Friday, July 29, 2011

Education Never Stops

Sometimes I miss being in school. I miss reading textbooks, going to classes, writing papers, and even taking tests. I envy friends working on their graduate degrees--until I remember I don't have to be in college to learn. I have control of my education. It doesn't have to stop just because I am a stay-at-home mom. I still have many college textbooks and notes I can reread. And even if I didn't, I could follow these simple tips:

FOCUS. Discipline yourself and limit distractions and activities that discourage learning. Instead, use the time to challenge your brain: solve puzzles, do math problems, learn a new skill, increase your vocabulary, participate in a new hobby.

READ. Gain knowledge from reading print and online materials: magazines, journals, newspapers, nonfiction and fiction books, newsletters, manuals, reports, encyclopedias, dictionaries, textbooks, etc. You can find information on anything through reading. In this modern age, TV is also a useful tool, granted you are watching something intellectually stimulating or informative.

STUDY. Reading is not enough. In order to understand what you read, you may need to study by looking up words, concepts, or processes you are not familiar with; reading other materials on the same subject to get other opinions and perspectives; asking questions to experts; or researching topics and events for better insight.

THINK. Thinking is hard, but many of the people history has determined as the most intelligent are those who were great thinkers and philosophers. Create your own ideas. The knowledge in the world continues to expand because of new thoughts.

DO. The best way to learn is by trying things, practicing, and getting involved. You gain experiences, knowledge, skills, and understanding you cannot get just through reading.

SHARE. Talk to other people about things you’ve learned, read, thought, and done. Explaining and discussing something help you better understand it. Listen to what other people have to say, too; you may learn something from them.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Crying It Out

The number one advice I receive from other mothers is to let my baby cry it out at night. Before I was a mother, I thought it was the norm. I first experienced the situation when babysitting at 13. All the kids were in bed. I had rocked the baby to sleep, but he kept crying once laid in his crib. I didn't want the other kids to wake up, so I held him until the parents returned. The mother told me I should've just let him cry it out.

Now that I am a mother, I think it's the most worthless advice I've ever been given. Here's why:

Note: This discussion on crying it out pertains to sleep training only and not other times babies cry.

1A. It doesn't solve the problem. Babies cry for a reason: they are hot, cold, hungry, tired, uncomfortable, in pain, scared, lonely, etc. Letting them cry it out does not allow you to figure out what the real problem is and fix it. Crying it out is a quick-fix solution, stopping the symptoms but not the cause.
1B. What if there is no problem? Sometimes babies cry because they are cranky or just feel like crying--we've all been there when we were pregnant, remember? Think about those times: what did you want? Maybe you wanted time to yourself or maybe you wanted a hug. Find out which your baby needs. If Baby calms down on his or her own, great. If not, Baby may need some comfort, even if the crying continues (just because your hubby was doing everything right, doesn't mean you stopped crying either!). The American Academy of Pediatrics says, "The best way to handle crying is to respond promptly to your infant whenever she cries during her first few months. You cannot spoil a young baby by giving her attention, and if you answer her calls for help, she’ll cry less overall."

2A. It's detrimental for communication. Babies only know how to communicate through crying. Ignoring them shows that their thoughts and feelings are unimportant or second class to yours. They may lose trust in you or become distant. The AAP says, "By responding to his needs, you increase his trust and attachment to you, thus laying the groundwork for healthy growth throughout his childhood." If crying bothers you, teach your baby other ways to communicate, such as through signing.
2B. Won't that let babies think they can get anything they want? Absolutely not! Communication is about sharing and listening, not about granting wishes. Let us follow the example of the ultimate parent: God. Heavenly Father listens to all our prayers, even if He doesn't answer them right away or in the way we want. He is always there to comfort and help us whenever we need Him. That doesn't mean He takes away our trials, but He does support us through them. Also, remember we are talking about babies, not toddlers. Babies, especially newborns, cry for their needs, not wants.

