The Parent’s Quick Guide to Penny Pinching


I have learned many things being a parent, some of which I wish I hadn’t, and others that have been a blessing and helped me to get by. If there is one thing I have learned the most about it is being frugal. I have learned the hard way how to stretch a buck. I can cook a dinner for four for under $10, I can get clothes for the whole familyfor around $50. I can operate on less than anyone should ever have to and can get creative in order to make it through the month.

English: ceramic piggy bank

Image via Wikipedia

With the world the way it is today we all know what it is like to suffer. Often times, no matter what our income, our accounts never seem to hold enough funds. I figure everyone enjoys getting a great deal, or saving a dime (or ten) so I’m gonna share a few of my frugal ideas with you today i n the hopes that it helps another family that is struggling to get by.

Cooking

To save money on cooking and feeding your family there are a few tips I have always found helpful. First is to stock up on the basics. Items such as, bread, eggs, rice, potatoes, tomato sauce, ground beef (or any ground meat), and noodles are great to have on hand when you’re in a bind. Any of these basic items can be easily added to a small purchase to make a meal and save your self some cash. When I have the basics on hand I find that I can go to a grocery store and grab whatever is on sale to work with. I have bought pork chops on sale and cooked them in tomato sauce over rice, I have added stuffing mix to ground beef and egg for a tasty meatloaf meal. Having the staples is so important to frugal family cooking. Many of these items are cheap, can be frozen, or last for a long time in the pantry. When you see them on sale grab a few of each.

Lets be honest, meat is expensive and buying enough meat to feed a family of four or more can cost a pretty penny, to save yourself some money buy in bulk. Many grocery stores have family size packs, even if you don’t need that much, buy it, the price per pound usually works out to be a lot cheaper. Another tip is to stretch your sides, by filling your families plates with bigger side portions like extra potatoes, noodles and veggies you can get by with less meat overall. I some times make a few different sides when I am short on meat, that way my family is full, and the meal is still healthy. One more idea for stretching your meat is to mix it in. By cutting up bigger chunks of meat and mixing it into rice or noodles you can use less and make more. Stir-fry’s are a great way to feed a family when you haven’t got a lot to go around.

Clothing

The number one tip I have for parents trying to save money is to embrace thrift store shopping. If you take the time to look, you can save hundreds of dollars on name brand clothes for your family. To save even more watch for the ‘big sale’ days that many thrift stores have, stores like Value Village and Goodwill hold 50% off days once a month which will help you save even more money. You have to be persistent though, returning regularly to scour the shelves, thrift stores get in new items daily so keep an eye out for a great deal.

If thrift stores aren’t your thing than shop big box stores. Big department stores have an ample amount of inventory, duplicates of the same items mean a savings in price. Watch these stores for sale items as well, and don’t forget to shop off-season. Buying summer clothes in the fall and winter clothes in the summer can save you some serious cash.

Pass it on. Clothing swaps, hand-me-downs, and free-cycling are great ways to get the goods you need without spending a penny. Get a group of friends together for a swap or organize one in your community. Utilize sites like Freecycle or your local classifieds to find clothing items free or cheap, and remember to pass the favor along.

You could also learn to sew, if you are gifted with a needle and thread your clothing possibilities are endless. This talent will allow you to take any item of clothing and turn it into something new. Seriously, I can’t sew personally (no hand-eye co-ordination) but if I could I would twist and stitch every item I had to create new items of clothing as required. Note: Even if you can’t sew you can hem a pair of pants, the dollar store sells iron on/stick on hem tape that makes tailoring your thrift store finds a breeze.

Around the House

One of the biggest cash consumers is our home. We all want our house to look nice, but we don’t need to spend lavish to live lavish. To save your self some cash around the house I have a few tips.

When it comes to decorating the best advice I can give is to get creative. This is where thrift stores can come in handy yet again. Furniture, accessories and artwork can be found relatively cheap at your local thrift shop or flea market. Pick up a cheap print with a great frame and swap it out for one of your own family photos, or better yet a collage. You could even create your own water painting to frame if your feeling really creative. There are all sorts of tutorials online for creating custom artwork on a dime. The same goes for furniture, don’t be afraid to take that hand-me-down dresser and spruce it up. One of my favorite ideas for fixing up an old dresser is to wallpaper the drawer fronts and change the hardware. Again there are ample examples online of ways to make old furniture look new.

Embrace the power of paint. Paint is relatively inexpensive given the impact in can have on a room. If you want a change but don’t have the cash, grab yourself a can of paint and slap it on a wall or two. It is an instant change for a small amount of cash.

Most parents have that one cleaningcabinet that is full of products for every thing imaginable. There is the toilet scrubber, the shower wall cleaner, the Swiffer refills, the tilex, the kitchen cleaner, floor cleaner, mirror cleaner, and the all-purpose cleaner. All these different products add up to one thing… A lot of wasted cash. I learned long ago that the best thing you can do is find one or two products that work well and do-it-all. By using a good all-purpose cleaner instead of 12 different ones you will save a ton of cash over time. The same goes for that swiffe

, those wet pads you are paying a fortune for are sold at the dollar store, and the solution for the inside is a silly scam, pour your own product in there. In fact, for fast spot mopping attach a baby wipe to the bottom of the thing and get it done for under 1 cent.

Baby wipes are actually fantastic for so many different things around the house and I highly suggest you keep them on hand even if you down have little ones. They clean mirrors, tables, doors, walls and floors. They are cheap (no-name is fine) and simple to grab in a stitch.

Invest wisely, would be the other major around the house tip. It is fine to purchase something extravagant that you truly, really, completely want, but be sure it is a wise choice. A new sofa is a fine investment so long as you are not buying a pure white one when you have two toddlers loose around the house. Often times it is important to remember that just because you can afford something now, does not mean now is the time to buy it. Double think any big buys, and be sure to take the time to shop around. If your reading this then odds are it is not a one of a kind custom piece that can’t be found anywhere else, and can probably be found somewhere else at least marginally cheaper. (and when your being frugal, every penny counts.)

