Yep. You have probably heard this a million times before (especially if you are a Mom) but usually when people say that  it’s okay to say no, they are talking about over extending yourself.  I am talking about something  a little different.  Let me explain.

Last week my son came home with a permission slip for a field trip.  This wasn’t any old field trip.  This field trip was to the Science Center and it costs $25 for him to go!  Now let me say that I am not opposed to field trips.  They are great!  Kids get to experience new things with their classmates and they usually have a good time.  Here are the reasons that I chose to say “no” to this field trip:

  • Cost:  okay, ummmm $25?  Really?  I thought that these places were supposed to give schools some kind of discounted student rate? On the actual Science Center website, the price for a student is $20 (literally – I just went to their website and checked).  Why is it MORE for him to go with his class than with me?  What the heck is that about?!?!?!?!?!?
  • They only gave ten days to get the permission slip back with the money.  I could have scrounged for it somewhere in my budget and come up with it, but it just seems like they would have given a little more notice than that. Many people only get paid every two weeks and would not be able to come up with the $25 in time.
  • We live here.  We have lived here all of Ben’s life.  We have had a family membership to the Science Center for several years.  He doesn’t need to go again.  Really, he doesn’t.
  • For $25 I can take both of my kiddos to the local second run movie theater and get them all the snacks they want and catch two or three movies (and probably still have a  dollar or two left over)

I explained all of this to Ben, and he is okay with not going.  I told him he could hang out with me for the day and even pick out a Redbox movie or two.  That pretty much sealed the deal.

In short, field trips have their place.  They are educational. I get it.  But right now is not the time for a $25 field trip to a place that my son has been to many times before.  I can think of other things to do with that money that my kids would enjoy more.
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I worked hard last year to make sure that I had enough money to buy nice gifts for my family for the holidays.  I researched purchases, earned some Amazon giftcards through swagbucks (you can see here how to get a free tv like I did from swagbucks) and saved a little cash each month so that I would not have to worry about how to pay for gifts.  All of this planning paid off!  I got some really great deals!  One of the deals I was most excited about were some Beyblades that I bought for Ben and my nephew.

They were super cool!  They lit up!  They spun!  The packaging said “Let it Rip!”  I kept thinking how neat they were that they lit up when you pulled the strip and how cool they would look when they were spinning in battle!  I knew the boys would be thrilled!

Christmas day went off without a hitch. Sure enough, the boys were excited about the super cool, new Beyblades! “Wow!  They light up!  Yeah!”  They had so much stuff to play with that they didn’t actually open the Beyblades until that evening. My sister called and asked if we had opened the Beyblades yet.  Nope. Not yet.  She said that they didn’t work.  What?!?!?!?!?  I tried them in the store !  They light up great!  They spin great!  She said “Yeah but they are just flashlights.” WHAT?!?!?!?!?!?

Sure enough I tried Ben’s Beyblade and all it did was spin and light up.  Nowhere on the packaging that it came with (it has since been changed) did it say that it wasn’t a “real” Beyblade.  It was only a flashlight. How disappointing.  I immediately emailed the LARGE toy company that owns the Beyblade name.  They sent me a response that they don’t manufacture ALL the Beyblade items and they couldn’t help me.

I emailed them back again saying (name of LARGE toy companies deleted where ***** are):

“So, although ***** is all over the Beyblade name, and I bought a Beyblade branded product, there is nothing you can do for me as a consumer? How is that possible? That is insulting. I have never even heard of ***** ****** ********** and they certainly aren’t mentioned on the Beyblade website (where it says ****** everywhere). I am beyond irritated. This is NOT right! I would think that a toy company that manufactures the Beyblade items would want their customers to be satisfied? How can I get a resolution to this issue? There must be something you can do. It is hard for me to accept that a company as large as ******, who makes the Beyblades items for children, just doesn’t care that they disappointed children on Christmas day and that they are not interested in correcting the issue? Seriously? ESPECIALLY since the EXACT ITEM that I purchased was listed as a selection under Beyblades on the subject of the email I previously sent you (you know, where I am supposed to select the product I am emailing about. WHY would the EXACT ITEM be listed there if you don’t provide customer support for it?) There must be something you can do to make this right. Please let someone else review my complaint and come up with an alternative solution because your previous response is unsatisfactory. Thank you in advance for your help with this matter.”

Long story short, they apologized and sent us two REAL replacement Beyblades.  Don’t take NO for an answer.  Be polite but state your case.  You have the right to complain if you aren’t satisfied with an product or service you have purchased.
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Ben is a HUGE Lego fanatic!  He gets the free Lego Club magazine every other month in the mail (if you want to get a FREE Lego Magazine subscription for your little Lego fan, CLICK HERE to go to Lego.com and sign up).  He also likes to go to the store and drool over the latest huge Lego sets.  Why do they make these Lego sets for kids so HUGE?  There is no way Ben could put those together, let alone keep track of all the pieces.

