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Saturday, February 27, 2010

Inexpensive Entertainment

We've been cooped up in the house for way too many days because it's cold outside and I have a broken toe - which makes it somewhat difficult to drive anywhere.

Today, I pulled out a couple of packs of blank cards with envelopes. I passed the packs over to the eager monsters - ahem, children - and let them go wild. They've made cards for friends and cards for family and cards for fun. They mostly enjoy stuffing the cards into the envelopes.

Marisa spent some time matching the cards up like puzzle pieces.

Each pack of cards cost me $1.00, so it wasn't a very costly loss. Plus, I just happen to have dozens of packs of cards around the house from my card making obsession that occurred last year. They are just sitting in a box not being used right now... This is a good way to use them.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Girls' Clothing

I was walking through the mall a couple of weeks ago in an effort to log in some walking time in the midst of the winter cold. It's been a while, really, since I spent any time at the mall. It isn't a place I tend to hang out at now that I'm older. (Go figure... The mall used to be the greatest place on the planet.)

While I was walking around, I enjoyed a bit of browsing. Kira loves pretty dresses so I spent a bit of time looking at all the dresses and making choices based on what I know she likes. It was fun to "buy" her all those dresses even though new dresses are not needed at this time.

Well, I also became aware of the other clothing that was available. I have to say, I was stunned to see some of the outfits that are currently on the market for young girls. The clothes that are being offered right now are - ahem - trashy. (I'm not even sure that word covers what I saw, but it's the best I've got.)

If the outfits in question were targeted to the tween/teen set, I would at least be able to comprehend the reasoning behind the styles. Teens often have their own money to spend and get the privilege of shopping without their parents nearby to offer approval. That was not the case, though. These outfits that so amazed me were for the younger set. These were clothes that are targeted at girls that are 4 yrs to 9 yrs of age. It was horrifying what these stylist want me to buy for my young girls to wear.

I was reminded of a trip to Pottery Barn Kids as I scanned the racks of age inappropriate outfits. When Kira was a mere baby, Randall and I wandered into a Pottery Barn Kids store to see the furniture and look at the baby items. There was a clothing rack near the back of the store. Prominently displayed was an outfit that looked like it was designed off the streets of Atlanta. There was a black "leather" bustier with metal buttons and a pair of black "leather" leggings. Nearby on a shelf was a pair of thigh high "leather" boots to match this ensemble. The outfit itself might be okay for a night out at the club (if you plan to be going to a swingers club...). That wasn't the intent, though.

This outfit was in size 2T (and 3T and 4T). 

Yep - you read that right. There on the rack was a complete street wear ensemble for TODDLERS. It was horrifying. (Not to mention that the entire outfit was nearly $100.00, which is just a bit much for any outfit purchased for a young child.) I couldn't believe that there were parents who would actually put their young girls in an outfit of this nature. Obviously, somebody out there would buy this sort of thing for their children or it wouldn't be such a popular line in the fashion industry. I just don't get it...

Five years later and few things have changed. The market is still saturated with clothing that looks like it would be better suited to the night streets of Atlanta than to the body of my five year old child. What message does this type of clothing send to our children?

Better yet, what message does this type of clothing send to those who might be looking at our children?

Why would any parent want their 5 year old daughter to be dressed "sexy" for the world to see? Do they not understand the inherent dangers of portraying their young children as sex objects? Would you want your young daughter to learn that she should dress in this way?

I can guarantee that these are not the types of outfits that I will buy for my girls. Not now. Not ten years from now.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Packing a Diaper Bag

First, start with a small diaper bag. Smaller is better because it is easier to organize and find things in a smaller bag. Larger bags allow too much room for your essentials to get lost.

Second, know what you really need. If you will be away from your home for less than 6 hours, you will need minimal supplies. For an infant you will need about 5 diapers and a small pack of wipes. You will also need one or two bottles for feeding, depending on the age of your child and whether you are breastfeeding or not. The best way to carry formula on the go is in powder form. If you carry one bottle with clean water measured to the appropriate amount and one container with the right amount of powder for two feedings, you will be set for the day. You can get fresh water along the way for the second bottle, or you can carry extra water with you.

Third, you should carry a change of clothes for the baby.

Fourth, you can opt to bring a toy along. It isn’t necessary to bring toys in your bag, but you may choose to add one. Most babies can be easily entertained by simply watching the world around them.