General Money Saving Tips

  • Learn your unit sizes. Some times a deal isn’t a deal at all, learn to break it down. For unit calculation advice click Here
  • Plan ahead. If you drive you know that the cost of gas can literally kill you, plan all your errands for the same outing when possible to save multiple trips and cut back on gas costs.
  • Think Frugally. Why pay for something when you can get it free? Make this your mantra and live it as much as you can. Don’t be ashamed to save money.
  • Check your coffee consumption. Even one $2 cup off coffee a day adds up to $60+ a month. Brew your own where you can and save that cash for something more important. The same goes for smoking, the costs of lighting up are enormous, cut back and quit today. It won’t only benefit your health, but it will help your wallet as well.
  • Calculate your daily costs and cut back where you can. Things like lunches, beverages, transit and other small daily details add up over time. Keep track of all these little things and find ways to save on them. Perhaps buying a monthly bus pass would work out cheaper than paying per fare, packing a lunch is always better than buying one, and cutting back on the number of coffee’s you purchase can save you are ton of cash.
  • Find Free Family Fun. Parks, picnics, or hikes are great FREE ways to have fun as a family. Find other exciting things to do for free Here and save your self some serious money on family entertainment.
  • Cut Coupons. With all the hype around the reality coupon shows why wouldn’t you want to cut coupons? You can save a major chunk of change on your grocery bills and even earn things for free. The same goes for free grocery club cards, gather those points and get yourself some great deals. What have you got to lose?

These are only a few simple ideas for saving money, the list could go on and on. The point is to save where you can, whenever you can, because every cent adds up as a parent. Your level of frugality is up to you, perhaps your simply want to cut some costs, or maybe you want to save a ton, either way there are endless ideas to help you cut costs and put cash back in your pocket. Look online for more ideas and share your own tips in the comments section below.

Until Next Time…

Live on a Dime.

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12 Simple Lessons That Will Make Life a Little Easier (for everyone)


Well it has been a long and tiresome battle the last few months, but I can finally say that I have reached the light beyond the horizon…. I have barely had a moment to myself over the last while and the toll it has taken on my mind is indescribable. After a long hard journey, lots of stress and the odd dramatic outburst, I think I deserve a little break! And that is exactly what I am doing at this moment… Kicked back in my leather reclining rocker with my feet up and my laptop rested at my fingertips, I am basking in the sun that is shining in the window and enjoying the silence I have at this moment. (which is a very rare thing in my house) Its been awhile since I have had either the energy, or the inspiration to write and it actually feels good to being doing so right now.

I can honestly say that through all the trials, drama, moving and chaos I have learned a great many things over the last year, simple little lessons that can make or break a person’s soul. So as I sit here, back in my ‘small city” home where I belong, far away from the constant chaos of the ‘big city” life I left behind, I will share with you these lessons in the hopes that I may (by chance) save someone else a great deal of stress and heartache by making the same mistakes I have over time…

12 Simple Lessons That Will Make Life Easier, For Everyone!

  1. You may not ‘think’ you like your life, but it’s really not that bad – You have all heard the saying ‘The grass is always greener on the other side’ but what no one ever seems to consider is that perhaps the grass is greener because there is more fertilizer on that side of the fence… A.k.a. More shit on the lawn! Look for happiness in what you have, not that which you desire. Always remember that what you have now was what you once longed for!
  2. Gossip will get you nowhere – Not only does gossip get you nowhere, it gets you nowhere alone without any friends. If you wouldn’t say it confidently and comfortably to someone’s face, don’t say it at all. Mama was right when she said, if you don’t have anything nice to say don’t say anything. Besides, the person you are gossiping with now is probably gossiping about you to someone else as well.
  3. Real friends are hard to find – You may think you know someone well. You may consider them a dear friend, but the truth is that ‘true‘ friends are few and far between. It is a sad fact of life that most people are out only for themselves, so if you find a real friend that is there when you need them most and does not expect anything in return, hold them close and never let them go. Surround yourself with people who compliment who you are and bring something positive to your life. Get rid of the ones that don’t and never feel bad about doing so. You wouldn’t do something that makes you feel bad on a regular basis, so don’t keep company that doesn’t make you feel good either.
  4. You are the most important person in your life – You might think that family or children come first, but the truth is “it’s all about you.” Without taking care of yourself, you are not going to be able to take care of those you care about. Be sure to treat yourself with the love and respect you deserve so that you are in your best shape to deal with all the other important things, and people, in your life. There is nothing wrong with being selfish, if you don’t love you who will?
  5. Your partner needs to know they are lovedAppreciation is a major part of a healthy relationship. People will give and give as long as they know it is being done for a reason, but without acknowledgement and appreciation they can only give so much. Be sure that you take the time to show your partner how much you love and appreciate them regularly and without expectation. Keep in mind how good you feel when you know you are loved and appreciated and share that joy with the ones you love.
  6. Children can make you smile even in the worst of times – Even when the world is falling down around you and it seems there is no silver lining in sight, children has this amazing ability to make you smile. Be sure that you are never to busy to take a moment and appreciate the joy that they can bring to your life. Whether they are your own, or you have to borrow someone else’s, take the time to share some joy with a child and you will find that life is never as bad as it seems.
  7. Material things will not make you happy – No matter how big your T.V how nice your furniture, or how fancy your house, material things are not going to make you happy. You can shop until you drop, but if you are not fulfilled in other aspects of your life these purchase are going to be made in vain. What good is a huge house if it is empty? What’s the point of a fast car if you have nowhere to drive it? Pretty things are not pretty locked away from the world. Any way you look at it, things are just things and without true happiness they mean nothing.
  8. Money is not everything – As with material things money is not going to make you happy so don’t kill yourself trying to figure that out.
  9. Having money can save a lot of stress – Although money is not going to make you happy, it can combat stress. Having enough money to survive comfortably is a great stress relief, this is especially true for people in relationships. Most marital spats are centered around financial issues and it is one of the major causes of both divorce and depression in many. This is not to say you will be stress free if you are rich, and it is not saying you need to be rich at all, but good budgeting and a secure savings will help alleviate stress and make life a little easier in one aspect.
  10. You must work and play equally – Burning the candle at both ends when it comes to your career might gain you success in your field, but it wont do anything for your social life. Studies show that in order to be truly content with your life you must have balance between work and play. Instead of busting your butt trying to be number one at work, try to be number one to yourself, do what makes you happy, forget everything else and focus on being content and well-rounded. This approach will save you large amounts of stress, and may very well change your current path in life.
  11.  Everything happens for a reason – Even in the darkest clouds there is a silver lining. No matter what happens in your life you need to look at it as a lesson and learn from it. This is not to say that you should ‘let go and move on’ like some people suggest, quite the contrary, some lessons are lengthy and take time to learn. Just like algebra, more complex lessons require more detailed study. This just means that you need to see the positive in everything that happens in life, even in the worst situations there is something great that can be learned, all you have to do is look for the lesson and be open to accepting it. Don’t see an issue as an obstacle, see it as a challenge and face it willingly with an open mind.
  12. You must let go of the American Dream This is probably the most important thing you will ever do in life. Letting go of the American Dream can easily change your life. A big house, perfect career, loving partner, 2.5 kids and a dog may suit some, but it doesn’t suit everyone and it is high time you accept it if it doesn’t suit you. Instead of trying to keep up with the Joneses focus on keeping yourself content. For some this may mean marriage, kids and all the works. It may mean owning a tattoo parlor and piercing your eyelids. Whatever the case, live YOUR dream, not the one that society says is perfect or you will never ‘truly’ be happy in life.