A few months ago, I stumbled across the solution to Ben’s dilemma:  bagged Lego sets.  The bagged Lego sets can be found anywhere from Walmart to Toys R Us and usually are priced $5 – 10.  Not only are they affordable, they are smaller kits so the child is more likely to finish building the item.  They come in all the different Lego themes like Star Wars, Harry Potter, etc. so you are sure to find one that your child would love!

My main reason for buying these little bagged kits is so that Ben can have the fun of playing and building with Legos and I don’t waste money on kits that he will lose pieces to.  If he doesn’t keep all the kit pieces together, it’s not a big deal to just add them to our big box of Legos.  Also, this way, when I see that he is starting to keep the pieces together for each separate kit and is learning to be responsible, then I will start to buy him the larger boxed kits as he matures.

If you would like to see the bagged kits I am talking about, you can click here to see the bagged Lego kits that Amazon offers

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EASY THANKSGIVING DESSERTS FOR KIDS

It seems as if a lot of kids don’t really care for pie and so I was on the lookout for a different dessert idea for the kids that they would enjoy.  A few years ago, I ran across an recipe in a magazine for a sugar cookie that was decorated to look like a pumpkin pie.  I have made that “pie” for my kids every year since then (with a few changes) and it’s always a hit!  Not to mention that it is super simple to make!

YOU WILL NEED:

a large circular baking pan (I use one that is 16 inches across)

1 box of yellow cake mix

1 T water

1/2 cup vegetable oil

2 eggs

1 can of white frosting

yellow & red food coloring

a handful of chocolate chips

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat your oven to 350

Mix together the cake mix, water, oil and eggs

Stir well (by hand is fine)

Dump all of the dough onto the round pan and spread out evenly

Bake in the oven 10-13 minutes or so (until the top starts to lightly brown)

Remove from oven and let cool

Keep the cookie ON THE PAN

Put the whole can of frosting into a mixing bowl and add red and yellow food coloring and mix well until it is the shade of orange that you want to use.

Dump all the frosting onto the cookie and spread evenly

Trim the edges of the cookie with the chocolate chips (to resemble a “crust”)

When it’s time for dessert, simply cut into wedges and serve!  You can even top it with whipped cream if you like to make it more “authentic”.

From my home to yours, may you have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

 

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As a mother to four children I can easily understand that the decision about a kids allowance is difficult.  Should kids get an allowance?  On the one hand, kids chores should be done no matter if there is money tied to doing them or not.  Chores are a responsibility and part of being a family.  Everyone has things that they must do for the household, no matter if they get paid or not.  I totally agree with that point of view.  However, I recently changed my mind and here is why:  there is logic to giving allowances.

Out of my four children, two are still at home with me (my 12 year old daughter Shelby and my 8 year old son Ben).  I recently started giving the kids allowance ($5 each per week) because it accomplished several things, all of which are beneficial:

  • It makes them eager to do their chores:  they now understand if they don’t do the work, they don’t get paid or they lose money from their pay.  This is a good basic concept for Ben to learn early! Because he has a learning disability, sometimes it takes longer for things to really take hold for him.
  • It makes saying “No” a LOT easier: “Mom can I buy a book from the book fair?”  “Can I get some candy from the store?” “Can I get a new toy?” – I can freely say NO to all those requests unless the child wants to pay for the items themselves with their allowance!  This has saved me a lot of money!
  • It lightens my chore load : they do some of the things around my house that I had previously done all myself.
  • It holds them responsible:  “Mom can I go outside to play?”  Only if you have done your chores.
  • They learn how to keep house:  If they learn these skills now, they are more likely to take care of their home when they eventually move out on their own.
  • They are learning to save: Ben saved his money until he has enough for the Lego Batman 2 Wii game (he also made sure to use a coupon!) and Shelby saved her money to go buy some new clothes at the mall (she did not spend one cent of her money once we were there – she decided the clothes were too expensive and not worth it!).  When they ask for a large ticket item, I tell them to start saving their money.  If it is important to them, they save for it!

In addition to chores and an allowance, I have recently started a “Kids Cook” night.  One night every week, the kiddos are in charge of cooking dinner and making dessert.  Since I plan my menu in advance, they decide on a few dishes and desserts they would like to make that month and I put them on the menu.  Again, this lightens my load and teaches them life skills and responsibility.

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My son (who is Autistic) was a notoriously picky eater.  Over the past few years, I have managed to change that pattern.  What’s funny to me is that sometimes we resist trying a new food at home for fear that the picky eaters in our house will resist and protest.  This is not always the case.

The price of the white bread that my family prefers is almost $3 per loaf.  I have a bread machine and enjoy making bread in it but it doesn’t really lend itself to being “sandwich” bread.  So, off I went in search of an alternative.

