Max and Bella (our puppies) are a big responsibility, but a wonderful addition to the family.

Bella

With Halloween coming up this week, it is only fair that Max and Bella also enjoy this holiday getting dressed up. It is hard to believe they have been a part of our family for 4 months now.

Santa had promised the girls they would get a puppy in 2013. It was my husband’s idea to get a puppy (which turned into two puppies) at the beginning of the summer. This enabled the girls to bond with the dogs while they were on summer break. Great decision!

Neither my husband nor I grew up with dogs so this has been a true learning experience. Here are the lessons we have learned so far:

Babysit friends’ dogs to expose the kids to the responsibility of having a dog before you get one.
Get the dog while the kids are young so they can grow up with the dogs.
“EST” every day –  Exercise (walking the dogs), Socialization and Training are important for dogs.
Study the different breeds – we were focused on hypoallergenic dogs with hair which don’t shed – poodle mixes like ours are very popular for that reason as well as many others.
Travel requires more planning – While you lose flexibility to just get up and go away for longer periods of time, the love and affection we have received from Max and Bella is well worth it! Can’t imagine our lives without them!

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Live, Love, Laugh: Find items which inspire you and others around you.

LiveLoveLaugh

Who would have thought I would find this inspiration at Old Navy? I walk into the store and see one of my favorite expressions jumping out at me on a shirt… Live Love Laugh… I must have it ! While it may inspire me to remember what is important in life, it might do the same for others also… let’s spread the love and inspiration…

So I look around and see more inspirational shirts and get a few… these are now a part of my casual clothing collection which make me smile when I wear them:

– Live Love Laugh
– Be Amazing
– Love and be Loved
– Shine Bright
– Making People Smile
– Love and Magic

My husband feels I went a bit overboard with these shirts, but if makes me and others feel good, I feel it is worth it. Cheaper than therapy – lol 🙂

Birthday Gift Ideas

Birthday Cake

It is my daughter’s birthday this week and I wanted to share my tips around
receiving/purchasing birthday gifts for kids..

Giving gifts

I always like to ask people to give me 2-3 ideas of what the birthday child
might like. It saves time. I can either go to the store knowing exactly what I
want to buy or hopefully purchase the gift online (Amazon Prime). I am not
spending time I don’t have searching for the perfect gift they might already
have. Nothing worse than seeing a child open a gift and saying with a sad face “I have that already.”

Receiving gifts

I always try to keep a running list of what my kids might enjoy for
their birthdays. If someone asks me what they might like, I can share some
ideas with them. I feel this makes the gift purchaser’s life easier and it will
be a gift the girls will enjoy.

I am a big fan of “experiences” vs physical gifts. Kids have so much
these days. How about a gift certificate for ten rides on a carousel, Chuckie Cheese, ice cream at Baskin Robbins/Carvel, movie tickets, bowling, etc.? My parents’ birthday gifts for the girls have included lessons for ice skating, swimming and tennis. I know these “experience” gifts may not be as fun to open at times as a “physical” gift, but they don’t clutter the house and are
fun too!

Find ways to give back to the community .. “Mom, this is so much better than TV.”

Families in Service - Final

Now I don’t want you to get the wrong impression that my kids watch a lot of TV. They don’t. I don’t even have DVD players in the car ( that will be a post for another time), but they do watch some TV.

Our family is truly blessed – we have a roof over our heads, we have food to put on our table and live in a wonderful community with good schools.

How do I make my girls appreciate what they have and give back to others who may not be as fortunate as they are?

Our church sponsors this local sandwich-making event for a shelter which serves meals to people in need who may be homeless or facing difficult challenges and need a helping hand.

We are going to make sandwiches and bags of Halloween candy this weekend – the girls have done it before and absolutely loved it. It is a great way to teach children the gift of service!

After this “Families in Service” activity we did earlier in the year,  both my girls made the comment: “Mom, this is so much better than TV.” (I want to reemphasize…. they don’t watch a lot of TV, but that comment really put a smile on my face!)

I am sure if you look around, you will find an opportunity for your kids to give back to the community – fall and winter coat drives, weekly food drives, etc.

Develop a work and life mantra.

YOLO

This all sounds kind of deep for a post, but at some point everyone should develop a general mantra for their life…Mine is pretty simple and revolves around the following:

1– “If you don’t ask, you don’t get.”

Perhaps you are a working mom and you want to work from home a few days a week to be able to balance your work and family life, but no one in your organization has done it before. Someone has to be the first one. Don’t be afraid to ask! All your leader can say is no, but if you never ask, how will you know?

