family

Back to School on a Budget

Who is ready for back to school?

Ugh.  Not me.  I am sad beyond sad that we only have 5 weeks left of summer break.  We’re more than halfway there!  There is one thing my family loves about going back to school (well, 2 things, actually).  1, it’s fun to see friends again and good for all of us to get back on a schedule.  2, we get to go back-to-school shopping! 

If you’re like me, you’ve got a very specific budget.  We are being extra frugal this year, and a lot of our back-to-school excursions will be to yard sales and thrift stores.  The kids like having new stuff too, though (who doesn’t?) and so I’ve been browsin’ the web, looking for some fun, frugal stuff:

Personal Creations – Personalized Boys Backpack – Back to School Gifts

Personal Creations - Personalized Boys Backpack - Back to School Gifts

I found these personalized backpacks at Personal Creations, and I fell in love!  Isn’t that the cutest idea? At Buddy Boy’s school, we have to write his name on everything anyway – what a great way to do it!  I kinda want to personalize something for ME now.

 

Personal Creations – Personalized Boys Backpack – Back to School Gifts – $22.49, 7.99 shipping – Available at Personal Creations


The Children’s Place – Boys Sporty Matchables Tee – Blue T-Shirt – The Children’s Place

The Children's Place - Boys Sporty Matchables Tee - Blue T-Shirt - The Children's Place

When I saw this boys T-shirt for only $2.99 ($2.99!!) I was thrilled.  I love the caption on this particular one.  I wonder if Buddy Boy will take it to heart?  One can hope, right? The Children’s Place has a lot of great deals available, so be sure to check them out for your back to school clothing needs!

 

The Children’s Place – Boys Sporty Matchables Tee – Blue T-Shirt – The Children’s Place – $2.99, 5.00 shipping – Available at Children’s Place


Texas Instruments – TI-84 Plus Graphing Calculator (8 Lines – 16 Characters – Battery Powered – Black)

Texas Instruments - TI-84 Plus Graphing Calculator (8 Lines - 16 Characters - Battery Powered - Black)

My kids aren’t old enough yet to need one of these fancy schmancy calculators, and I dread the time when they do.  Holy cow, there are so many options out there!  Texas Instruments is a known leader in the calculator biz, and I remember using mine in high school…though I’m definitely happy I’m done with it!  If you’ve gotta buy it, you might as well get a deal, right? 

 

Texas Instruments – TI-84 Plus Graphing Calculator (8 Lines – 16 Characters – Battery Powered – Black) – $112.12, Free shipping – Available at A Matter of Fax

(13 reviews)


Asus – Transformer Book T100 Gray Tablet PC (1.3 GHz Intel Atom Z3740, 2 GB DDR3, 64 GB SSD, Windows 8.1, LED Backlight)

Asus - Transformer Book T100 Gray Tablet PC (1.3 GHz Intel Atom Z3740, 2 GB DDR3, 64 GB SSD, Windows 8.1, LED Backlight)

This tablet PC is perfect – plenty of storage space, small and mobile, making it easy for your teen to do homework.  Man, I wish I’d had one of these when I was in high school.  I didn’t even have a big, bulky computer.  Yes, I’m that old. :)

 

Asus – Transformer Book T100 Gray Tablet PC (1.3 GHz Intel Atom Z3740, 2 GB DDR3, 64 GB SSD, Windows 8.1, LED Backlight) – $359.99, Free shipping – Available at B&H Photo-Video


Sistema – Sistema 50 oz. Slimline Quaddie Lunchbox 1.5 ltr.Assorted, 9″ X 6-1/2″ X 3-1/2″ H

Sistema - Sistema 50 oz. Slimline Quaddie Lunchbox 1.5 ltr.Assorted, 9

While not the standard lunchbox, I have to say that I think I prefer this style.  See the divided compartments?  What a great way to keep your wet grapes separate from your sandwich, without having to use a plastic baggy that will be thrown away!  Oh my gosh, I’m in love with this product.  Thank you, Container Store!  (One day I’m going to go on a big ole’ shopping spree to this place, I’m telling you.)