Life has a funny way of sneaking up on you when you least expect it, all you can really do is accept it with open arms. Take time to appreciate all the little things it has to offer and never let a moment pass without being thankful for all the blessings that surround you each day. Even those that suffer through the worst situations can be thankful to be alive. We only get one chance at this life, make it matter to “you.”

 

Do you have any tips, lessons or advice to make life easier? What are some of the rules you live by? Share your thoughts and tips in the comment section below. 

 

Cheers.

 

Questions, Comments, Inquiries and Submissions can be sent to:
chasek8@live.ca

A Word on Comment Etiquette


I thought I would take a moment out of my day to write a quick post about proper comment etiquette. Now I am not going to claim to be an expert on the topic, I don’t claim to be an expert on any topic, but I do consider myself to have a high level of Customer Service skills and common sense. Combined with a strong opinion I feel that I am able enough to write this post….

Recently on one of my other blogs a reader commented on an error in my spelling which I appreciated openly. I was unable to fix the error at that moment, but have since revised so that it is correct. While checking my emails today and moderating my comments I came across a comment from another reader, pointing out an error in the original comment about my error… This was not an issue, what WAS an issue is that ‘this’ reader went on to be vulgar and foul in his/her comment and unnecessarily rude in general regarding both errors that were made. Thankfully I have my site set up to moderate comments before they are posted and I caught this before it hit the site, but it got me to thinking about the proper etiquette of commenting and the basic rules that people should follow.

The following are ‘MY’ personal guidelines, and are not meant to be ‘pushed’ on anyone. Feel free to add you own as well and share any tips, tricks or stories you might have in the comments section of this page.

 The Basics of Comment Etiquette:

  • First and foremost, keep it clean. When you are commenting on someone’s blog post, or on any site, it is important to remember that people of all ages may read the content on the site. Keep your comments free of foul language or sexual content unless you are sure the site is for a mature audience only.
  • Secondly, say to others only what you would appreciate hearing yourself. It is fine to point out an error, disagree with a view, or propose an opposition, but do so with tact. Swearing, belittling or general put-downs are not polite and I am sure you would not appreciate them on your site, why would you want to put them on someone else’s?
  • Commenting should enhance the post, share the love, or propose an opposite opinion. Disagreements, debates and even arguments are fine as long as they are done tastefully and neither side is trying to make the other look bad. It is important that you remember your comments are in black and white, like texting there is no emotion shown on the screen. Be careful with your choice of words as many times what you mean to say gets interpreted very differently than it should by incorrect word choice. Avoid aggressive words and remember to use “I” to show the readers that you are simply sharing your opinion.
  • Use comments as a line of communication. Comments on a post make the writer proud and often time comments encourage more writing. Use commenting to show your support for the site and to help bring traffic to your own. Posting a comment saying that you enjoyed the post is wonderful and it encourages the writer to not only reply to your comment, but to write more content as well. Positive feed back is motivating.
  • Remember that each thing you say is a reflection of your own site. Posting a foul comment on a blog you read only reflects on you. Each comment you post holds a link to your own blog site, or other place on the internet. Keep in mind that if you want to appear professional online you need to think before you type. People are not going to want to visit your site if they see vulgar comments written by you on another blog.
  • Avoid spamming people. Though commenting on other blogs helps to generate traffic to your own site avoid spamming blogs with your own link. If you want to place your link on a site it is best to first post a useful comment, and/or use the link only for relative material that relates to the post you have just read.
  • Share your thoughts and show the writer that you actually ‘read’ their post by writing a more in-depth comment than ‘good post’. Though ‘good post’ is a great pick-me-up, writers like to know what it was that you thought was ‘good’ about it. Try elaborating on your comments to make them more personal.

I am going to leave it at that for the moment, as I am sure that many of us don’t need this basic advice, but for those of you who do feel the need to be foul on other’s posts remember these actions reflect more on you than they do the writer…. Just a thought!

 

Cheers!