I tried the bread outlet stores.  They didn’t carry our type of bread and the types they did carry weren’t very tasty (we tried them all).  So, I continued to buy our $3 bread.  Recently I noticed a store brand “honey wheat” bread that was $1 less than the bread we love and it seemed similar in texture and softness.  It was, however, WHEAT!  My kids would never go for that (or so I thought).  I bought the bread figuring that it would eventually get used.

Fast forward a few days…. I notice that the bread is indeed being eaten and I never heard not even one single word of protest.  I don’t think they ever even noticed the change!

Feeling a little braver, I was at the Dollar Tree this week and noticed a similar colored wheat bread and it looked pretty soft.  For a dollar, how could I go wrong?  I brought it home and again it is being used, no questions asked and not one word of protest.

Here is the point:  try it.  You just never know what the kids will go for and what they will absolutely not try.  Sure, there are some things that I still won’t buy the generic of (Kraft mac & cheese is one of those things) but for just about everything else, I am open to new brands and ideas!  Now, instead of spending $3 for one loaf of bread, I know that I can get the wheat bread at Dollar Tree for $1 * that’s three loafs for the price of one!  Whoo hoo!

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While putting four children thru school over the last 22 years, I discovered this easy trick to getting good handwriting practice done!

I asked the teacher for a copy of the handwriting chart that they used in class.  It is simply a single sheet of paper with all the letters on it.  If you don’t want to ask the teacher, then you can just print one from the web or create your own by writing all the letters on a piece of paper with a sharpie or other marker.  I think that asking the teacher is the best idea that way you can make sure that your child is practicing the same style of handwriting at home that they are practicing at school.

Once you get the sheet with all the letters on it, simply laminate it.  I did not have use of a laminating machine so I just covered the whole sheet with clear packing tape.  After it’s laminated, your child can use dry erase markers to practice their handwriting on the sheet over and over without the need to reprint it!

Ben’s handwriting sheet has upper case letters on the front and lower case letters on the back.  It also has the numbers 0-9 as well.  He doesn’t mind doing this daily practice and he really enjoys picking out which color marker he will use each day.  I got the dry erase markers from the Dollar Tree (set of four for $1) and we use a piece of an old tee shirt to wipe it off each time.

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I had a really good friend in college.  We had some legal classes together (I hold a degree in Paralegal Studies / Legal Assisting) and usually we went to lunch together after class to eat and study.  We had a lot in common.  We both had kiddos and we were trying to find our way back into the corporate world.  Our kids played together.  We compared job search notes with each other.

She always ordered the same thing every time we went to lunch.  This is what she ate every day, for two years, at lunch:

A croissant that was split with butter on it and fried on the grill topped with fried eggs, lots of bacon and cheese.  Then she topped that with a ton of mayonnaise.  I always teased her that is was a “heart attack on a plate”.  She laughed and ate it anyhow.

After graduation, we both moved on, busy with our lives.  We kept in touch but were not as close as we once were.  Christmas Eve I was getting ready to go to a family celebration and was walking thru the living room.  The news was on.  My friend was killed in a head on collision the night before.  Her sons had also been in the car but they were unharmed.  My friend was dead.

Apparently those croissants did not matter after all.  I try hard everyday to keep that in mind.

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For those of you who don’t know, my son Ben is Autistic.  He is a “special needs” child.  He has been in therapy and special schools since he was three.  It is my job to make sure that he gets all the services he is entitled to and that the specialists who are supposed to be helping him do what they are supposed to be doing for him.

Since the beginning of this journey, I have always been hands on at his school.  I never just assummed the staff was doing their job and that I did not need to follow thru or support them.  It amazed me then and still amazes me now that so many parents just don’t get involved at their childrens schools.  Especially since these are the parents of special needs children.  To me this just ups the importance.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I know that there are many families where both parents work and also many families with single parents doing their best for their children.  The truth is that when the teachers send home a notice about a parent teacher meeting and then the parents don’t show up, they just assume you are not that interested in your child’s education. I have heard this first-hand from many teachers.

I am not talking about going full out PTA parent or anything.  I am simply talking about showing up for parent teacher conferences and volunteering a few hours during the school year.  Kids LOVE to see their parents on their school campus!  They just get such a thrill to know you are there too (even if you are not in the same room).  Email the teachers when you have a comment, question or concern.  Ask the teacher if there are any items you can contribute to the classroom (kleenex, snacks, juice, whatever they need).  Let them know you are an active and involved parent!

As much as it is the responsibility of the teachers to help your child learn, it is your responsibility to make sure that they are able to help your child in the best way possible!  Your input is INVALUBLE 😀

 

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Today’s post will be brief…….

19 years ago I gave birth to a beautiful, talented, amazing, loving, caring, soul that I named Coral.   I have had the privilege of being her mother…. watching her grow and learn…. fall and get up again….. fail and succeed….. question and get answers…. cry and laugh….. get hurt and be loved.   As much as I have taught her, she has taught me as well.

I love you Coral….. Happy Birthday!

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