Monday, June 27, 2011

Thanks NYS: Equality

When I first read about the news of New York State passing a bill to recognize same-sex couples to be married, I was so incredibly happy. I was about to go to sleep and decided (I know...addicted) to check my iPod Touch once more, and that's when I discovered the news.

It was such a great way to end the day and to close my eyes for the night. However, I was busting from the seams with joy wanting to shout my happiness and appreciation for this major milestone for New York State and instead took to the Internet to convey my feelings. Eventually, I was able to fall asleep with a smile on my face.

Having lived in New York most of my life, and then moving to New Jersey for just the past few years, I still consider myself a New Yorker, and am so proud of this major accomplishment for my home state.

I am so incredibly happy for the men and women who have been fighting for equality, for sadly too long, to help make this milestone possible. While there is so much more work to be done to help provide equality for all, each step like this is an accomplishment in the right direction.

As a parenting blog writer I can't help but share perspective of this news as far as parenting goes.

What matters most for children is to have individuals who love them unconditionally. Whether it's a mommy and daddy unit, two mommies, two daddies, a mommy or daddy on their own, or even aunts, uncles or grandparents as caregivers, children require love, direction, passion, appreciation, support, devotion, guidance and, above all, love.

Hence, love comes in all shapes and sizes and I am just so glad that New York State has recognized that same-sex couples, and those especially who may already be parents, can now officially become spouses too.

This news of freedom and equality in New York brings me great happiness, especially for friends of mine who have been waiting for this news for quite some time.

Here's to love, appreciation and recognition of all people regardless of race, creed, color or sexual orientation. Love who you want to love. Life is too short to be told otherwise.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Happy Father's Day

Happy Father's Day to all the Dads in this world.

I especially want to acknowledge the special men in my life, and Sarah's too, especially daddy Daniel, that are here now, and to our loved ones who have since passed on but have made an impact.

The role of a Dad takes an incredibly special kind of man. I admit that I am biased when I say that my partner for life, Daniel, is indeed "The World's Greatest Daddy."

In Sarah's eyes, and mine too, he is nurturing, funny, playful, engaging, involved, loving, compassionate and most importantly, patient.

I cannot stress enough the importance of patience. I know I could learn to have more patience. There are few human beings in this world that have the patience that Daniel has. It's a pleasure watching him with Sarah, teaching her, making her laugh and exposing her to new adventures.

Daniel often says that with Sarah he has free license to act like a three year old, and it's adorable. Not only does Sarah have a blast with him, he's that much more sexy to me. Sarah dances on his feet, she rides on top of his shoulders, and they are goofy together.

Okay. Come on. Let's think back ladies to when we were in college and many of us had a poster on the wall of a sculpted male body holding a beautiful baby. Okay. Maybe I just did. But still, beautiful, loving man who loves children. What's not to love and appreciate?

While many men in this world can help to create a child and be a father, being a dad takes a uniquely special kind of person. I am just thankful and fortunate to have married my best friend who also happens to be a terrific dad.

Thinking about the power of a dad, I can't help but be touched by an experience with one of my colleagues, whose name also happens to be Sarah, regarding her dad, that took place this week. To celebrate her birthday, Sarah's dad sent her flowers at work that included her favorites as well as those of her mother and grandmother. Isn't that sweet? This is clearly a man who takes his job as a dad very seriously.

A dad is someone who listens well, who loves you thick and thin, who wants to strangle you because he loves you so much and you defy him sometimes, and is a man who would do anything in this world to make you happy and to protect you.

Let's reach out this Father's Day and hug the dads in our lives. We need to tell them how much they mean to us.

While my dad is in heaven I think of him often. I also fully intend to squeeze my step father tight. And, without question, Daniel will indeed be getting lots of hugs, kisses, fun gifts and words of appreciation for how much he means to me, and to Sarah.

Have a wonderful Father's (Dad's) day!!!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Maximize Your Credit Card Rewards Points

If you happen to have a credit card that offers rewards points or are in the market to find a credit card that does, consider the various types of rewards programs before choosing to determine which is most suitable for you and your family.

Should you be a person who does not take advantage of rewards programs than opt not to get a card of this nature as you will not benefit from it for its full maximum potential.

For those of us that like to make some money or get something in return for the money we are spending then rewards programs are something worth looking into.

We can make money from spending money or receive great merchandise and more.

For example, if you are a frequent flier it likely makes sense to get a card that rewards you with travel points primarily. If you want the option for cash back, credit to account, merchandise and even travel then consider credit cards associated with banks and other institutions where they provide these offerings.

I happen to have a credit card that gives me a point for every dollar I spend. I don't spend to just get the points. However, when I do spend the money it's nice to know that it can help me in the long run.

After reviewing the rewards available to me for my credit card based on my current points available I decided that instead of putting it toward a gift card or specific merchandise it was best for me to either get a check or credit to my account. This enabled me to make more money towards a desired merchandise that wasn't on the rewards list and to get dollar for dollar returned to me.