10 Secrets of a Successful Summer and Sanity to Spare…


Kids are a joy, a blessing and a real pain-in-the-ass! Made even more the latter during the holiday’s… Yes, I am talking about “summer vacation”. You know those evil 2 months when even the teachers don’t want to be around your little demons, and you are constantly bombarded with various versions of ‘I’m bored‘ day-in-and-day-out non-stop, to the point that you just want to stop, grab the little jerks, shake them and scream at the top of your lungs….

BORED? YOUR BORED? Well MUST BE NICE!!! Perhaps you would like to do the laundry? Make lunch? Make dinner? Mop the floor for the fifteenth time this week? What’s that…? Oh you’re not BORED anymore… Hmmmm…”

or simply pack your bags and leave.

Whatever the case, there are some easy and effective ideas for keeping kids busy during the summer holidays that I want to share. These ideas will not only entertain the kids, but keep you relatively close to sanity as well… (Unless your teetering on the edge to start with, in which case I make no promises!)

The Secret of a  Successful Summer and Some Sanity to Spare:

  1. Summer Camp – Nothing breaks-up the holiday, or fights off insanity, like good old Summer Camp. A week or two of overnight camp for the kids is a great way to keep them entertained, help them lean, grow and experience the world, and enjoy some peace and quiet yourself. Most cities provide ample camp options for parents through over-night ‘away’ camps, or day camp options. If cost is an issue looking into your local resources, most cities have options for camp sponsorship so you can send your children away without much cost on you. Truly though, look at it as an investment and save ahead of time… Trust me it is worth the coin.
  2. Grandma and Grandpa – If camp is not an option consider creating your own escape with the help of family members. Grandma, Grandpa, Aunts and Uncles can be a great resource if available. Plan a mini-vacation for your kids by sending them to see relatives for a week, a month, or even a day. It doesn’t even matter if they life around the corner from you, or across the street, the main goal here is to get them out of the house, and get yourself some alone time. The change of environment, and noise level, will be good for everyone. Contact these people ahead of time… In fact, it is best to bring up such plans close to Christmas when it is hard for people to say no!
  3. Share the Joy – Get together with other parents and arrange ‘summer play dates’ where you each take turns hosting the kids at your house. You may have to put up with a day of extra noisy children, but it will be well worth it when it is another parents turn to host.
  4. Aim for Amusement – Amusement Parks are another great option for keeping kids happy during the long break from school. Check out your local listings for a park nearby and gather the kids up for an outing. Amusement Parks are guaranteed to keep the kids busy for at least one day, if your children are older, and the park is close to home, consider purchasing a seasons pass. Kids never get sick of roller coasters and you will have a few hours to yourself.
  5. Hit the Beach – The local beach, park, pond or river is a great way to get the kids out of your hair and give them something to do. Pack snacks, drinks, sunscreen and a blanket and head for the water. The kids can play and you can relax. Grab a friend or relative and take turns keeping an eye on them at the water so you each get the enjoyment of not having to worry and the kids stay safe.
  6. Lifelong Learning – Sign the kids up for some sort of lessons or sport over the summer. Not only will lessons help promote hobbies and education, they will give you an hour of peace each week. Karate, music lessons, dance, or sports are great options and many are available at low-cost options.
  7. Literally Lounge – The local library is a great resource for parents. Most libraries offer free or low-cost courses, groups and activities for children of all ages. Many of which are ‘parent free’ Check out your local library to see what they offer, in the very least you will have enough time to enjoy a good book and let your mind savor the silence.
  8. Trust Tradition – When we were young summer vacation was spent outdoors. We came in for a quick-lunch and got called in for dinner. Trust tradition and kick the kids outside for the day when you are feeling overwhelmed. Have them ride their bikes, set up a sprinkler, or build a tree-house. Children are often creative, provide them with a few items and let their imaginations run free.
  9. Stock Up – Be prepared for boredom but stocking up on entertaining items. Arts and crafts, movies and board games are great ways to beat boredom or waste away a rainy day. Keep a box, or closet, of useful items handy and point it out when you hear complaints.
  10. Last Resort – If all else fails look to someone else to do the hard work for you. Daycare centers and babysitters should not be forgotten during long summer days. Hire someone, or send the kids off for a few hours each week to help break up the routine. Summer is a great time to hire a sitter as there are many students willing to work for a little pocket-money and daycare centers often provide part-time or casual discounts to tired parents. Let someone else take over and take some time to yourself.

Don’t let the strain of summer stress you out, having children does not have to mean losing your mind. Look for creative ways to keep the kids busy and ask for help when you need it. Chances are your parents remember how hard summer vacation could be and will be more than willing to lend a hand. Most of all enjoy the time summer provides for families, before long your kids won’t want your advice, so plan ahead and make the best of the warm weather.

To Give or Not to Give? Best and Worst Gifts for Teachers


Today was the last day of school for many kids around the world, for some the year is ending tomorrow. Depending on where you live and which school board you deal with, this often means pizza parties and games, summer vacation and family fun, it also means good-bye and, gifts?To give the teacher a gift or not to? That is a question a lot of parents ponder. For many, a teachers gift on the last day is a small way of saying thank-you, showing appreciation, and saying good-bye. Ultimately the choice is yours, this has always been tradition in my household, if you do decide to give a gift to your child‘s teacher there are a few tips you should keep in mind.

The Best and Worst Gifts for Teachers:

Gifts to Avoid Teachers, like all of us love getting presents but after a few years of teaching 20 children per class there are a few things they ‘don’t’ want to be given. Mugs, best teacher ornaments, and framed photo’s of your child are gifts to avoid. Look in any teachers cabinet and I am sure you will find an abundance of mugs declaring that they are #1 Teacher, or Teacher of the Year, mugs are great but 100 mugs are useless and impersonal. If you choose to give a gift at least put in some thought. Homemade or personalized T-Shirts are another gift to avoid, remember there is a large chance that you will get the wrong size, and who actually wears those things anyway… I am willing to bet it will end up on the rack at Goodwill before the summer break is over! More top gifts to avoid; live animals, stuffed animals, candles and liquor… just don’t do it!