2– “You have to look out for number one… if you don’t, no one else will.”

Even though one would like to think everyone is kind and thoughtful and looking to do the “right thing”…let’s face it, many people follow the WIIFM (What’s In It for Me?) factor.

For example, you may want to get promoted and have a leader or mentor looking out for you, but don’t count on it. You have to put in the effort to make it happen. Others may be supportive, but don’t expect them to make it happen for you. You have to work hard to get something you really want for yourself!

I’ll repeat…You have to look out for number one (which is yourself) because if you don’t, no one else will (some things are worth repeating).

3– Work to live, don’t live to work.

This gets back to my overall YOLO (You Only Live Once) philosophy. No one on their death bed says they wish they would have worked more. Since you spend so many of the hours of the day at work, there should be some level of enjoyment, but don’t let work consume you. Getting paid for work should enable you to enjoy life and have fun… A Ferris Bueller movie quote comes to mind…”Yup, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…Life moves pretty fast… If you don’t stop and look around every once in a while, you could miss it.”

Create family memories with credit cards: Starwood American Express Card is my favorite.

Starwood Card

Having worked for a credit card company, I always put everything on credit cards – it is all about getting something for spending… be it cash back, miles or in my case Starpoints.

I love my Starwood American Express Card and a lot of it has to do with the great loyalty program Starwood has. There are no black out dates, you can use points as currency and they have beautiful properties all over the world. We have enjoyed free nights or reduced rates all over the place… from a staycation in NYC and a beautiful resort in Vermont to places abroad (India, London, Turkey).

Most people spend money on every day necessities like groceries, gas, etc. If you put it on the Starwood American Express Card, the Starpoints will add up quickly. The beauty of this card is that you can redeem for free nights at some properties for 3,000 points ( a much lower redemption than many other hotel chains). An up to 25,000 points acquisition bonus gets you on your way to free nights after your 1st purchase.

If you have to spend the money anyway, use your credit card for all purchases and save money on your next family vacation… 🙂

Online Shopping with Amazon Prime is a Lifesaver (and Saves You Gas Too)!

AmazonPrime

I am sure I am not the only who finds Amazon Prime to be a lifesaver…Another mom told me about the service where for $79/year, one can get free shipping on many items and it will be on your door stop in 2 days. $79 seemed like a lot… Would I really get my money’s worth? Well let me tell you, it is money well spent. I don’t mind shopping in stores if I can find what I want, but we all know that does not always happen.

Let me share a live example with you.. .my 7 yr old daughter comes home from the 1st day of school and tells me the best thing about 2nd grade is having a locker – she needs to decorate it. I have a puzzled look on my face – decorate it? I remember having a magnetic mirror in my locker in junior high – ( lockers in 2nd grade – really?) So I check in with my girlfriend who has an older daughter to get the scoop on the locker decor. Not wanting to disappoint my daughter, I jump into the car to Toys R Us, Target, Staples and The Container Store for the perfect locker decor. All the good stuff was sold out 😦

Aha moment… Why don’t I just sit at home on my comfortable couch not wasting gas and see if I can find this elusive locker decor? With the ease of a few finger strokes on Amazon and a credit card, the locker decor was on its way and on my door stop within 2 days… and might I say, my daughter has the coolest chandelier for her locker.

My daughter is very happy and so am I – mom gets a “gold star” on her homework today.

Try It, You’ll Like It

Try It, You'll Like It

When I was a child, I used to have a t- shirt which said on it “ Try it, you’ll like it.” and boy is it true. I have to say, I am quite lucky that both of my girls are good eaters. I heard somewhere that kids have to try something 17 times before they may enjoy eating something which is new to them. That seems like a lot, but the point being you have to try something more than once to like it.

Here are a few tips based upon my “eating with kids” experiences :

  • You have to try it before you say you don’t like it. – How will you know? I have heard some people use an incentive system, try 10 new things and get a prize. Whatever it takes.
  • No cooking separate meals for everyone in the family – this is just too much work and supports picky eaters. I remember my first pediatrician in the city saying.. – “Your child won’t starve, they will eat when they are hungry.” I have always told my kids “This is what we are all eating and if you don’t like it, I guess you won’t eat. ” ( I know it easy for me to say because I have good eaters.)
  • Instill good eating habits in your kids when they are young – fruit, vegetables and don’t force them to finish everything on their plate if they are full. It is all about balance and moderation.

I could go on and on, but you get the idea .