Thursday, January 29, 2015

Choosing a Preschool Program

Last week while working at Cecily's preschool, a tour came through with a toddler and his parents. Wow, not even 2 and already thinking about his educational path for the next 3 years! Often times friends will ask what they should be looking for in a preschool program.  After fives years as a preschool mom, I have developed a fairly clear view of what I want to see in a preschool for my children.

 Physical Space:
If you have a little one, then you know that their concept of personal space is limited.  A classroom should be large enough to allow the children to move around freely, while offering enough space to provide for use of learning centers.  Movement is key at this age so multiple learning spaces will provide the learners more success.
 Cole's first day of 4 year old preschool.
 A preschool classroom should intrigue and engage even the youngest learner.  Is there a sensory table for your children to explore?  Are there toys and durable yet interesting books the little ones can handle?  Is the room decorated in bright colors and does it look inviting?

 Preschool is messy and when you tour, you should see little ones exploring and making a mess.  The wonderful thing about preschool is that this is a great place where after the mess is made. the teachers expect the little ones to clean up. Why not keep up that trend at home too?

Motor Development:
I often call preschool "Crafts Academy." I know as a parent it is hard to not feel the pressure of making sure your child is prepared for their next level of school.  Why are they making all these crafts when they should be counting and learning letters?  When researching  early literacy skills, one of the most important areas that students need to develop is their fine motor skills.  Cutting, gluing, tracing, coloring, playing with play doh are all integral and essential steps towards creating a successful reader and writer. 

Why?  As a parent you need to be able to drop off your child and feel that they are safe.  Is there a locked door, a procedure for an emergency, are the teachers in control of their students so that everyone is safe?

Teacher Education:
I do not necessarily believe that a 3 year old preschool teacher needs an education degree, but I do believe that some experience in the field of education is helpful for that critical 4/5 Kindergarten readiness year.  As parents we often look to the teacher to let us know if our child is developing typically or would be in need of interventions.   When the educator has a frame of reference for child development and how it builds, it is certainly helpful.  The school should be sending their teachers and teaching assistants for training throughout the year.  Education is an ever changing field and keeping up with trends will help the teachers and students. 

The Right Exposure to Academic Skills:
This is the area where I get the most inquiries.  My personal opinion of preschool is that it should be centered on play.  I believe that this is a time in a child's life where they don't need to be pressured or forced to develop academic skills too early.  You do not need to pay twice as much at an academic preschool where your child will leave reading.  The teacher in me struggles with this and has for the past 5 years that my children have been in preschool.  Ideally, you should see a balance of play and learning exposure.  Center and circle time should review key concepts like calendar, counting, and letter sounds. Students should leave preschool knowing their letter sounds, counting to 20, recognizing numbers to 20 and writing their full names.Sometimes that work needs to be supplemented at home. 

When I sent Cole to full day Kindergarten he was writing his first name, could barely count to 20, and knew his letter sounds pretty well.  (He had a very demanding little sister that was taking up much of my time)A month later he was reading and writing sentences.  What I am trying to say is that a typically developing child will in their own time read and write when they are ready.  In the meantime, let them have this precious time to attend a Crafts Academy!

 Cecily's first day of 4 year old preschool.

Monday, January 26, 2015

New Purex Product Review and Giveaway

There are four of us and laundry never ends.  Now that we are on a septic system I have to be even more careful about how much I do, but I generally do a load a day.  If that is the case then why aren't the 32 load bottles lasting a full month?  I think Purex's new product PowerShot detergent has led me to the answer.  I use way too much detergent.  The detergent receptacle is large, but you do not need to fill it especially using concentrated liquid.

With Purex PowerShot  it is just flip, dose, done!  There is no waste and not only is it easy, but fun too.  With each fill, you get the exact amount of detergent needed to leave you with fresh smelling, clean clothes. The great news is that Purex would love to have a few of my readers try this new detergent for free. Enter below for the chance to win one of 2 coupons I am giving away.  Then you can use the new Purex PowerShot to be flip, dose, and done!

Added bonus, right now enter Purex's new gievaway.  You can win a new washer and dryer, a bottle of free Purex , and all will get $1 off coupon to use right now.  That leaves everyone a winner.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

  Purex provided me with a bottle to try in exchange for my honest opinion.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Hello Fresh Review

When I purchased a deal for a Hello Fresh delivery to my home, I was not sure what exactly to expect.  The concept of getting a few meals delivered at a discounted price was inviting, but beyond that I had no idea what to expect.  I loved it and here are few top reasons why.

1.  I walked out to my porch and there waiting for me were three full meals to be prepared.

2.  Using Hello Fresh, you have the option to select from 5 delicious meal options.  For ours,  we decided to get Terayki Chicken, Herb Crusted Pork Chops, and Seared Cod.  There is a full vegetarian choice as well.

3.  We experimented with very different foods such as brussel sprouts, parsnips, baby bok choy, coconut rice, lemon and olive quinoa, and chard.

4.  Hello Fresh provides just enough of each ingredient. You may say that it would cost less for me to just make these meals from a recipe.  First off let me reply that I would never get to that point.  I know that my comfort level with some of these spices and unique ingredients would cause me to be overwhelmed and never try to create these dishes at home.  I like that I received a small amount of cumin instead of having to purchase a lot of a spice we otherwise do not use.  This concept for us eliminates waste.

5.  Using Hello Fresh is training me to improve my culinary skills and change up our family menu plan.  Now I can easily make some of the recipes without needing their instructions, because I have done it and am comfortable.  I am a hands on learner and this type of meal prep program speaks to my learning style.