Gifts Worth GivingIf you are going to give a gift, be sure you put some thought into it. No one needs 1000 candles, scented soaps or notepad sets, avoid the obvious and be creative. Homemade gifts might seem like a great idea, but teaching a child is different from ‘loving’ a child, your daughters artwork is only precious to ‘you’. Some great gifts to give the teacher include;

  • A charitable donation: avoid re-gifting with the gift of giving Plan Canada has some excellent gift options available that help provide education for under-privileged children around the world. Plan Canada will provide classroom education for one child when you give a donation of $15.00, Library in a Box for $60.00 and many other gift options to help educate children in third-world countries. They give you a printable gift receipt, and the donation can be made in another person’s name. It is a great way to help others and show your child’s teacher that you appreciate what they do. Another great option is to purchase a book for the school library and dedicate it to the teacher you are gifting, this not only shows your appreciation but helps children in the years to come. The school librarian will probably be able to inform you of any books on the school wish list so you can purchase one that they really need.
  • Homemade Options (if you must go there): If you simply must do a homemade gift for financial or other personal reasons, than do it with care. Children’s art work and lopsided bowls should be avoided at all costs, but potted plants and baked goods (if you can actually bake well) are acceptable. If you are opting for a homemade gift keep in mind that you usually don’t know the decor of the person’s home, and they usually have an abundance of artwork from their students already. Keep it simple, yet unique. Baked goods and food work because they are actually usable and can be enjoyed.
  • Create Memories: A great group gift option is a school year scrapbook. Get together with the other parents and put together a scrapbook of the year for the teacher to help the teacher remember the wonderful time she had teaching the students. Get creative, it’s a great way to share memories of the year without the teacher having to always have it on display. Quilting or sewing a blanket full of memories is another great gift option if you have that talent.
  • School Supplies: Teachers are always in need of school supplies for the year ahead. Put together a gift basket full of supplies to get the teacher ahead in the year to come.
  • Gift Certificates: Gift certificates are a great way to show your appreciation when you don’t know the person on a personal level. Restaurant, bookstore and movie certificates will allow the user to purchase what they like most, or simply enjoy a night out over the holiday.
  • Say it with Words: Sometimes the best gift is the most simple words. A card or hand written note thanking the teacher for educating your child can touch a soul and say more than a gift. If you are tight on cash, but want to show you care pick up a card at your local dollar store, or create a hand-written letter telling them you appreciate their work. Teachers don’t ‘expect’ gifts, so any thought at all is going to be appreciated.

Your child’s teacher has worked hard to provide the best education they can throughout the year. Whether you decide to give a gift, or opt not to, a simple Thank-you is always a great way to show you care.

Do you send gifts to the teacher? If so, What kind of gifts do you give?

Keeping Kids Busy… And Yourself Sane Sans Sunny Days!


Well It’s Cloudy In The Morning Gonna Be Raining In The Afternoon,
If You Don’t Like This Rainy Weather You Better Pack Your Bags And Move,
But If You’re Running From It Brother The Only Road That I Can See,
Is The Road That Leads To Nowhere And Nowhere Is A Fool Like Me…
Save Your Dimes And Nickels Save ’em For A Rainy Day
It Ain’t Gonna Keep The Rain From Coming,
But At Least You Know You’ve Paid Your Way
Rain, Rain, Rain Keep a Falling. – Willie Nelson


It is May 17th, by no mean is it summer yet, that I understand, but I think I was expecting better weather than this… It has been cold damp and rainy here for ‘days’, and I am simply fed up!

I have come to the simple conclusion that Mother Nature is a permanently PMSing BITCH! Just when you think you are safe to pack up the winter clothing she comes at you like a lion attacking its prey…

We have had a glimpse of warmer weather here and there over the recent weeks, and what a teaser that was… Just when I felt the joy of wearing flip-flops and tank tops, the skies turned grey and opened up upon us. For days now I have felt the dampness set into my bones, the cold wind cut at my skin, and the puddles soak through my soles. I hate cold, I hate rain, and I HATE mother nature.

I will admit, rain is much better than snow. If you have lived your life in Canada, (as I have for my entirety) you will gladly accept rain over snow any day… I know this might come as a shock to some, but way up here in the ‘North Country’ we don’t ALWAYS have snow… Nor do we live in igloos with pet penguins, and the impending fear of polar bear attacks lurking over our heads at all times. We don’t all say ‘eh’ and not all of us obsess about hockey…. But that’s another post for another time…

Anyway… This wet weather means that my kids are constantly indoors driving me crazy (well, crazier anyway) and so I decided to share with you my tips and tricks of

