Archive for the ‘Kids’ Category

When cooking homemade meals most nights, it is inevitable that there will be leftovers. Sometimes I’m able to incorporate them into another dish, and sometimes my husband is happy to take them as lunch later in the week, but often, despite the best intentions, I’m left with a fridge full of odds and ends. When this happens, we make lemonade from the proverbial lemons and serve them up diner-style.

I assemble all the edible leftovers in their containers on the countertop and survey what I have. If I’m feeling particularly spunky, I’ll write some quick menus. Often, this task is tackled spontaneously by one of the kids, complete with drawings for each entrée. I announce that tonight is “Diner Night” and make everyone take a seat. I hand out or recite the menu, then take drink orders. By the time I return with drinks, everyone is ready to order. Depending on the day, we sometimes offer smaller “side orders” of certain items, or make new items (sandwiches or hash) with what we already have on hand. My husband and I work together to play short-order cook, and everyone gets what they want.

Other ideas:

  • Think up a name for your family Diner and always refer to it by name.
  • If the kids are old enough to use the microwave and dish up food, switch roles and let them run the diner.
  • Splurge a little  and buy a ready-made dessert for a surprise ending.
  • Have your little customers pay for dinner by helping bus and wipe of the table at meal’s end.

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Valentine’s Day seems like the perfect opportunity to discuss creating harmony in the home. I’ve been struggling with this problem off and on for a couple of months and have found that there are definitely things that help foster a more loving environment in my home.

As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, I have been given guidelines to follow that help to bring our family closer together and to invite the Spirit of God into our home. These guidelines include praying together as a family as well as individually, studying the scriptures, and holding Family Home Evening once a week. When I am striving to live by these guidelines my home is noticeably more harmonious than when I am not. These practices also create opportunities for my husband and I to share our morals and values with our children. Praying together as a family helps our children to develop a sense of gratitude as they give thanks for their blessings. Prayer also helps develop them to selflessness as they pray for the needs of others.  Although many of the ideas below are based on these principles, you need not be a member of my faith — or of any faith —  to employ them.

1. Center Yourself : Try to wake up 15-30 minutes earlier than you usually do and take this time to meditate, study scriptures, pray, or to read something uplifting and inspiring.  I find that when I am able to do this, I can face the day in a calmer, happier, and more peaceful way. It’s so much better than getting up and walking directly into the chaos of the morning.

2. Stick to a Routine: As much as possible, stick to the same routine each day. Do homework, eat dinner, and start getting ready for bed at a consistent time each day. When kids know what to expect each day, they will become more able to anticipate what needs to happen next and take steps to help out

3. Spend Time Together: Aside from family dinners, it is important to take time each week to enjoy each other’s company. This can take the form of a formal Family Night, or can be as simple and spontaneous as a Saturday outing to the park. Either way, it is important to interact with your kids in different settings. Let them know you enjoy spending time with them doing a variety of things — get to know them better and let them see that there is more to Mom & Dad than they expected.  Bonus: in my experience a change of pace puts the kibosh on sibling rivalry better than anything else. If you have more than one child, try to schedule occasional one-on-one time between each parent and each child. Sometimes they just need to have you all to themselves.

4. Take Time to Teach: It’s important to let your children know what you expect from them and why. Share your ideals with them, and try to model good conversational skills. Model good listening behavior and guide them in conflict resolution. When they have the tools to work it out on their own, there will be less tattling and more cooperation.

5. Spot Good Behavior: When you see your kids being especially helpful, kind, or mature, point it out immediately and complement them on it. Then, bring it up again later in the week — saying, for example “I was so proud of how your helped your sister clean up her room the other day. It really made me happy to see that you are learning to be so thoughtful.” Kids respond to positive reinforcement and it’s nice for them to hear what they have done well.

What tips or strategies do you employ to maintain a sense of peace and harmony in your home? I would love to hear some new ideas!

Happy Valentine’s Day! May your home be filled with laughter, happiness, love, and kindness!