Fifth, consider packing a snack for yourself or your older child. This doesn’t have to be big or take up much space and may well provide you with a much needed treat later in the day.

The original article in its entirety can be read here.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Remember Me...

I've been overrun with an extra child this week. We've had fun. I haven't had much extra time, but we've definitely had fun.

I have to take her back to her mother today, though, so I am sad.

Kira is very sad. She loves her cousin, Anna, and wants Anna to stay with us forever. Unfortunately, this can not be.

I'll get back on track with my witticisms and advise tomorrow. I definitely have a lot to say. I'll probably start with some of the outfits I saw on the younger set at the mall this past week. (I'm talking 6 yrs old, not 16...)

Thursday, February 11, 2010

CRCT Test Scores in Georgia Being Questioned

Well, well, well....

Just picture this:

Your job and your rate of pay depends in large part upon the performance of those under your charge. If your 'employees' fail to perform well enough, you get penalized, or rather, you don't get a raise in pay.

What might you do in a situation such as this?

Would you work harder to make sure your 'employees' do a better job?

Would you look for new and innovative ways to increase productivity?

Would you ... ahem ... cheat and lie to make it look as though they are doing better than they really are?

----------

After a year long analysis that was conducted independently by Georgia's testing contractor, CTB/McGraw-Hill, it has been determined that somebody cheated - and it wasn't the students.

(**Lucy, you got some 'splainin to do...** ) 


To read the full article, click HERE.


     "Hundreds of Georgia schools are accused of tampering with student answers on state standardized tests
      last year, officials announced Wednesday, throwing the state’s main achievement measure into turmoil."

     "The Atlanta school district is home to 58 of 191 schools that are likely to undergo formal investigations
       into potential cheating. Another 178 schools probably will see new test security mandates, such as
       stepped-up monitoring during testing."

     "The top five most suspicious schools statewide were in Atlanta. Gideons Elementary, Peyton Forest
      Elementary, F.L. Stanton Elementary and Usher Elementary all had more than 78 percent of classes
      under suspicion. In the district’s Parks Middle School, nearly 90 percent of classrooms are accused
      of falsifying answers."  (**Geez... 90% .... did they think this would go unnoticed?**)

 ----------

Is anybody really surprised by this?

Disappointed? Sure

Angry? Definitely  (glad my younger kids are home schooled...)

Mortified? **bet those schools are...**

Surprised? Nope... not even a little bit. After all, in order for the teachers and the schools to get money, those test scores have got to be really good. If the students are not able to perform to standard, what else can the teachers do? (**bet they never considered actually becoming decent teachers**)

Wonder how many of those remarkable teachers and administrators will be losing their jobs in the next few weeks?


 







NONE OF THEM. THEY HAVE TENURE...

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Incredible Edible Egg

Today's post is brought to you by my recent experience with Facebook and a promotion by The American Egg Board.

As companies often do, this company created a  Facebook Page to promote their product then offered a set number of coupons for fans of the page to receive. (Note to companies: This is never a good idea. Too many people will try to get your coupons, clogging your servers and leaving a trail of angry and frustrated fans. ) Of course, many companies may feel that there is no such thing as bad publicity. After all, even if consumers are talking ill of the company - at least they are still talking.

Well - after reading and participating in several of the discussions going on at the previously mentioned Facebook page, I decided that my topic of choice today would be EGGS. (Pardon me while I sit here and sing the "I Like Eggs" song from The Land Before Time II movie.) Even though I am now convinced that I am immature and that nobody in the world with even the least bit of maturity would even begin to care, I decided I would still write about EGGS today. ("I like EGGS.")  

**I'm going to have to go find that movie now just so I can listen to that song. Otherwise, I will be singing bits and pieces of the song all day and all night.** 


Mind you, The Incredible Edible Eggs could have taken a note or two from the recent debacle that Herbal Essences experienced with their own Facebook promotion. Some time ago, HE offered a coupon for a FREE full sized product if you became a fan of their Facebook Page. It was not pretty. The promotion had to be called off and rescheduled due to the overwhelming response from people who clamored for their own free shampoo. (I got in on that one, too, because my husband and eldest child really love HE shampoos.) 


Well, in my house EGGS are a big staple. The girls love eggs. (Read HERE and HERE to see just how much we love EGGS. 


Right now I am busily boiling a batch of EGGS for the girls (and me) to snack on. Hopefully the extra batch of protein will help put an end to their never ending hunger. EGGS are good for snacking or making a good meal, and relatively inexpensive, too. 