10 Things you should have on hand at all times to keep kids busy during bad weather:

  1. Arts and Crafts Supplies – Construction paper, glue, glitter, stickers, and scissors are must haves for any mothers cupboard. Children can entertain themselves for hours given the right tools of trade. Keep these items on hand an easily accessible for rainy days and let their creativity take over. These items can be purchased relatively cheap from your local dollar, or discount, store and kept organized in a large Tupperware bin or container. Check out this list to gather ideas of items to buy.
  2. Board Games – Trouble, Sorry, Monopoly and The Game of Life are all great ways to keep kids entertained indoors. Stock-up on good clean family fun when you see it on sale, and store them in a closet in-case of emergency. There are great games for any age group, and most can be found at your local department store or online for fair prices. If all else fails grab a deck of cards and teach them to play go-fish!
  3. A Few Good Movies – Nothing keeps kids quite on a rainy day like their favorite movie characters. Let them park in front of the television with their PJ’s and pillows and enjoy the piece and quiet it brings. You can purchase or rent DVDs at your local shopping center, or subscribe to Netflix for a small fee, allowing your kids unlimited t.v shows and movies from the comfort of your home, without the trip to the rental center.
  4. Simple Snacks – Be sure you always have simple to prepare snacks on hand. Children tend to eat more when they are bored so help them fill-up on nutritious foods by providing easy to eat snacks like fruit or nuts. Keeping these out on a table or in an easy to open jar will deter them from grabbing at the sugary snacks that are ready-made and generally available on hand.
  5. An Imagination Station – A tickle truck full of dress-up clothes can be a fun and entertaining project for curious children. Put together a box of old clothes in all different sizes and pull it out on a cold indoor day. Be sure you have a camera on hand to capture the cute and creative outfits they come up with.
  6. Books – Encourage reading by having a large selection of books on hand at all times. Select books of different levels and types, factual and fantasy. Having a wide selection will encourage children to read and learn no matter their mood.
  7. Video Games – Despite expert advice, I keep video games on hand for times when I require  peace and quiet. Video games can be a source of entertainment for older children, and an outlet of learning for younger ones. Not all video games are violent and not all of them lead to juvenile delinquency, there are a large assortment of video games available that will aid in your child’s learning and development ,so grab a few from Wal-Mart and let your kids have some fun.
  8. Writing Tools – Having paper and pens on hand for your child to follow in your ‘writing’ footsteps will encourage them to get creative. Children have wild imaginations, once they are old enough to read and write on their own sit them down with a pen and paper and have them write some stories. For younger children, take some time to write their stories out for them… You never know you could have the next best-selling author on your hands!
  9. Educational Toys – Every thing your children do can be a teaching opportunity, be sure you provide your children with toys that will not only entertain them but help to educate them as well. Technology has created ample amounts of educational toys that claim to aid in child development, do a little research and ask around before spending, but find a few that your child likes and allow them to learn and play at the same time.
  10. Other Children – I know what you’re thinking “who the hell wants to deal with more children on a rainy day?” but nothing keeps children entertained like other children. Get together with a girlfriend and make a plan for rainy day play dates, you get to enjoy quality time with grown-up while the kids keep each other amused.

Keeping children amused during this bad weather does not need to be difficult, a stock pile of entertaining items, as well as some creativity can keep children entertained for hours. Stock up your cupboards and curse Mother Nature, but don’t stress about your kids driving you nuts because with these helpful tips you’ve got it covered.

Do you have any tips for keeping kids amused on a rainy day?
Feel free to share them in the comments section, or email submission to:
chasek8@live.ca


Why? Because This Is My House….


Call me Crazy, but there are rules in my house. Rules, regulations, and strict guidelines that I expect others (a.k.a children) to follow in detail. No, I don’t run my home like a boot-camp (although I sometimes put the idea into consideration) but there are basic rules that I have put in place in order to save everyone’s (a.k.a my own) sanity.

Now these rules have not always been in place, in fact, with my first child I made a number of mistakes in the discipline department. Being just the two of us for most of his life, he basically had free roam of the household (excluding anything that could cause him bodily harm) He was always a loving, affectionate boy, who stuck to me like glue, but as he has grown (though still stuck to my side throughout most of the day) I have noticed the impact that this ‘lack of structure’ approach has had on his life.

I can thank my BF for opening my eyes to the parenting mistakes I have made with my son over the last 7 years. Discipline is a constant battle in our household, as we both have very different parenting styles. (and he has an attention for detail that I just do not hold) Allowing my son free roam without any set routine, rules, or basic structure has led to a 7 year-old who has no problem solving abilities what-so-ever!!! Instead of thinking for himself, it is easier for my son to wait for me to tell him what to do, and of course I do so on a regular basis. Why?? because it is easier for me as well. It is a bad habit that is slowly being broken around here. I have just began noticing how much I actually do for my son since the birth of my daughter last year. When someone questions what C is doing I often answer for him, (this has led to countless argument between my BF and I because it causes my son to under-mind what he is saying, and lowers the level of respect my son has for my BF.. and THAT is a problem) I get his breakfast, (even though the kid is more than capable of pouring a bowel of cereal himself without a mess of any kind) I make, and pack, his school lunch daily, (which is for the most part another one of those things he could do on his own) and I constantly do other little things for him that he is more than able to complete on his own…. I do these things subconsciously, without any thought to what I am doing, but I want to stop because it truly has produced a LAZY little boy who has no idea how to think, or act, by his own devices.

So, I came up with some rules, and much to my sons dismay, these rules are expected to be followed… They are posted clearly in sight beside his bed and throughout other areas of the house in order to remind him daily (so that I don’t verbally have to, although I still have to remind him to actually read the list in the first place) and also to help remind me that positive discipline, and effective parenting begins with consistency. These rules consist of such items as;

  • Get dressed before you leave your bedroom – I set out clothes the night before because, left to his own devices, my son would most definitely get beat up for his mismatched clothing choices, or opt to wear army camouflage every single day!
  • Make your bed. – Although this one needs perfecting, because the lumps and bumps drive me nuts and I usually end up going in and fixing it when he leaves the room anyway, it still teaches him that there are basic responsibilities, and routines, he has to complete daily.
  • Tidy your room – He does well with this rule, and thankfully I don’t have one of those kids that tries to hide everything under his bed, but I swear to GOD my son has the potential to become a hoarder in the future. The amount of strange little items I find collected among his toys is absurd, why does anyone need a thousand pieces of shredded paper?? He needs to work on his organizational skills, but he is improving rapidly in the cleaning department.
  • Eat breakfast – Pretty straight forward. Yes, I pour the cereal for him, more out of habit than need, but he is expected to sit straight, eat with proper manners and clean up the table and his dishes when he is finished.
  • Pack your lunch – I will make the lunch, just to ensure that it consists of something healthy, and does not contain only chocolate and potato chips, but he is to pack it up and put it in his bag. If he forgets it… well then I guess he will be really hungry after school!!
  • Brush teeth – It seems that no matter how many places I write this rule it is just a forgettable act! If he actually does do it than it is a battle for him to do it right!!! I can’t win with this one and it drives me CRAZY! Having suffered with bad teeth my whole life I try to drill this rule into his head, but he just doesn’t seem to get it, or just doesn’t care, that it is the most important rule listed.
  • Get ready for school – This means your bag is packed, your homework is done, and you are dressed and at the door. Period!