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First of all, I want to give a big shout-out to Fat Brain Toys for making my Christmas shopping such a joy this year. I stumbled upon their site and it’s fantastic! What I love the most about it is the little tab in the upper left-hand corner that says “shop by age”. I was stumped as to what my 9-year-old son might like and decided to see what they had to say on the matter. As I scrolled through their list of suggested toys, I made a list of what I thought my son might enjoy. Later, I casually said, “Oh, look at this cool website I found today. Let’s look through it and see if there is anything here you might want to put on your Christmas list.” I was thrilled to find out that he picked almost all of the same items I had flagged from the list. Another genius feature is that when you click on the “more info” button for specific items, you can view a bar graph showing the age and gender that a toy is best suited for. I also appreciate the fact that they have a wide range of made in the USA toys as well as unique and non-battery-operated toys. The fact that they are educational is pretty cool too. I want to point out that this is not a paid endorsement, just me sharing a site that helped me out with most of my shopping this year.

Without further ado, I present my holiday gift picks:

Gifts for ages 8-10:

Snap Circuits Jr.:


photo courtesy of http://www.fatbraintoys.com

A snap-together electrical circuit board that enables you to make one hundred different gadgets & games. Easy-to-follow color-coded directions get your project up and running in a snap!


Flip to Win Hangman:


photo courtesy of http://www.fatbraintoys.com


A new spin on an old favorite. The flip-over pieces can’t get lost. Includes a dry-erase marker with eraser.

Friendship Wheel:


photo courtesy of http://www.fatbraintoys.com


A simple new way to make friendship bracelets. This will keep any girl occupied all Christmas day and beyond.

Gifts for ages 5-7:



photo courtesy of http://www.fatbraintoys.com


These turtle-shaped building blocks can snap together in 100 different ways! This fosters creativity and allows you to build complex, 3-D geometric shapes beyond what is possible with plastic building bricks.

Paper Jamz Guitar:

paper jamz guitar

This lightweight “guitar” runs on 3 AAA batteries. You can strum along to preset songs or jam on your own..there are 4 different modes of play. Best of all, you can plug in headphones so your little rock star can jam without rocking the whole house.

Lalaloopsy Doll:


Bea Spells-a-lot Lalaloopsy doll

These adorable dolls each have personality traits based on the fabric they were “sewn” from. For example, Bea Spells-a-lot was “sewn from a schoolgirl’s uniform. She ‘s a real smartypants who always follows rules and loves to talk a LOT!”  With 8 dolls to choose from, you are sure to find a perfect match for your little girl. There is also a kid-friendly website with games and an interactive world to explore. Just right for the little girl who still loves dolls but is too old for baby dolls.


Gifts for ages 2-4:

Beginner Pattern Blocks:

Melissa & Doug Beginner Pattern Blocks

This toy is like 10 puzzles in one…and then some! 10 familiar images can be replicated with the colorful geometric-shaped pieces.

Fisher Price Fun 2 Imagine Cash Register:


Fisher Price Cash Register


This is a classic toy that has remained unchanged for years! Put the coins in the slots and they either drop into the drawer for a purchase, or roll down the ramp as change. As you child gets older he/she can practice money adding skills or even play “store”. Good to know: Amazon sells replacement coins!

Alphaberry by B. Toys:


Alphaberry PDA


I love this toy for its simplicity: Push a button and the letter appears while the Alphaberry speaks the name of the letter. It sings the ABC song in 4 different styles. It has volume control (the packaging notes “I can use my inside voice too!”) And the packaging is adorable — the outer sleeve comes off and reverses to eliminate the need for wrapping paper. One last note: all of the B.  toys are fantastic from concept to design to packaging. That’s why I’m including one more favorite.

Perfect Gift for a Baby (age 1-3)

Sugar Chute Gumball Machine:


B.Sugar Chute

Press the button, turn the key, and a lovely ball rolls down into the hinged dispenser door. This toy does not need batteries and is simply beautiful to look at!


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