However, with the promotion for a B1G1 coupon that many received and many others did not, I decided to talk about a couple of ways you can get your EGGS and spend less for them while you do it. Below is a list of possibilities that might help you reduce your cost for EGGS

1) Thee are regularly coupons in the paper for Eggland's Best EGGS. Granted, Eggland's Best tends to be more expensive than other brands, but if you combine those coupons with a sale, you can get your EGGS for $1.00 a dozen or less. 


2) Publix regularly has store coupons to get free or discounted EGGS when you buy another product. 


3) As one lovely person on the Facebook Page recommended, you can always go buy a chicken and harvest your own eggs. This option is neither cheep or easy because you generally need more than one chicken and you also need a place to keep them. 


4) If you live anywhere near a chicken house, take the time to talk to the people who work there. If the house is run mostly for harvesting the EGGS, you can often work out an arrangement to get discounted or even free EGGS that won't meet quality standards for selling in the stores. Now, be aware that these EGGS will come straight from the house and will not have been through any cleaning processes. You will have to clean your EGGS yourself. However, you can be guaranteed that these EGGS are incredibly fresh because they have not gone through any of the travel time that store bought EGGS are subjected to. 

5) Or you can register for promotions such as this one, which may or may not run smoothly... to get a really great coupon. 


That being said, there are dozens of amazing recipes all over the place that can be used to create any level of meal that you need to create. My favorite EGGS recipe is Spinach Pickups which are so incredibly easy to make and super yummy. (I was going to link to the recipe, but I haven't posted that one on my recipe site, yet. I'll have to link to it later when I get around to posting it. )

Incidentally, while I was writing this post about EGGS, I received an email via Facebook from The Incredible Edible Eggs promotion project. They contacted me directly - as I'm sure they are working to do with all of those who managed to complete the registration process but did not receive our coupons - via my Facebook page instead of the original email. (Presumably, that email address was lost in translation... or it was just easier to contact me through FB.) I got an apology and a coupon. Yay for The Incredible Edible Egg!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Receiving Blankets

 The birth of a new baby is always exciting and filled with anticipation. Parents-to-be rush out to buy all the things they need (and many they don't need) for their pending arrival. Most babies enter the world with their very own collection of receiving blankets to help keep baby warm and snuggly. In fact, receiving blankets fall fairly close to the top of things that new parents actually need to have. (There are many things on that list that parents simply do not need. For a complete list of what Mom thinks is actually necessary for new babies, go here.)

Like most parents, when I was expecting Kira I bought new receiving blankets. I bought two different packs of blankets, each with different patterns. I had hoped that Kira would not attach to any one blanket. Just in case, though, I bought several of each pattern for those first blankets. (Sheep and Blueberry were the first two blanket patterns that we used when she was born.)

As Kira grew, we added other patterns to our collection. I was careful to rotate the blankets frequently so they would stay clean. I had hopes that this system of rotation would also prevent any over attachments to specific patterns. She definitely had a preference for the type of blanket she used, but for a while she was content with any blanket as long as it was the right fabric.

Eventually Kira settled on a few select patterns that she favored over all the others. This wasn't too distressing because she chose 5 or 6 different patterns as her preference. We had plenty of each pattern and we were able to rotate these favored blankets reasonably well in order to maintain their cleanliness and to keep her from being too attached to just one. After all, blankets do not last forever.

More time passed. Kira definitely attached to her blankets, requiring a blanket to go everywhere. Woe be unto the parent who failed to take a blanket when they left the house. Even the briefest trip would turn ugly if there was no blanket in the car. At this point, she began to develop her strong preferences and it became clear that not just any blanket would do. (I made it a point to keep a couple of spare blankets in the storage compartment of my car just in case I rushed out of the house without one of those treasured blankets. This practice saved me from considerable frustration more than once.)

When Kira was about 18 months, my brother took her blanket from her and teased her with it. She wanted it back. While she was begging for her blanket,  he held his fist up and shook it at her, telling her he was going to give her a beating. ("I'm gonna give you a beatin'...I'm gonna give you a beatin'.") Then, after a few short moments of teasing her with the blanket, he gave it back to her.

From that day forward we no longer had blankets in our house. Instead, Kira had Beatins. Even now, at the ripe old age of 5, Kira does not have blankets - she has Beatins.