 

Sistema – Sistema 50 oz. Slimline Quaddie Lunchbox 1.5 ltr.Assorted, 9″ X 6-1/2″ X 3-1/2″ H – $9.99, 8.95 shipping – Available at The Container Store


Elmers Products – Products, Inc. Glues and Adhesives Elmer’s Glue Sticks, .24 oz., Purple Application

Elmers Products - Products, Inc. Glues and Adhesives Elmer's Glue Sticks, .24 oz., Purple Application

Let’s just face it.  You’re gonna go through glue sticks like crazy, so save yourself the trouble and buy them all NOW.  Or, you know, do what I did last year and buy a few, and then halfway through the year listen to your kids cry because they have a project due TOMORROW that they forgot to tell you about and they need glue sticks and you’re all out.  You know, either way will work. 

 

Elmers Products – Products, Inc. Glues and Adhesives Elmer’s Glue Sticks, .24 oz., Purple Application – $11.47 (27% off), 5.69 shipping – Available at Amazon.com


Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links provided by Postpresso.


Give Yourself a Raise

How many moms do we have here?  (Raise your hand, moms.)

I am a mom. I have two beautiful, healthy children.  When I was a child and people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I always answered without hesitation, “I want to be a mom – that or a brain surgeon.”  While I never made it to medical school, I am doing something just as important as “brain surgery” – I’m raising children.  I’m having sleepovers in my bedroom and reading silly books and dancing to Disney songs.  I’m making messes and inventing recipes and blowing bubbles and cleaning and cleaning and cleaning.

 

 

Cox Family-9

 

This is what I was born to be.  There is nothing better.  I can’t deny that there are times it is downright exhausting, however.  I don’t sleep like I did before kids.  My life doesn’t belong simply to me anymore.  It is shared with these precious souls (as it should be).  And because of the amazing sacrifices I’m blessed to make, I sometimes like to splurge – on me.  To reward my awesome mom-ness, if you will.

 

What about you?  Do you enjoy a little “Raise” now and again?  What’s your favorite mom reward?

I confess that I love a long, hot bubble bath.  I enjoy a nice, adult dinner.  My favorite splurge?  A new cool outfit.

You see, I don’t buy myself clothes often – maybe once a year I’ll get a few “new” shirts from a local thrift store.  But man oh man, to buy an entire outfit – NEW – from a retailer, and to go shopping for the new outfit by myself…THAT would be a treat!  Of course, because that would indeed be a splurge, it’d be nice to find a away to do it frugally.

 

indexThere are definitely options out there…one in particular I’ve just recently learned about is Raise.com.  At Raise you can buy and sell gift cards – sell your unused cards, buy gift cards at a discount...and currently they are running a “Give Yourself a Raise” campaign, all about the importance of rewarding yourself for all the hard work you put in every day.  Fun stuff!  So hey, jump on in.  Share in the comments what it is you do to reward yourself.  Let’s all give ourselves a raise, because let’s face it, as moms, we are pretty darn special! :D

18 Free Websites for Fun and Educational Gaming

Kids these days are obsessed with technology – or is it just my two?  While I make very clear limitations and rules regarding time spent on the computer, having educational and age-appropriate options make me feel better about the time I do allow my kiddos to play on the computer.  I wanted to share a few of my family’s favorite free websites for educational gaming:

 

go-logohttp://www.pbskids.org
http://www.pbskidsgo.org
http://www.pixiehollow.com
http://www.disney.com
SLCO Library System
Starfall
DanceMat Typing
HoodaMath 
(one of my daughter’s personal faves)
StoryBird (another favorite!)
Spelling City
Time For Kids

 

These are other webites that I haven’t personally tried, but I’ve heard good things about:


FunSchool.Kaboose
PlayKidsGames.com
Knowledge Adventure
FunBrain
Free Online Games
Mr Nussbaum
Prezi