3A. It's bad for baby. You know what it's like to sob by yourself for hours. It's not good physically or emotionally.
3B. Does that mean you should never let your baby cry? No. The wait time before answering a baby's cry depends on the baby's age and the situation. Use your mother's intuition to decide when it is appropriate to let your baby cry and for how long. But don't allow it to escalate to a meltdown, which only makes both of you feel more frustrated.

4A. It's bad for you. Mothers were built to respond to their babies' cries. When you don't, you're going against your natural instinct. It should bother you (in a worried way) that your baby is crying.
4B.Will that turn you into a doting, overprotective, or "helicopter" mom? Not if you curb that instinct. Always check to ensure your baby is okay. If he or she is, then you can turn off your worried button. But leave your compassion button on, especially if you get annoyed easily. It will keep you from doing or saying anything hurtful to your crying baby.

5A. It sets up bad parenting habits. Crying it out is to get babies to sleep on your schedule and make your life easier. It's about being in control. It doesn't take into consideration the baby's needs and wants. There are no standard sleep habits. Think about adults: everyone needs something different to get good rest. Some need perfect quiet. Some need to read or wind down with TV. Some like lights on, others pitch blackness. Some go to bed early, some late. Some wake up several times at night, others are deep sleepers. Babies are the same. We shouldn't force them to do something that doesn't work for them just because it works for other babies or for us. We need to learn patience!
5B. Won't that allow babies to grow up spoiled? Nope. Parenting is not about power and control. Of course, you are the authority and your children should respect you. But respect is earned by showing respect. Let go of the desire to be in control. If you exercise proper authority--having rules and boundaries-- but show compassion and flexibility, your children will be more likely to obey and do it willingly.

For those with babies who struggle with sleep, I recommend The No Cry Sleep Solution, by Elizabeth Pantley. The sooner you read it the better. I realized that some of Bugaboo's struggles were a result of errors I made when he was a newborn. I did not want him to suffer for my mistakes by letting him cry it out, so I used her methods to break bad habits. It's been a roller coaster ride thanks to teething, moving, family, and sickness, but in the long run, Bugaboo has progressed so much. Before the massive chaos, he was only waking up once per night and going back to sleep easily! No crying involved. Now that's a happy solution for both of us.

Monday, July 25, 2011

How to Save Money and Lose Weight by Going Green

photo by Michael Lorenzo
There are ways you can save money. There are ways you can lose weight. There are ways you can go green. But all three at once? Yes, you can kill three birds with one stone: go green and in the process also save money and lose weight!

  1. When circumstances allow, walk or ride a bike to places that are within a couple miles, such as the library, post office, or elementary school. You will lose weight from walking or biking, save money on gas, and lessen bad chemicals in the air. You will also get to enjoy the outdoors: the sights and sounds of nature, the beautiful sun and clouds—even in the city!
  2. Once a week, with family or friends, pick up trash along a busy road or highway. You will not only make the road cleaner and the soil healthier, but you will probably get a mini workout as well from all the walking, bending, and hauling. And you may be able to make some pocket change by taking cans and bottles to a recycling center.
  3. Plant an organic garden. Eating fresh, clean produce will encourage you to eat healthier and thus lose more weight. Also, gardening is a great way to burn calories and include the whole family in hard labor. Plus you’ll save money by growing your own organic fruits and vegetables instead of buying highly priced ones at the store.
  4. Use eco-friendly cleaning products when you clean your house. To save money, make your own eco-friendly cleaning products or use simple products like vinegar. Clean to some upbeat music for a fun and productive exercise.
  5. Get your family involved in free or inexpensive outdoor activities—such as hiking, bird watching, or picnicking at a park—instead of going to the movies and consuming buttery popcorn and sugary soda. Being outdoors promotes exercise and play, saves money, and helps you appreciate nature more.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Easy Frozen Snacks for Summer

