a grateful heart. And somehow, these moments of gratitude in the morning have helped me to have a contented heart with where God has placed me at this moment in my life. I urge you to give gratitude a try. Will you take a few moments out of your day tomorrow morning to list the blessings in your life? The pilgrims had plenty they could have complained about, but they chose gratitude. That's the thought I'll be pondering this Thanksgiving as I'm thanking God for my blessings too.
Works 4 Me Wednesday: Incorporating Exercise Into Daily Life
My life and daily schedule right now barely leave time to breathe, let alone exercise. However, the importance of exercise doesn't escape me. Therefore, I've learned I really just have to incorporate it the best I can into my daily routine. Below are my best tips for how I do this.
*Park the car as far as you can from the store you're visiting. It may take you a few extra minutes, but the extra steps you're getting may be worth it.
*Always choose the stairs!
*Do stair sprints at home. (I find that running up and down the steps in my house a few times in a row is enough to wind me and make my heart work just a little harder. ) Make this activity a little more productive by being sure to bring things upstairs when you go up, and items that need to come downstairs come down with you when you run down.
*Don't sit down when you get home from work. Instead, choose one activity to complete when you get home. I stopped to pull a bunch of weeds today that were growing along the edge of my flower bed.
*Vaccumming, Scrubbing floors, cleaning the bathtub, gardening,shoveling snow, and mowing the lawn are great ways to burn some extra calories.
*Play with your kiddos. Each evening after dinner my husband and I take about an hour to simply get on the floor and wrestle and play with our kiddos. Laying on your back and lifting those little ones in the air is a great activity for the whole family and you're sure to get giggles.
*Take the dog for a walk. Don't have your own? Offer to walk a neighbors.
*Choose to do small exercises during the commercials of a tv show.
*Choose a buddy to keep you accountable. Over your lunch break take a walk. Or, walk or go for a jog right after work.
* Can you get up a few minutes earlier in the morning to carve out 20 minutes for exercise?
* Most satellite and cable tv stations have a channel exclusively for exercise that you are probably already paying for. Why not get your money's worth out of it and give it a whirl. Make it a family event.
*Often when I'm sitting in a chair my feet are tapping, I'm clenching something, or I'm trying to burn a few calories by moving somehow. Am I ever still? Maybe when I'm sleeping.
I'd love to hear your best suggestions too. Please shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave me a comment here.
I've been putting off writing this post for some time because, frankly, I didn't feel I was especially knowledgeable (as I thought I should be) on the subject. However, after giving it some thought I decided to write it anyway and share with you what I DO know. My husband and I wrote the category of college savings into our budget right after our youngest, Jonah, was born. While we don't neccessarily plan to pay for our children's entire college we do plan to help them out in this regard and we want to be able to give them a good head start in whatever career path they may choose. (With a lot of emphasis on hard work, good work ethic, an appreciation for the value of a dollar and scholarships too of course!)
After a considerable amount of research we've chosen to begin our college savings accounts for our children in an ING account. Currently, ING is earning 0.9% in a savings account. These accounts are FDIC insured and are much higher than the typical brick and mortar bank. For a college savings account this works well for us because I can easily transfer money each month into the fund from my checking account and it isn't an account I ever to dip into so I don't have to worry about actually going to the bank often. The drawback of this fund is that you do have to claim the interest on your tax forms. But, if your children choose not to go to college and pursue a different career path you can use the money for anything you want, not just college.
A 529 plan is also a good option for many looking to start a college savings fund. It offers a nice interest rate and is tax deferred. However, if your child does not use the money for college you will have to pay taxes on it and a 10% penalty on that interest as well. This is kind of a scary reality in today's economy.
A custodial account (UGMA or UTMA) is another option for college savings. These plans offer tax advantages and you can use the money for any educational purposes (private school, summer camp, vocational schools, etc.). However, because it is a custodial account once your child turns 18 the money is in their name and they can do with it what they want.
One final option that my hubby and I considered was placing our children's funds into zero-coupon bonds. It is one we are still considering once we have a significant amount socked away. Zero coupon bonds are sold at a substantial discount from the face amount. For example, a bond with a face amount of $20,000, maturing in 20 years with a 5.5% coupon, may be purchased for roughly $6,757. At the end of the 20 years, the investor will receive $20,000. The difference between $20,000 and $6,757 represents the interest that compounds automatically until the bond matures. (Go here to read more about this option.) This option would work well for those who have started the college savings game early on and have time on their side. These bonds are federally tax free and a great option for many.
I'd love to hear how you are saving for college. Shoot me an email with your tips or leave a comment here. This is what has worked 4 me!