Love/Hate Relationship with Roller Coasters

This week has been crazy…oh my gosh, a complete roller coaster of emotions!
At the end of last week I attended the funeral of a cousin.  It was a beautiful service, but sad, of course.  The night before the funeral, my co-worker’s mom died.  I feel for her…she’s SO close to her mom, and has expressed to me her fear of not being ready to lose her mom yet, and then it happened anyway.  My heart aches for her.
Between covering for my co-worker (which I am HAPPY to do), putting in extra hours at work, and administering dozens of tests, I have become worn out in the workplace.
Also between the 8 doctor appointments and 1 dentist appointment in the last 2 weeks, I’ve become worn out with healthcare.
Add to that the DOZENS of “accidents” my son has had in just the last two days (but that’s another post for another day), I’ve become a bit ornery in the home.
Oh yeah, and in the last 4 days I’ve begun experiencing migraines, blurred vision, bloating, stomach aches, nausea, acid reflux, painful joints, and the like…you know, the standard things that come when I eat gluten…except that I haven’t come near anything containing gluten in months.
I’ve not been a real treat to be around, and I am ashamed of it.  My family definitely deserves better than what they’ve been getting, and I’m feeling like a pretty big schmuck…or something.
On Sunday, my daughter (10 years old) got a phone call from one of her best friends.  She was told that her friend has not been at school for the last week because she’d been really sick and during tests doctors found a TUMOR!!  In this sweet 9-year old girl!  My daughter has been heartsick and crying for 2 days straight, even though we didn’t yet know if the tumor was malignant.  It’s so hard to convince a young child not to worry when they hear the word “tumor” or possibly “cancer”.  She kept asking me if I would PROMISE that her friend would be okay.  Oh my gosh.
It’s days like Sunday that I wished there was a parenting manual.
But!  There are always the good times, too, the moments that buoy us back up for another day:
Today we got the fantastic news that the tumor was BENIGN!!!!  Yay!!  The squealing and hugging that went on in my house this afternoon could probably be heard by a few of our neighbors.
Munchkin got to go skiing for the first time ever today with her fellow schoolmates.  Best field trip ever, I hear.
I’m exhausted.  Emotionally and physically.  I have become so ditzy in the last few months, it’s ridiculous.  I hope it’s just me not handling stress well and missing the sun, because I swear, I’m lucky I haven’t burned the house down (more than once), driven off the road while losing focus, or left my kids at school.  Eek!

 

December Wellness Challenge

I had so much fun during Novembers’ challenge, and I felt so motivated (Thanks to you all) that I decided to do another challenge for December!

 

This month’s challenge is a little different.  I’m going to focus on two things:

Spiritual Wellness and Family Wellness

 

At this time of year, it’s easy to get lost in the business and excitement of activity all around us.  But it’s also the time of year when we, generally speaking, tend to focus more on family…on spirituality (or in the magic of the world around you).  So the timing is perfect.

 

As with November, I’d love to see you participate.  No giveaway associated with this one, because I will be spending more time focusing on my family (hence the challenge) than on updating and checking the blog all the time.  But hey, join me anyway…whatdoyasay?

(P.S. – The giveaway is still going on.  You have a few more days to participate in the November challenge for your chance at a $25 Amazon.com gift card.)

 

(photo)

 

For the Spiritual Challenge, I am simply going to commit to reading every day from the New Testament.  I love all the scriptures, but during Christmas season, I think I’d like to focus my reading on Christ’s birth and life.  The kids and I will read them together before going to bed, and I will do my own personal reading in the morning.

 

 

As for family, I decided the best, funnest Family Challenge I could do in December would be an Advent Activity Calendar!  Christmas season is the perfect excuse to do extra fun activities with the kids, and to spend a little more time letting them know how much I love them.  Here’s my list of ideas:

 

 

All of these can be done for free, or really inexpensively.  The biggest investment here is time.

Links for some of these projects are below, along with other ideas if you need:

 

I really, truly, cannot wait to have an excuse to spend more meaningful time with my kids.  All too often, we get lost in the hum-drum of school, homework, and extra-curricular activities, or the kids want to watch TV because they’re “bored”…but I think this fun advent activity list will keep us busy and out of the rut!
Let the December Challenge Begin!

 

 

PTC – Are YOU Sick of the Inappropriate Content on TV Today?

Has anyone seen the lineup for the fall on NBC and ABC this year?

I have, and I am appalled.

The Playboy Club at NBC.