Then, I went online to a familiar retailer and found the product I was looking for for Sarah that I was hoping to get a bargain on for quite some time. Through this approach, not only did I find it online for less money than in the store, I also saved money by having it delivered to the store's location. And, with the credit to my card's account I even got to save some dollars too.

Now, Sarah is the proud, and extremely happy owner of a sand and water table. She is in love with this product all because I took action to maximize my credit card's potential and benefit from its rewards feature.

Not only is getting the most out of our credit cards a great way to save money, but when it comes to kids and their ever evolving toys and clothes, it's a valuable benefit that enables us to secure products that might otherwise be outside of our budget to justify purchasing.

With rewards you can gain rewards.

Happy shopping. Happy saving!!!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Awesome Yard Sale Find

There used to be a show on television that I liked to watch where the host would help to furnish a room solely based on bargains she and home owners or renters found at local area yard sales and flea markets.

At one point in every episode the host would tally up all the goodies found from the shopping experience and then say "the best find of the day is..."

This past weekend, I said this very phrase for an amazing find I found for Sarah. It was something that I have had on my radar for quite some time to find without having to spend too much money on it.

Thanks to a local church in my area, they coordinated a giant yard sale with numerous families in the community to participate. For the sellers it became a great opportunity for them to unload their belongings to clean out, clean up and to make some extra cash.

Yard sales like this are an excellent way to find bargains and buy items that are typically more expensive in stores and online, especially if you are on a budget. You can find items that are old, unique and sometimes priced well below the retail cost if purchased new. This approach is also great for finding kids toys and clothes since they grow out of them so quickly.

Watching Sarah's belongings be done with, sometimes more quickly than I would hope, it's less painful when I have not spent a lot of money on them or have been fortunate to have received these items as hand me downs.

Just know that second hand items from yard sales, consignment, Good Will and many other places may need a good cleaning or a little TLC to get them in good condition before play and use.

It's also a good idea to go into these types of sales with your blinders on and with an agenda so that you are on track for what you are looking to find and don't over do it and buy stuff that later becomes clutter.

A great example of this type of shopping experience, where I found the best find of the day, includes a recent purchase for a product I have been searching for with earnest. I have previously scoured the Internet, including Craig's List and Ebay as well as other yard and garage sales for an outdoor plastic house for Sarah to play with.

She loves the playhouse at her cousin's and I have been hoping to find one for just the right price without spending a fortune for Sarah to enjoy.

These outdoor houses can cost anywhere from $100 to well over several hundred dollars. I never had any intention of buying this product brand new because I truly believe it's too costly for the potential amount of time Sarah may play with it. Therefore, it was my goal to find it from someone who gave it some love and attention and now needed to give it away for another child to appreciate it and play with it.

Therefore, my "best item of the day" recently was this awesome, already put together, pink, purple and white house for the bargain price of $20 dollars. And, for an additional $5, the owner offered to drop it off at my house since my car was not big enough to transport it home.

The great news is the owner did exactly as he promised. He delivered it later in the day to a very happy and excited parent, me, and a very pleased and ecstatic preschooler.

With a scrubbing down and hosing off, this house is in great shape for much play time to be had.

I admit that I likely have too many toys, books and clothes for Sarah. As a first time mommy I am not surprised.

There are some items for Sarah that will always be bought brand new. However, for the accessories in life and the extras that I think she will like, but she doesn't necessarily need, this affordable shopping approach is highly recommended. As a reminder, remember to go in with a list of what you are looking for as it can be really easy to steer away from your goal and come home with more than you need and want. I have been trying to restrain myself as much as possible and focusing on the end result.

Happy shopping!!! Happy saving!!!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Cute Caterpillar Craft Idea

Yesterday, at the children's museum with Sarah, one of the things we did together was an arts and crafts project. The project itself was such a cute idea that I wanted to share it here with you. I cannot take any credit for this creative idea but wanted to let you know about it should it be something you would like to try with your children. And, it's really easy to do.

It could be great as a Father's Day hand-made gift, as part of a birthday or anniversary decoration, place card/setting on a table, and so much more.

The children's museum in which we are members, prides themselves on their education around recycling. They even have an exhibit all about helping the environment including recycling with used items.

Therefore, it should come as no surprise that the main material we used to create the art project I am about to tell you about was with an egg carton container.