Along with these listed rules are the times they should be completed (e.g. 7:30 wake up, 8:00 eat breakfast) We have a list for morning routines, and evening routines. We also have a sign that lists proper table manners, the proper way to brush your teeth (complete with a 2 minute timer) and set places for toys, books, and art items…. We have lists of weekly chores, with a reward system, and daily chores, all constructed with appropriate sized boxes for checking off when they have been completed. There is structure, organization, and routine. (Things that do not come to me naturally, but since being incorporated are slowly making a difference…. Very slowly!!!)

I do not want to be a drill sergeant, in fact, I have a difficult time being strict, and often feel mean. I am also realistic, I do not expect perfection, and I know that these rules will not change his behavior over-night, but I do know that with structure, routine, affection, and discipline children are more likely to grow into responsible adults. I am careful to show praise for a job well done, and punish bad behavior appropriately, I am clear about both my expectations and the consequences if they are not met. I keep all chores age appropriate, and I ensure that my child is not feeling overwhelmed. It may sound harsh to you but children truly require discipline in order to grow and learn what is, and is not, acceptable, in order to become healthy, happy adults, and our routine works for us!

I wish more people took the time to create structure and routine in their children’s lives, I know that I personally wish I had done it years earlier, it would have saved me a ton of stress and many arguments, and it would have made my son a more well-rounded person, but I have taken the steps to improve my parenting now, and better late than never. Almost any bad behavior can be corrected it just takes time and effort on the part of the parents to make the change a reality. I am not an expert, in fact I am far from it, but I am witnessing change first hand and it is a wonderful feeling!

A Sexual Revolution


Everyone Else Has Had More Sex Than Me

Image via Wikipedia

When does sex change????? At what point does it stop being the priority, and start being put on the back burner? Is it normal for sex to fizzle to a simmer in a long relationship?

I have been having a lot of conversations about sex recently…. I don’t now if I come across as an open-minded person, or if I have the look of a porn star, but people just talk to me about sex…all the time. Thankfully, I am very open and honest, and it is not an uncomfortable subject for me to discuss. Recently though I have heard a lot from people in relationships who are saying that they have a dismal, or non-existent sex life, and I wonder to myself if this is the norm?

I don’t live in a fantasy world, I know that after being together for many months, or even years, you can not expect to be sexually active every-single-day. I even understand that sex can turn into a routine item that people cross off their To-Do List. I am aware that sex can often lose it spontaneity, and excitement, but why?

For most people (women especially) sex is a sign of affection. We use sex to show that we care, love, and are attracted to our partner. We use sex to make ourselves feel attractive. We use sex as an outlet for stress, and an escape from the everyday life. Yet it seems to me that once a serious relationship is formed people forget what sex was about in the first place. They forget that in the beginning sex was an act between two people with the sole purpose of making each other feel good.

I fully blame television and movies for my beliefs, of course, but I think that a serious relationship should be different from the stories I have been hearing… I believe that the more comfortable you are with a person the better the sex should be….less frequently perhaps (if it must) but non-existent?

I don’t think I could allow my sex life to dwindle away, for me sex in a relationship is a sure-fire way to show my partner I appreciate them, and feel that appreciation in return. Maybe I am naïve, maybe it is because I have not had this type of relationship in my life, but I don’t think it is fair.

I honestly believe that more couples need to make the choice to have a healthy sexual relationship. When you are open about what you need sexually, you will likely be more open in all other aspects of your relationship as well. Sex is supposed to make you feel good, it is supposed to be enjoyable, it is supposed to be a way of sharing yourself with your partner in the deepest way possible. Not to say it has to be all romance and candle light…I know that sometimes the best sex is quick, rough and to the point…but that is the point.

Different moments call for different types of sexual affection, some moments call for none at all…the point is to express those moments, and be able to enjoy what you and your partner need. It is the one aspect in life where nothing should matter to you but yourselves. Not in the greedy sense, though there is nothing wrong with that on occasion, but in the sense that if you are feeling good yourself you are more likely to make your partner feel good in return.

Look back to the time when you could not get enough of each other and recreate that now, take time out to enjoy one another, to enjoy sex. Don’t let the lack of it take over, take charge of that and find new ways to enjoy, initiate, or appreciate sexual interactions with your partner. Afterall there was probably once a time when sex was a priority… why should it not be now. We all grow up, we gain responsibilities, have children, careers, and homes to tend to, but why does that mean that we can not tend to ourselves? Why does that mean that we can get down to the raw basics and enjoy the reason we wanted a relationship int he first place?…. besides companionship of course….

I guess it just scares me….. The thought that the one simplest, and most pleasurable ways, of showing someone you care about them gets tossed aside so easily. We are sexual creatures by nature, how do we so easily forget that?

Finding Mr. Wrong….


Wine Glass

Image via Wikipedia

Being single can seriously suck, we all crave that love and affection that comes along with a relationship, and we all deserve to be loved, and to give that same love back…. but on your quest for passion and romance there are a few places you may not want to look for prince charming (who is clearly lost or he would have been here by now, right?)