 

 

Pan Am on ABC- “Passion, jealousy and espionage… They do it all – and they do it at 30,000 feet. The style of the 1960s, the energy and excitement of the Jet Age and a drama full of sexy entanglements deliciously mesh in this thrilling and highly-original new series.”

 

Is it just me, or are the television shows coming out getting more raunchy and offensive EVERY SINGLE SEASON?

 

 

After reading an article in my local newspaper today, I got to thinking about it.  I’m a big fan of advocacy, of getting involved where I can.  I admit that my focus has not previously been on protecting the airwaves from trashy TV shows.  That will change today, however.

 

 

What can we do to keep this kind of stuff away from our children?

 

  1. First and foremost (and probably most obvious):  DON’T WATCH IT.  Do not support these shows by watching them, even without the kids present.   Of course, we know that simply not watching a specific show does not necessarily mean our kids won’t be exposed.  You can be watching a family-friendly primetime show when a lovely commercial happens to come on, and boom!  Let’s not also forget that kids hear about this kind of stuff through school and friends too.  I feel that we have to do more than simply look away…
  2. File a complaint! You can go to ParentsTV.org and file a complaint about any particular show that you find offensive.  Get your voice out there, and let the FCC know how you feel!
  3. Contact sponsors of the shows you do not want aired.  Again, you can go to ParentsTV.org and find a lot of information there about what companies are sponsoring what shows.  Let them know that you will not be supporting their business(es) if they continue sponsorship.  As always, be firm, but polite.  These big companies are not all out to expose us to indecency…they are simply trying to make money.
  4. Get rid of the TV. This may seem extreme, and in some cases it may be, while to others, probably not.  While I haven’t gotten rid of my TV, I have stopped watching prime time altogether.  I won’t lie to you.  I love my Biggest Loser show.  I’m willing to give it up though, if the commercials that air during it aren’t cleaned up.  So…we just don’t watch prime time…PERIOD.

What are your thoughts?  What do you do to control what your kids are watching and seeing?       http://www.parentstv.org/

GOAL – Parenting With a Purpose – #2 and #3

I’ve been trying to think of an eloquent way to lead into this, but let’s be honest, I’m not a very eloquent gal…so I’m just gonna barge right on in:

Joanna has continued her Parenting with Purpose series, and I’ve been amazed at her grace and inspired by the simple and easy ways that I can change the lives of my children for the better.

My fave blogger Mandi guest posted of Things That Matter Most.  Worth your time to read…I guarantee you’ll be able to relate!

Joanna also posted herself of The One Who Knows.  There is a beautiful song you can listen to, and a teeny, tiny, yet ever so important “assignment”.  She asks us to pick one thing from our original list (here’s my original list) that we’d like to work on, and do something about it.  That’s it.  Simple, right?

I mentioned that I want my kids to always know I love them.  I decided that a simple and easy way would be to give more hugs.

Now, this is tough to admit, but I’m not a hugger.  I’m not a real fan of physical contact in general.  Sure, I loved holding my kids when they were babies and I’m more than happy to let them use my lap when needed, but I’m just not very generous with physical affection.  To anyone.

Soooo, I’ve decided to work on that.  I started the day before yesterday.  My goal was to give at least 5 hugs to each child a day, and to try to make them last 20 seconds (studies show that 20 seconds of hugging can stimulate those endorphins and make us happy).  I noticed two things within the first 2 hours of starting out:

  1. Munchkin LOVES physical affection.  I’ve known it, but my gosh, I couldn’t believe her response.  The next morning and today, the very first thing she did upon getting out of bed was to run to me and hug me for a long time, while saying how much she loved me.  I can’t believe how much she’s enjoying it and the difference I see in her already is ASTOUNDING.  So now I wonder, WHAT TOOK ME SO LONG???
  2. Buddy Boy does NOT like physical affection unless he is the one to initiate it.  I’ve learned that the only way to avoid stressing him out with hugs is to ask him permission first.  If he says no, I’ll respect it and leave him alone, and he’s not upset.  It’s taken him a bit longer to adapt to new captain huggy-mom, but just a couple of hours ago he was playing and in the middle of it ran over to me to give me a hug in celebration of putting together a puzzle.  He NEVER gives random hugs, and so it warmed my heart (okay, totally melted it).