Below are the supplies that you will need to create at least one cute caterpillar:
- 1 egg carton container (a carton that holds 12 eggs makes 4 caterpillars)
- Scissors
- 1 pipe cleaner (Another idea I was just thinking about is you can use garbage bag twist ties too)
- Markers (while this project at the museum was done with markers, we gave it a try at home with paint. You can also try crayons, stickers, glitter and more to make them festive and decorative)
- Optional - googly eyes (we drew on eyes, nose and mouth with a marker)

How to make a caterpillar:
- Cut egg carton container into sections where each piece has at least three egg cups where the eggs used to go * You can choose to make a longer caterpillar if you want. Three is the suggested minimum
- Turn your egg carton over, trim the open side with scissors to even it out so it lays flat on a surface
- With your scissor poke two small slits/holes in the circle divot on top of the front of the egg carton cup (pipe cleaner/twist tie antenna will go here)
- Choose decorations and let your child loose to style however which way they would like
- Once the decorations are dry then have your child pick their pipe cleaner or twist tie
- Insert the pipe cleaner or bendy twist tie through holes from the inside out. You can choose to make long or short antenna and twisty, curly or straight, which ever you prefer

Sarah and I had fun making this craft project at the museum. And, as soon as Sarah showed it to Daniel, with such pride, he then retrieved an empty egg carton container from our recycling pile. When I asked Sarah if she wanted to do the project again she was excited. These can be great Father's Day decorations in lieu of or in addition to a card, good as place holders at the table and desk decorations.

I am happy to say I now have one of Sarah's caterpillar creations on my desk now at work each time bringing a smile to my face.

I hope you enjoy making this fun project with your kids as much as I have done so with Sarah.

Have fun!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Kids, Dress-Up and Reducing Bed Bugs

We often like to take Sarah to children's museums as a great way for her to explore and discover hands-on, and to expand her imagination while roaming around and getting physical activity too.

Often times there are options for learning about science to arts and crafts to physical activities that are enjoyable for children to do and fun for parents and guardians to either participate or watch as a spectator. There may also be chances for children to pretend by dressing up with clothes and costumes worn by many.

With regards to the clothes and dress up part of these museums, at first I thought it was a cute idea. The more I thought about it though, and the more I read in the news, the more I realized and felt, as did Daniel, that this wasn't such a good idea.

We started to have concerns about exposure to bed bugs.

It's not unheard of for bed bugs to travel on people's clothing and in their hair from one location to another. Therefore, because these clothes and costumes in museums and other shared locations are tried on by many kids, it's not unlikely the possibility of bed bugs latching on to our children, then our cars and eventually into our homes, which their presence becomes an even bigger issue to address.

You may think that I am crazy about this. That's okay. We are all entitled to our own opinions and perspectives. This Mommy's Point of View is that these bed bugs do not discriminate and if you don't want them to invade your life, this to me is one precautionary measure to take to help reduce the risk.

These little, annoying bed bugs can get from place to place very easily and many times not even been seen by the naked eye, especially the immature, young ones.

Therefore, when going to children's museums and other places with clothes for dress up,other then at homes of friends and family, let's be reluctant for them to gussy up in these duds.

It may seem extreme. But for us, this is what works. And, it's a recommendation I suggest for you too.

The good news for us is that Sarah is very understanding of our request for her not to play with these clothes when we are out, except for when we are at the homes of friends and family where dress up is allowed. We tell her that these clothes are dirty and tried on by many and that it would be best to enjoy this favorite activity for home where there are many dress-up options available.

Since Sarah doesn't like bugs it doesn't make sense to scare her by telling her these clothes could have bugs on them. She may never want to play dress up ever again anywhere.

To me, it's like when we take our children to public restrooms. We try very hard for our kids not to touch anything so they won't pick up any germs or other gross things. So, instead, to say that this bathroom, like the clothes, are not cleaned by us so we are not sure how clean they are may be a better approach than to scare them fully.

So, my recommendation, the next time there is a dress up opportunity out in public, try to turn your child's attention to a different, fun activity to occupy and interest them. If this doesn't work, come up with your own approach to helping to explain to your child the reason behind your request.

The good thing to do too, if you have kids who like to dress up, is to have some options at home that they can choose from so you can say that we can play dress up at home. And, so it doesn't feel like you are breaking the bank, instead of buying brand new costumes or gear, especially during Halloween time, try find inexpensive or free costumes and fun dress-up items at yard sales, consignments stores and stoop sales, etc. Off-season costume sales are also a great time to stock up for children's dress-up and pretend wardrobes. Most importantly, before you get anything, choose costumes that can easily be put in the washing machine and dryer before first use. Another reason why yard sales are a great idea, if you spend a dollar or two and the costume doesn't fare well after a wash you didn't spend a lot and the loss won't be great.

If you would rather not purchase these types of items from garage sales, Good Will or other places, that's fine too. Try looking in your closet or your old belongings that are out of style, in storage in the garage that have been waiting to get tossed or are too big or small for you to wear. These items can become a child's haven for imagination. Check for fun ties, bracelets, vests, necklaces and more. It can even become a stroll down memory lane watching our kids prance around pretending to be doctors, teachers, princesses, pirates and more.

Happy dressing up safely.

Halloween Candy for the Troops

While we all recover from over indulging in too much candy during Halloween, still the candy is in our homes staring at us willing us to...