Archive for the ‘Helpful Little Bits’ Category

You might remember a few weeks ago I turned a whole load of white laundry pink, including a couple of my really nice white master bathroom towels.  Well, one of you brilliant folks suggested that I try the Rit Color Remover.  It took some hunting, but a certain place (that I really dislike visiting) that begins with Wal and ends in Mart came through for me…and for a dollar fifty two (or some such) I have my sparkling whites back.  I’ve actually had the color remover for at least a week, and I just kept putting it off, thinking that since it was my last resort I just hated to use it and see it fail.  Well, today I finally got around to it…and girls!, this stuff works miracles!  My pinks had been washed and dried (though I was drying them on low heat until they were just barely dry, trying not to set in that color) a few times, but the color came out!  WooHooo!

My other breakthrough for the day was not nearly so life altering, but it sure did put a smile on my face.  Today I had to take all four of my beasties children to the land of torture grocery store.  While they didn’t do anything really bad, it was one of those times that I was so very glad when I put that last thing in my cart and said, “Let’s get out of here.”  Then all the lines were long, and I wanted to cry.  Instead of crying I focused all of my energies on choosing a kind of candy and getting it into the cart with none of my extra eyes seeing.  And I did!  I managed to buy myself a treat without anyone noticing…and I ate it all myself without anyone noticing that either!  And, thanks to that sugar rush, I made it all the way home tear free!


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So here’s the scoop on yesterday’s post:

I was at the local Stuff Mart a couple days ago.  While I stood at the customer service desk (returning an unopened item, I might add) another lady was returning the mascara that I spoke of.  She had the package, though it was obviously opened; she very clearly stated that she had used it, but she was returning it because she didn’t like it.

I was sort of surprised, because I wouldn’t return an item that I had opened and used and could not be sold again – unless it was somehow defective.  I (like the rest of you who won’t stand in line) would either just toss it in the trash or stash it somewhere out of sight.  I don’t use mascara (’cause it makes my eyes burn until I want to pluck them out!), but I have bought a whole long list of other cosmetics, soaps, lotions, and such that have fallen into this category…so I was a bit intrigued by this woman’s policy, and for just a second I thought that perhaps I had been losing money for way too long.

In the end, I had to leave, lest my spy-ing become obvious…as I was walking away the customer service rep. was saying something about having trouble taking the product back (though it sounded like he was going to do it.)

And I just thought I’d ask all of you trusty folks what you think about returning used stuff that you didn’t like.  Thanks for your opinions!  I think I will stick to my old policy of stashing it in a drawer, but I appreciated hearing your thoughts!

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Brushing toddler teeth: fun the first time or two, not so much after that. Two times a day – at least.

When we were learning to brush our first child’s teeth a million years ago, we stumbled across a little trick that helps get the pearly whites brushed with little fuss!

Sit or stand with your child facing you.

Start by having your child say “Ahhhh!” {Like the sound you make at the doctor.} You make the sound and have your child repeat it. When your child opens up, brush away. Start with a short, “Ahhh!”, then have your child say “Ahhh!” longer and longer each day until he or she is used to opening wide long enough for you to get the whole job done.

When you get all of the inside bit brushed, have your child say, “Eeeeeee!” with his teeth clenched. Then you can brush the front teeth.

Sometimes we vary this little game by, “Ahhh”-ing in different pitches to see if the little one with follow along. Dimples loves this, and is really good and repeating the exact pitch back to me!

As always, don’t forget to check out Works For Me Wednesday at Rocks in My Dryer!

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Last year, I mentioned that my strategy for beating away the summer boredom was to keep a schedule (many more helpful ideas in that post). I wasn’t so sure how it would work, but it did – it worked so very well. Then I had two children; now I have four…so this summer is again a testing ground of sorts.

We did so much stuff last summer, and it was all great fun. I hated to see the summer come to an end and practically begged my eldest to let me homeschool her. She would have none of it.

One of the things that worked particularly well was our Field Trip Fridays. I have a group of friends (five of us usually, but others join in occasionally) that agreed to visit a new spot every Friday. We set up a private blog and posted about plans there. We shared coupons and packed picnics at every chance we had, so many of our field trips were very reasonably priced.

Some of the days were simple playdate/picnic adventures. Some were much more elaborate, like the day we went to the water park. (I’ll be hiring a teen to help me with that field trip this year!) Here’s a few ideas for you: local art museum, botanical gardens, swimming, Are there any farms in your area – go visit the animals or pick fruit, a local children’s museum, discount movies at theaters or a movie day in someone’s home, indoor bounce centers (there are places that have those giant inflatable things that your kids can jump on in air conditioned bliss!), nature hikes, practice manners and take your kids to a nicer restaurant for lunch, the zoo, ice skating, factory tours, …and there’s so much more out there to do!