It’s a hug fest over here, but I can see the stress lifting off my kids, and it’s definitely a simple thing that is so worth it.

(photo 1 photo 2)

GOAL – Parenting With Purpose – #1

And here we come to a very personal goal I’ve set for myself, and that I’m sure many of you have set:  Being a better parent.  Being more patient with our kids.  Parenting with purpose.

I’m so very fortunate to have a wonderful guide to help me through this maze of self improvement.  Joanna is hosting a series titled Parenting With Purpose.  Joanna is an extremely gifted writer, and has a way of motivating and inspiring.  And so, I’ll be simply following her format cause really, I’d never come up with something this good on my own!

Part 1 of her series is all about setting a base…by figuring out WHO YOU ARE.  I’ve thought long and hard about the 3 questions she suggests we ask ourselves, and it’s been extremely hard for me to not only answer them, but to put myself “out there” and share them with you.  I do believe it will be for good, however.  Although my answers won’t be as eloquent as hers, they will be from my heart:

1. Who Am I? – My initial reaction is to say I’m a mom.  That is the essence of who I am.  But thinking more on it, I realize that I am more than that.  I’m going to be honest, this question is extremely hard for me to answer, because I DON’T KNOW who I am most of the time.  All the more reason for me to really take some time answering.

  • I am a lover of music.  Good music feeds my soul.
  • I am a dreamer.  No matter how tough things get, no matter how unlikely I am to achieve my dreams, I cannot let them go.  I thrive on having something to work towards, and I struggle when I don’t have big dreams.
  • I am a believer in making a difference.  I believe that each of us, no matter our circumstance, can make a difference somehow, someway, sometime for someone.  As I said, I’m a dreamer, and I tend to want to do things in a big way.  I have learned that although I may not be able to feed all of the hungry, I can feed ONE hungry, or TWO….maybe even 3, 4, or 5.  I may not be able to prevent landfills filling up, but I can lower my own personal carbon footprint.  I may not be able to change the lives of thousands of children, but I CAN change the lives of my own, and maybe even others.
  • I am a stressed out person.  I tend to get stressed out and upset over things that I should not.  I take things very personally, most of the time when I shouldn’t.  It makes me tenderhearted, which can be good, but it also causes tension in my household, which is obviously NOT good.
  • I am a mom.  Yep, even though it’s a role, it is a big role, and one I dreamed of playing for many years.

What Kind of Parent Am I? – Oy, this is hard to answer, but for different reasons.  I am overwhelmed with guilt most of the time for my struggles as a mom:

  • I am a yeller.  I hate to admit it, but it is true.  I’ve gotten SO much better in the last 2 years, and I can see the incredible difference it’s made in my children’s lives, but I still get stressed too easily and yell to release more often than I should.
  • I am interactive.  I don’t do a lot of physical play with my kids, but I love to do activities with them.  I love doing silly little crafts.  (And since my art “talent” is at about the same level as my 4-year old, it works out well.)  I love being girly with my daughter and giggling with her while we do each others’ hair and makeup.  I love turning up the music and cheering my kids on as they dance and perform.
  • I am a break – taker.  I find that as soon as the noise level starts to go up, I start to panic.  I have to take a lot of breaks while with my kids, breaks where I can go in my room and have a little bit of quiet.  I believe I take more breaks than I should….after all, my kids aren’t really THAT loud, and they’re both usually pretty well behaved.

What Kind of Parent Do I Want To Be? – I want to be a patient parent.  I want my children to know that they can come to me and tell me about their mistakes and bad choices without being fearful of my reaction.  I want my kids to know that NO MATTER WHAT, I will always love them.  I want to be more physically active with my kids.  I want to be a teacher to my children, and to teach them values…Christian values as well as temporal values, such as the value of hard work (the kids aren’t big fans of me teaching that one so far).  I want to show my kids that I believe in them.  I want to teach my kids to dream, like I do, but to do more than just dream; to act as well!

This is me.  I encourage you to thing about those three questions, to answer them for yourselves.  Do as Joanna suggests, write them down in your journal, or blog about them!  This is an amazing first step to start your journey of Parenting with Purpose.  And aren’t those cute  little Munchkins worth it?