Well, here we are 5 years later and it is easy to say that I did everything exactly right. I had multiple patterns of blankets. I rotated the patterns regularly. I tried to avoid any over attachment to just one of those patterns. I had several blankets of the same favored patterns. I did everything right.

And yet....

I'm down to TWO Blueberry Beatins and ONE Sheep Beatin. I spend hours upon hours browsing the world of Ebay in hopes that somebody in the world will try to sell their receiving blankets that happen to have the exact same pattern as the favored ones in my house. I did get lucky about a year and a half ago when some blessed soul was selling several of the Sheep Beatins. I was SO excited to find those blankets on Ebay. I won that bid... then contacted the seller and asked her nicely to send me only the 4 blankets out of her set of 20 because I did not need the rest of them. She kindly sent me only the ones I wanted for a reduced shipping cost, then re-listed the rest and made more money.

The Sheep Beatins arrived in pristine condition. In fact, they appeared to have never been used. Kira rejected them immediately because they were not REAL Sheep Beatins. They were SOFT Sheep Beatins. I tried to explain to her that they just needed to be loved. She occasionally snuggles with one of those, but not often. She definitely prefers the one she has had since she was born.

Now... remember that I told you I have TWO Blueberry Beatins. Blueberry is definitely the MOST favorite Beatin in the house. Blueberry is always the highest choice. When Blueberry is busy taking a bath, Kira will often wait impatiently and ask "How much longer?" or "Is the dryer done, yet?" We try to wash Blueberry when Kira isn't here or when she's in bed with a different Beatin just to avoid the aggravation of having her go on and on about him taking a bath. (Yes - it's a "him".... and Sheep is a "her"... we are regularly reminded that one is a boy and one is a girl.) 

When we moved a year and a half ago, we had THREE Blueberries. Somewhere during the move, one of the Blueberries disappeared. Try though we might, we have been unable to unearth the missing Blueberry.

So I find myself searching hour after hour in hopes of finding that one special blanket listed on Ebay. I think it was a Carter brand, but can't recall. (If you take the tags off, be sure to keep one somewhere so it will be easier later to try and locate extras.) As of yet, I have found NO Blueberries in Ebay Land. Believe me, if Blueberries were to show up on Ebay, I WOULD WIN THAT AUCTION!!!

I am certain that somewhere out there is some wonderful person who has a Blueberry or two stashed away at their house just sitting in a box somewhere. Somebody else bought those blankets... In my never ending search, I'm going to do something that you may never see me do again.

BEG

Here's a picture. If you happen to know somebody who has a blanket like this, ask them to contact me. Kira shows no sign of being over her blanket attachments any time soon and I would really love to locate an extra Blueberry Beatin (or fifty...).

 
  

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Happy Birthday!!!

Today is special, so I'm celebrating.

For the party, I have chosen a beautiful cake.





But what's a birthday party without balloons? We all need birthday balloons.

So I chose these.



Now - that's a party.

Oh wait, there needs to be a few presents, too. Everybody needs presents on their birthday.





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Now - we have cake, balloons, and presents.  My party is complete. 

Wish you were here to enjoy this day with me. Instead, I'm pawning the kids off on the Grandma and taking a day off to enjoy MY birthday. (Bet you thought this was about one of those pesky monsters that didn't want to go to bed tonight.... ) Today, I turn 36!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Giant Squid Take Over California

So I'm up late tonight because one of my monsters slept all afternoon. Yeah - my own fault for laying down with her just before 5:00 - but we were both so tired. Anyways, I'm browsing the WWW and find that California is being invaded by squid, and not just any ole squid, either. These are the Giant Squid of fables. Remember the squid that were talked about by seamen, but rarely ever seen so nobody really believed they existed until some few years ago. Now, there are hundreds of them coming to the beach for an unexpected visit.

While this is making the news in a big way right now, it apparently is not the first time California has seen the squid invasions. I found this article -> HERE <- while I was searching for some pictures. At first it appears to be just another article like all the others detailing the woes and concerns of what the squid invasion might mean for the local ecosystem. Then, upon taking a closer look, I noticed that this particular article was published in 2007. Hmmm... Squid invasions not so new - but much more noticed this time. Either that or I was just too busy to be bothered with media events back in 2007.

At any rate, I think it's really interesting that these large squid are so readily visible now when it was not that long ago that the Giant Squid was believed to be little more than tales of horror created by the overactive imaginations of sailors.