The other thing that worked well was to have a daily routine. Kids like predictability, and no one is going to have fun if the kids are tired or hungry; use that to your advantage. Have them get up at a decent time, get ready for the day, practice anything that needs practicing (here it’s piano and phonics this summer), and do a couple chores to start out each day. I am also hoping to get a simple devotion in each morning, but that so far I’ve been struggling to fit it in before nap time. We do all different things each day of the week, but unless we are on a field trip, we have lunch and rest time about the same time each day. It keeps us all well fueled for all the fun!

I hope your summer is blessed and loads of fun – in the meantime join me in reading everyone’s great Works for Me Wednesday ideas at Rocks In My Dryer!

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I’m sure that none of you have this problem, but I thought I would post this here simply to remind myself of this nifty little trick. ;)

My daughter is amazing when it comes to stains; she has this ability to leave dribbles on everything she wears. I can’t (nor do I want to) begin to tell you how many new shirts she has ruined. So just recently I decided to make lemonade with these lemons. Here is my first fix:

This was a cute shirt, except after a wearing or two, there were three chocolate milk dribbles on the front. The butterflies were from another shirt that was outgrown long ago and stained so badly that I couldn’t even give it away. Using a pair of pointed children’s scissors, I just snipped those little butterflies off and sewed them on top of the chocolate milk stains, and no one (except you, of course) has to know!

Since doing this, I have found lots of other embellishments that I can use for similar purposes. I won’t do this to every stain, and I don’t have a ton of time to spend hiding stains; but it was totally worth it to rescue this relatively new shirt!

For lots of other great tips, please visit Works For Me Wednesday at Rocks In My Dryer!

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So, in sticking with tradition, Shannon is breaking tradition this first week of the month by asking us to share what does not work for us.

If you read yesterday’s post, you might assume that teaching my children English is not so much working for me, but I think I’ll keep at that one a while longer. Thankyouverymuch.

But I do have this little matter of cleaning – the bathroom, in particular. It’s not that I don’t like cleaning the bathroom. I don’t mind it all that much, actually; cleaning the bathroom is a bucket-load of immediate gratification – all clean and shiny, and my time seems worth it! And I love to have a clean bathroom. I can live with a bit of clutter, but I really like a shiny shower.

The trouble is that I just can’t find the time to get to the scrubbing lately. I don’t want the kids around all those cleaners (even though many of them I use are, uh, “natural”), so I don’t want them in the room with me. Also it’s kind of hard to get anything clean with four children under foot! I also never ever want to do it during nap time; there are too many other things to do – blog, other chores, bills, blog. In addition to that, I try to be available during nap time; if Dimple cries, I want to get to him as fast as I can – I can’t do that, if I’m locked in the bathroom. So naptime is out. And I certainly don’t want to do it at night during the few, precious hours that Handsome is home. (Though that is what I have been doing lately – ug!)

So I want to know, when on earth do you clever moms clean your bathroom? And please, please don’t tell me you have a maid. I’ve seriously thought about saving all of my money to pay someone, but I’m pretty sure I still couldn’t afford that.

Head on back to Shannon’s Rock In My Dryer for more great un-tips!

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I almost decided not to post this tip, but I’m going to…so I apologize now, if you’ve clicked here and think it’s the lamest things you’ve ever read. Sorry.

Here goes:

Every year, in the summer, our family does a lot of produce harvesting. By that I mean we pick strawberries (lots of them) and peaches (lots of them) and apples (just enough to make a lot of applesauce and some crisps and some apple dumplings…) and several other things that are really, really yummy. Every year, this process also takes a toll on our clothes – all those berries and peaches do a number on the kids’ shirts. So each year I pick a “Berry Pickin’ shirt” for each child. I usually pick a t-shirt that is old enough that I don’t care if it lasts another season, a shirt that is cute but already stained, or a shirt that I don’t really like but the kids do. Oh, yeah, I also try to pick one that is white and can be bleached or dark that won’t show the stains. That shirt becomes the designated “Berry Pickin'” shirt for the summer. Whenever we are headed to the orchard, the kids know just what to wear…and I know that I won’t care if it gets stained. (And by the end of the season stained it will be!) We also use these shirts for a number of other things around the house – pretty much anything that is going to cause a huge, staining mess – like tie dying or stomping grapes…though we’ve never really stomped grapes.

So right now, pick your shirt – cut the sleeves off a stained winter shirt or one from last year that just might fit through this summer. Set it aside; berry season is only a month away!

For oodles of great tips, visit Works for Me Wednesday at Rocks In My Dryer.

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This tip is courtesy of my friend E, who doesn’t have a blog but really should! Ahem!