The worst places to meet men are;

  • The courthouse – Unless you are looking to date a lawyer, which of course we all are, you have to face reality, lawyers are at the courthouse working, and are usually very busy…chances are, you are going to find a man with a less appealing career choice. You want a lawyer? have a minor car accident, and file suit!
  • The sexual health center – Sure, you could make the excuse that “he is being safe, and getting tested.” but we women can make excuses for everything…. He is there for a reason, which means he is concerned that there is a reason to be concerened…forget what Nike says….just don’t do it!
  • Bars or Clubs – There are the rare cases where a chance meeting at a bar has led to a long happy marriage, but for the most part, men who are out having a few drinks with the boys are aiming to score one thing….and that is usually not a wife! At least not one of their own anyway!
  • The unemployment office – I don’t care if your there too, I don’t care if he had a legitimate reason for not being able, or willing, to work. Picking up a man in the unemployment office….especially if you have found yourself there as well, for whatever reason, is just a disaster waiting to happen. It has bad sex, bad apartment, and bad relationship written all over it!
  • Weddings – Yes, love is in the air, but there is also an awful lot of alcohol and an enormous amount of pressure in the air as well. With all the vows regarding true love, we can get a little carried away, and panicky…. if you have ever seen the movie ‘Wedding Crashers‘ you know that men look at weddings as an easy way in….to your dress!!
  • Family reunions – You 3rd cousin might be twice removed, but he is not removed enough to even consider it. Jerry Springer is so the ’90’s, don’t even go there. I don’t care if you live in a trailer, it is just not right!
  • The psychiatrists office – You have issues, he has issues….probably way too clingy. If you feel compelled, pay for an extra hour, I am sure your doctor will explain why it is a bad idea!
  • Work – The new temp, or long-time co-worker may be attractive, he may be nice, he may even be really into you, but inter-office dating makes for long and awkward days after sex, and even more awkward days after a break-up. Better just to avoid it, even when your company allows it, there is always drama to be had!
  • AA meetings – I know, I know he is working on a change… and that’s great for him, so why distract him from that change, or yourself for that matter if your there?
  • Online – Although online dating is the new norm, and it is possible to meet a very decent man online, I have it on this list for a number of reasons. The biggest reason, 95% of the men you will find online will either have a personality disorder, a creepy fetish, be simply looking for sex, or have no time to date in the “real world.” If you are up to sifting through those 95% to find that other 5% who are genuinely good men, and just have no clue where else to meet women…than all the power to you, you go girl!

Me Time, I just refuse…..


Day 23/365 Mother's Little Helper

Image by texasgurl via Flickr

I am sorry but I have to bitch a little bit here, I am a mother of two beautiful children, and I LOVE my children to death. I have a 7 year-old son, who has an amazing imagination, and an 8 month-old daughter who brightens everyday. I LOVE my children, but there are just something I will not do!

This thought comes to me because I was skimming a parenting book called “Baby Tactics” it is a book full of real advice from real parents that “really” work…and good for them, but honestly as I said there are just some things I will not do, and some of those things are listed in this book.

Among the things I will not do, not all of which are from the book, there is;

  • I will not allow my children to run my life. I enjoy seeing happy children but I am not going to stop my entire life just to make things easier for them.
  • I will not wait to do something until my child feels ready. One parent wrote “I wait to dress my baby until my he’s really engrossed in something. Then I bring his clothes, diaper, and wipes to whichever room he’s in and dress him right there.” Personally I will change my baby when it is time to change her irregardless of what she has to say, or scream, about it!
  • Another parent told about her take on meal time and said “We put a gate int he kitchen doorway and then let her roam around the room as she eats. Forcing her to sit only results in hysterics and an uneaten meal.” I’m sorry, and maybe I am just a mean mom, but too bad for the kid, they will only refuse to eat for so long before they have no choice, and I am not going to spend an hour scrubbing the floors after each meal time. Maybe you have that kind of time, or patience, but I do not!
  • Another thing I will not do is wake up and drive a hundred miles at 5 a.m. just because my son has decided he wants to play hockey. It’s great if your child shows interest and ability in a sport, but I don’t care how talented my child is, there is not enough talent in the world to make me rise at such an imprudent hour and set aside everything in my life for one stupid game that will possibly result in some injury anyway. Again maybe I am mean, call me self-absorbed….whatever I could care less.
  • I will not stand for any form of temper-tantrum. My son learned this long ago and has never ever forgotten this important lesson of life in my world. If you choose to make a scene in Walmart I will not leave, I will not cause a scene myself, I will simply look at you with my mad-mama face, and you will stop.
  • I will not argue bedtime. When it is time for sleep it’s just time, do not try to argue, manipulate, or bargain your way out of it, just shut-up and go to bed. I read notes from parents telling tales of how they would just let their children get really exhausted and they would just put a pillow and blanket on the floor for them to sleep on, then they could simply move them to bed once they were in a deep sleep, stories from parents who allowed their children to stay up as late as they wanted for a few days before they started shaving off time, little-by-little, and explanations from parents who would place their children in bad and return every ten minutes until the child would eventually fall asleep waiting for their return.I am sorry but the ‘alone’ time I get once my children are in bed is far too precious to me for me to waste it with such non-sense.
  • I will not drop everything I am doing just because my child cries out. I am amazed at the number of parents that will jump up from what they are doing at the first whimper they hear, if I am cooking, cleaning, or busy in any other way…the child can wait a minute or two…it certinly won’t kill them, and I clearly know the difference between a whining cry for attention and that of a child in distress.
  • I also will not stop every two feet because you want to stop and smell the flowers, play with, pick, or touch the flowers. I set out times when I can be sluggish, but when we are on a mission to do something I simply refuse to stop every other minute…those flowers will still be there when we have time, and if they’re not then they will be next spring…get over it.

You may think I am a bit harsh, and you know what, at times I am, but I cannot just put my life aside 24/7 for my children. I would be a miserable, untidy, unproductive mess. Perhaps I should have had a live-in nanny, but unless you are willing to foot that bill it’s not gonna happen. I do have fun with my children, I do this on a regular basis, but my life does not and will not revolve around making them happy…later in life they will have to figure out how to do this on their own anyway.

Maybe you think I am a bit of a BITCH, you are right, maybe you want to call child protective services, go ahead, my children are happy, healthy and taken care of, I don’t care.  What it comes down to for me is this…I need my time, and routine, and interests so that I can be at my best for them, and revolving my world around their every whim will not do that for me…. parent as you please this is not advice….it is a statement based upon my crazy life!