photo by Gyom Seguin
Although summer is fun, the summer heat can be overwhelming and horrible. You can endure the heat with these easy frozen snacks using ingredients you already have in your kitchen.
  • Pour your favorite fruit juice or soda into an ice cube tray and freeze. Suck on the ice cubes for a refreshing treat or add them to your drinks.
  • To make popsicles, cover the ice tray tightly with aluminum foil. Poke toothpicks into each mold for the stick of the mini popsicle.
  • Buy popsicle molds at the store. You can find ones from $1 to $4 at Target. Fill them with your favorite fruit juice or soda and freeze. Or puree fresh fruit (such as nectarines, plums, strawberries, or other berries), frozen juice concentrate, and sugar to make a fresh-fruit popsicle.
  • Freeze grapes for a cold, crunchy snack. Try freezing other fruits such as melon cubes and kiwi slices.
  • Freeze bananas. Cut the bananas in half, push a popsicle stick halfway through, and freeze for a couple hours. Eat with peanut butter. To make chocolate-covered bananas, dip the frozen bananas in melted chocolate and nuts (if desired) and freeze for a few more hours.
  • Make an ice cream sandwich: put a scoop of hard ice cream between homemade cookies.
  • Make a cool strawberry yogurt pie. Fold two 6-ounce cartons of strawberry yogurt into 3 ½ cups of Cool Whip. Add ½ cup strawberries and mix. Spoon the mixture into a prepared graham cracker pie crust and freeze for 4 hours. Place the pie in the refrigerator 45 minutes before serving. [Recipe from Jo-Ann Stone.] You can do this with other fruits as well.
  • Blend one 6-ounce can of frozen orange juice concentrate, 1 cup milk, 1 cup water, ½ cup sugar, 1 tsp. vanilla, and 1 cup crushed ice until smooth to make an Orange Julius. [Recipe from Arica Monroe Young.]
  • For a cool, easy no-bake cheesecake, beat on medium speed two 8-ounce packages of cream cheese, 1/3 cup sugar, and 2 tbs. lemon juice (optional) until well blended. Gently stir in 2 cups Cool Whip and spoon the mixture into a 6-ounce prepared graham cracker pie crust. Refrigerate for 3 hours. [Recipe from Kraft Philadelphia cream cheese.]

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

How to Save Money at Thrift Stores

Going from buying new things to shopping at thrift stores already saves a bundle of money. But there are also tips for how to get good deals at thrift stores and save even more money!

  1. If at an organization’s thrift store (such as Goodwill or Salvation Army), ask when the trucks come in with new” items. Come the next day to get first pick at everything.  If at a small, independent thrift store, ask how often they put out new donations.
  2. Find out which color tag is on sale and look for items with those tags. There will usually be a poster or an intercom announcement sharing which color is on sale a particular day (ex: blue-tagged items are 50 percent off). Some stores also have weekly dollar days.
  3. If a weekend, holiday, or special sale day is coming up, go to the thrift store the night before, near closing time, to find things you want to buy. Hide them behind other items and be sure to write down or remember hints so you know where to find them. Be there the next day right when the store opens so you can get to your items before anyone else does.
  4. Many things given to thrift stores are brand new, so check for items with original store tags still attached to get a great deal.
  5. If at a small, independent thrift store, make friends with the owner. Owners will usually cut deals with people they know, or the “regulars.”
  6. Some thrift stores offer discounts to seniors, so be sure to ask.

Note: Bartering is not acceptable. The only likely exception is at a small, independent thrift store with an owner you know, and usually only over large items, such as furniture, or bulk items, such as a dish set.

Saturday, July 2, 2011


The winners of the Lady Hawke Originals ribbon bookmark and two Scrabble-tile pendants are comment #19 "I follow your blog via GFC-Cynthia Richardson #1" and comment #49 "Hearted etsy shop as Armada Volya." Congratulations! I will contact you ladies shortly.

Remember, the 15%-off coupon code BLOGSPECIAL15 is good until the end of July.
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