Anyway, she reminded me that postage rates are going up in the month of May (just about a month away!), and Forever stamps are good forever! So figure out about how many stamps that you’ll use in the next year; don’t forget to include birthday cards that you’re going to mail, Christmas cards, and other big events such as birthday invitations and birth announcements. Get yourself to the post office and buy at least that many of these handy forever stamps. You pay 41 cents now, but they are good as long as the post office stays in business! I’ve been buying a book here and there since they came out, but that didn’t stop me from handing over a nifty sum to pad my stash.

For many more great tips, visit Shannon at Rocks In My Dryer. She has a great blog, and she is a fabulous hostess for Works For Me Wednesday!

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Shannon at Rocks In My Dryer has asked us to pull our Greatest Hits out of storage for this week’s Works For Me Wednesday! I’ll share mine here, but don’t be shy about heading over there to see bunches more!

Okay, so I’m totally going to cheat on this one. I looked through all of my old WFMW posts, and I found a couple that I could use…but really, my favorite “tips” post is one that I actually wrote for Owlhaven’s Opinion Saturday a long time ago. It’s about traveling with children, and it is so very much like something I would write for WFMW. It was a fun post to write and it has a ton of tips in it and it is timely and I just can’t resist using it today. So here it is:

I have had the same conversation several times recently. It goes something like this:Other Mom: “I’m just not sure I want to travel with ________ (her child).”Me: “You CAN do it!”Obviously that is the scaled down version, but the gist of the chatter is the same. I’m not an expert, but I will say that we have made our share of trips with our children. Since Bubba was just months old, we have made many, many trips. We have flown on five hour flights, driven 17 hours in one day (more times than I care to count), and taken plenty more challenges that I don’t care to re-hash this very moment. For us, traveling is simply part of being a military family. So I’ve decided to share some of my favorite tips to get through a big day of travel.

First, pack a good attitude. As the mom, I set the tone for the day. I might want to rip the head off of the security guy who caused me all sorts of frustration; but if I carry that baggage on board with me, the trip is going to be much, much harder. I say check your grief at the gate!

Also, prepare the kids for the trip. In the days and weeks before a trip, we talk a lot about waiting patiently (because I know there will be times when they will have to do just that), and we talk about what we will encounter on the trip (how exciting it will be to see the clouds from the plane or the mountains from our car window).

Rest ahead of time. I find that the trip is usually a high energy day for me; if I am well rested I am so much more likely to handle the kids well.

I pack a few things for me to do, but I plan to get none of them done. If I am planning to read a book or get some cross-stitch done, I can sometimes get frustrated the the kids are not “allowing” me to do what I want. If I plan to get nothing done, I am much more generous with my time.

Plan to eat on the go. Long car trips often start early with bagels and peanut butter for breakfast; the kids think this is a huge treat, and we don’t waste precious morning time at home. When we can, we’ll eat lunch or dinner on the flight we are taking. It might be pb&j, or we might pay the extra bucks to get a hot sandwich in the airport. Either way eating and the ensuing clean up takes up lots of time for kids. Then, of course, we snack a LOT – airplane snacks, fruit snacks, granola bars, fruit leather, fruit, carrots, pretzels . . . you get the idea!

If the flight/drive is long, hope for some “rest time.” Sometimes my kids actually fall asleep on their own, but if they don’t I’m not shy about asking them to rest for a bit. Now, this didn’t work when they were two, but it works now that they are a bit older (3 & 6). I simply ask them to rest, help them find a comfy position, give them a lovie or blankie (whatever they picked for the trip), ask them nicely not to whine, and hope for a few minutes of silence. They usually wiggle for a bit then rest for a bit; occasionally they even fall asleep.

Then there’s the bag of tricks. I have a bag hidden in our house. It contains all sorts of goodies that I’ve picked up. Some of the things in the bags are things that the kids have seen every trip, some are things they got for their birthday and I “snagged,” some will be surprises for our next trip, and some are things I got on sale and won’t be age-appropriate for another year. When we travel in the car, I wrap several of the new things for the “Road Trip Fairy” to deliver at various times throughout the trip. When we fly the new toys simply go into the secret compartment in our roll-y bag. For good measure, here are some of the things we have packed on our trips or will be packing this summer:

  • writing “desks” that have a clipboard on top and open to store paper, markers, and colored pencils
  • Color Wonder (can’t get enough of this stuff) and other crayola products (they have other items that are fun like Color Explosion and others I can’t recall)
  • Pla-Doh (in small containers) or Floam
  • Color Forms or magnet dolls or paper dolls or felt dolls (you can buy a set of these or cut out your own for a LOT less – make lots of clothes, so there are lots of outfits. Our felt dolls even have water skis, a boat, and a car!) We use a large piece of felt for the background, though your child could use the back of her plane seat, the floor, or her own pants.
  • Magna-Doodle, Etch-A-Sketch
  • Kids Magazines (Sesame Street, Ranger Rick, My Big Backyard, etc.)
  • Travel Bingo – they sell versions for highway travel, but you could easily make a version for air travel
  • Stuff to make bracelets or necklaces: beads & yarn with the ends taped for easy threading OR string licorice, Fruit Loops, Cheerios, & Gummy Life Savers (thanks to my friend A who shared this with us years ago!)
  • a baggie of AlphaBits – find the ABCs or spell words
  • stickers (think: foam, sparkly, velvet, color-your-own, sticker books like these!)
  • Post-It notes – great for sticking all over the car/seat, better if child can draw a tiny picture on each one, or mom can draw a squiggly line on one then child can make something out of it, or you can practice writing letters and making words/writing digits and saying numbers
  • plastic animals – our son will play for an hour with animals, especially if mom hid them for a month or so before the trip! (teehee!)
  • small cars – found some really cute ones by Playskool recently
  • tracing paper and a book
  • Polly Pocket, My Little Ponies, Barbies, etc – girly things to dress, undress, and otherwise play with
  • Mini-Puzzles
  • books: I-Spy are great; if you are willing to read aloud, Junie B. Jones could get a six year old to just about anywhere on the planet; math and reading workbooks found at the dollar store
  • Ring Pops – the light-up ones will get you a few extra seconds of peace
  • Lacing Shapes – you can cut these out of sturdy paper or felt or buy a set at your local mega-craft store
  • cd player with headphones
  • Chicken Socks books – I have a collection of these that I got on BIG-sale; the tape book, pop bead book, and little car book have been the favorites (though we have a highlighter book that is going to make an appearance on our next flight)
  • your digital camera – let Junior take a bunch of silly pictures and view them or share the pictures that you took while you were on vacation on the way home
  • DVD player or laptop with DVDs – we try to save this until the end of the trip, when the kids have almost had enough
  • Legos
  • origami
  • money – play tic-tac-toe with coins or teach your child the names of the coins then “quiz” him, rewarding him by giving him the ones he gets correct
  • craft supplies – we’ve played with pipe cleaners (making animals), felt pieces, beads (sorting, making patterns), clothespins, googly eyes, and much, much more
  • Leapster or other handheld video games – our three year old loves his Leapster even though he is far from mastering any of the games
  • Daydreaming – cuddle up with your child and ask what she would do, if she could do anything she wanted for a whole day, what her favorite meal is, what he wants to be when he grows up, where he would like to go if this plane were a magic spaceship, what animal he would want to be, etc. – this is a great thing to do at times when you don’t want to get everything out (like when you are waiting for drinks to be served that the flight attendant is still a few isles away) but you need a diversion NOW!
  • hands and feet – trace handprints and footprints and see if your child can turn them into something (think: handprint turkeys except they decide what to draw), practice counting to 20!, play “This Little Piggie,”

And my final tip is to Keep ‘Em Guessing. Don’t get more than one or two things out at a time; cleaning up takes a few minutes too! Don’t get things out simply because your child is whining; you don’t want to reward the bad behavior, and he might really just need a change of pace – take a walk, visit the airplane bathroom, peek in the flight attendants “kitchen,” let him wiggle, sing a song, etc. When he has calmed down and is acting appropriately, THEN get out the new toy! Don’t let them know how many things you have in your bag, but if you run out of “new” toys, don’t be afraid to say, “It’s time to play with something we’ve already seen – you get to pick!”

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“Why?” you ask, am I posting a tip called “Easter Bunnies” after Easter…

Well, this is why:


Our children use the same Easter bunnies over and over. Each year, when they find their basket, they are greeted by the same familiar bunny…and they LOVE it!

I started this the year of our eldest’s first Easter. I hadn’t intended to buy much for her, but she was 11 months old and old enough for some cute pictures and an egg hunt. And there I was at StuffMart, and I couldn’t put down the bunny. He was so cute and just perfect for an 11 month old (he’s the yellow one with the stiched eyes and such)…and I had to buy him. But before I was home I was concerned that I had done a very bad thing! As it is, the stuffed animals in our house mulitply on their own; I didn’t want to commit myself to buying new Easter bunnies every year for the rest of my life.

I decided to re-use the same one. The kids don’t get to see or play with their bunnies until Easter day, and they usually get put up a couple days after Easter…so there’s not a lot of wear and tear.

This year, a couple days before Easter, my daughter told me that she just couldn’t wait to see her old bunny again! It has turned out to be a sweet tradition.

So do it now – find those bunnies or chicks or lambs or whatever it is that you just bought and pack them up for next year. If you’re lucky, you’ll remember them next year and be relieved that you don’t have to buy a new one or figure out what to do with the rapidly growing pile of fluff in the playroom!

For bunches of great ideas, be sure to visit Works For Me Wednesday at Rocks in My Dryer!

ps. I have a great tip for next week (compliments of my friend, Ellen) – be sure to stop back in!

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