May 30, 2012

Cut Your Kitchen Time

If you’re like me, you want to spend less time in the kitchen cooking so you can spend more time hanging out with your kids. I have to admit that I’m getting tired of seeing the pizza delivery guy and am pretty sure I’m putting him through college on tips alone. So I’m setting out to find some new ways to cut my time in the kitchen. Here are a few things I’m planning:

Stock up on meals at home. A few years ago I bought a cookbook about doing two weeks of cooking in one day. It took me about five hours to pack my freezer with 14 different meals (including leftovers, this would feed my family for three weeks). This method definitely saved time over cooking on a nightly basis because I had similar ingredients all chopped at once and ready to assemble, I cooked all my meat in large batches and tossed entire meals in plastic baggies with a top that zips (saves room in the freezer over foil pans and plasticware, as well as being cheaper). It was amazing being able to look at a busy day on my calendar and know that I had a pre-made dinner thawing and ready to pop in the oven. Check out these books:
  • Once-a-Month Cooking: A Proven System for Spending Less Time in the Kitchen and Enjoying Delicious, Homemade Meals Everyday by Mary Beth Lagerborg and Mimi Wilson
  • The Freezer Cooking Manual from 30 Day Gourmet: A Month of Meals Made Easy by Nanci Slagle
  • Frozen Assets: How to Cook for a Day and Eat for a Month by Deborah Taylor-Hough
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May 29, 2012

Date Your Kid!

I love how I get to know each of my kids better when we go on our dates. They tell me things they might not tell me while their siblings are around, and I get to savor every word. We get to build a relationship based on more than day-to-day interactions like chores, meals, homework and activities. It’s easy to get into a relationship rut with your kids just as you can do with a friendship or a marriage.

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May 28, 2012

10 No-Gift Birthday Parties

Chances are your kid will attend dozens of birthday parties over the course of the next few years. At even $10 a pop for a gift, that can really add up. Now think of all the gifts that come into your own home for birthdays and other holidays. Picture at least half of that stuff eventually going into a landfill or to charity. Talk about a bunch of wasted money! So I’m proposing a radical idea: the No-Gift Birthday Party. You’ll have a lot less clean-up, and the other parents just might thank you. Try it just once and see what you think! This piece includes 10 ideas. Here are just a few:

1.      Instead of giving your child a birthday gift or even a party, consider giving an experience. Ideas include: a trip to an indoor or outdoor amusement park, the zoo or water park.
2.      Cook up some fun at a place where kids can cook. Businesses like this often offer birthday parties where kids can make their own pizza or decorate their own little cake.
3.    Have a party at a cool place like a nature center and ask for donations. Jaime Perreca, mom of 4, said, “More parents are saying ‘no gifts, please’ or are doing a donation thing. We went to a party last month at a nature center and were asked to donate money. Most families put in $10-20. The nature center was SO happy to have our donation.”
4.   Throw a party with an animal theme. Shari Fresorger, mom of Hunter, said, “We have done two no-gift parties because my son has a December birthday. [At the first] we did animal themed Christmas ornaments, and gifts were donated to the local animal shelter. The second party … I ended up with a large SUV packed with supplies for the animal shelter. Lots of large bags of dog food, blankets, toys, and even checks to be donated in my son’s name.”

If you do it right, nobody will be thinking about presents at all. They’ll be too busy having fun!

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May 27, 2012

Childhood and Teen OCD

What’s the first thing you think of when you hear about obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)? Maybe you think of the TV show “Monk,” of someone who washes their hands over and over, of someone who loves a schedule and hates germs. Did you realize that as many as 1 out of every 200 kids or teens has OCD?

This piece chronicles our journey with our 7-year-old son when he exhibited signs of OCD, how we got help and resources.

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May 21, 2012

Kids in the Garden: Growing Memories

I’ll never forget the first time I picked a beautiful, ripe, red tomato that I helped grow. I had watered and weeded the plant with love, and I was so proud of that tomato. And, because I didn't get interested in gardening when I was a kid, this memorable gardening experience happened the summer I turned 40!

I’m already learning that gardening alongside your kids provides valuable opportunities for them to learn, to get some exercise and fresh air and to spend some time connecting with you. Check out these tips and ideas for gardening success, as well as a few reasons why gardening is one cool hobby.

This piece uses the first letters of the word GARDENING to make the points, and is a lot of fun!

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Originally published in Sonoma Family Life March 2012

May 18, 2012

Life After the NICU

"You’d think that once a family got home with their neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) baby they would be home free, right? After all, their baby isn’t hooked up to multiple monitors, doesn’t have IVs sticking out of every part of its body, and the parents don’t have to travel to and from the hospital every day anymore. So why do the parents still seem so stressed out? Read on to find out about some special challenges of and how to take care of these special parents and babies."

Includes quotes from moms who experienced the NICU and a psychiatrist on PTSD.

A great follow-up to my piece 12 Ways to Support a Family With a Baby in the NICU.

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May 17, 2012

Double Diapering

I share 10 reasons why using both cloth and disposable interchangeably can work out great for everyone involved!

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