6.  Portion control is key.  Our family purchased the three meals for two.  The flavors were unique for our children, but some they found pleasing.  What we did is stretch the meals with some supplemental items that we always have on hand like broccoli, noodles, and salad.  It provided enough food for all of us to leave the table satisfied while eating healthy.

 Terayki chicken split into three adult sized portions.
7.   Hello Fresh saved me a trip to the grocery store.  With our delivery, we were able to stretch our grocery shopping to make less trips.  That saves on money and precious time.

 Our absolute favorite, split between four people.

8.  Hello Fresh is flexible.  Our family may not always be able to afford the $69 weekly subscription every week, but we can certainly do this once a month.  It adds to the diversity of our menu as well as delivers a convenience and health factor that we are looking for.  You can pause your subscription and skip weeks very easily through their website.

9.  Referrals can bring down your costs.  If you love it, then share that you do.  You can refer friends and they will receive $40 off their order while you receive $20-$30 off yours.  Want to try it yourself?  I would be tickled if you used my code of 8UAUKY and you can score three meals delivered to your home for $29.  Then let me know what you think!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Eating Healthy, Worth the Expense?

Do you have brand trust?  If you were to ask my mother in law or mother if a certain food is good for you, they are likely to say of course it is such and such brand.  In their day there was great respect and trust in a brand.  The feeling was that they were providing safe choices for families.  Today I don't feel that this is the case.  Big business has become deceptive, labeling packages to lead you to believe that you are buying something healthy. Then you discover reading the label that it is not healthy after all but rather loaded with additives and perservatives.

When I started this blog, one of the main reason was to share about food budgeting and how to save on groceries. At the time we were spending anywhere between $40-$75 a week at the grocery store by using coupons and shopping sales. Times have really changed!

You may have read other blog posts touting the affordability of eating healthy if you do this or that.  I have found that yes there are ways to cut corners, but overall making better choices costs more.  We are trying to purchase more locally produced foods, more organic foods, fresh fruits and vegetables, and whole grains. 

I had to get over the fact that I was going to need to spend more and not just a little more, but significantly more each week. The fake syrup in the grocery store is going to cost less than the real maple syrup sourced locally.    We started slowly here by getting our milk, eggs, syrup, and honey through our local dairy.  We have made more moves towards improving what we are eating little by little.  We are now trying several home delivery meal services at a discount to see if that is worth the expense.  (I will review those very soon.)

I think to us, it is worth the expense.  It took me time to get to that point. We are buying less each week, but better quality.  The kids are learning to eat more variety in their diet, in fact Cecily will actually eat a raw carrot for the first time.  Have you also made changes in your home?

Friday, January 9, 2015

Great Sale at Disney

It is a great time of the year to stock up on Disney items.  Whether you create a gift closet,are shopping for future holidays, stocking up for Toys for Tots , or planning to add items for a vacation now is the time!   Using  Ebates you are getting 3% back, not great but hey $3 off $100 is better than nothing.  If you spend $75 you get free shipping with the code SHIPMAGIC. 

Some great deals I see:

Rapunzel Snow Globe Tumbler- A great birthday add on item at only $3.99

How about next year's Christmas PJs?  Check out  this Minnie Mouse set for $5.99!

Mickey too for $9.99 or $5.99


These deluxe nightgowns are great for sleeping and dress up! For $14.99 it is a great deal. 

Plenty more specials on ornaments, dress up, tableware, and figures!  Good luck and stock up!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

With Great Joy Also Brings Great Sadness

In the quest for getting the children involved in sharing our blessings and giving back, we discovered a great organization  that grants wishes for children fighting cancer and their siblings.  The children selected a boy that wanted Magformers and we promptly sent a set off.  Each day since that, we have been connected to the organization's website which posts daily about the many children bravely battling this disease.  Since our gift has been sent, I have seen at least 6 children pass away.  Each day it is a reminder of the greatest fear that lives within me as a mother, to lose one of my children.

Christmas is such a joyous and magical time.  From the gorgeous decorations, bright lights, wide smiles, acts of kindness, sweet treats, time with family, and deep religious connections it unites many of us.  With that is the opposite feeling though, when times are a struggle it only magnifies that pain.  I know that this year there is no shortage of families who are struggling through this season, the expected joy only magnifying the pain of what isn't this year.  Whether it is through the loss of a loved one, a broken heart, a divorce, or illness that prevents this year from being all that we have told you that Christmas is  to be, know that you are thought of and loved by others.  If this year is a blue Christmas for you, please know that there are people that will take the time to pray for your family this year. May joy come to you soon, I pray that you can find a bit of peace and love this year.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Whose Expectations Are We Meeting?

"Would you just get your Bible and get in the car already?"  Something about that phrase seems so wrong, but it was a reality two weeks ago as I tried to rush the kids off to Sunday School on time.  We are Christian and it is Advent and so I thought even though the kids maybe needed a morning at home, that we ought to head out to Sunday School.  I could hear the stress just pouring out of my voice, which really was a wake up call to just stop and work on taking things easier.

The month of December, if you are celebrating any type of holiday, is often stress filled.  I could probably post a list of expectations of things that need to be done.  While the parents are trying to do it all, often the children are so filled with anticipation and excitement that their behavior heads off track.  At least it happens in our house and after parenting for the past 7 holidays, I am still struggling to balance the joy and peace that the season brings with the stress of fitting everything in. 

Here is the thing, whose expectations are we really trying to meet?  I think children really do have much simpler expectations than what we portray.  In fact this year I have to admit that in a way to find joy in the season, we have let some things go.  There are no lights on the exterior of our house this year, no gingerbread house to decorate, or homemade fudge.  This year we are hosting dinner on Christmas day and we are ordering the food.  That means no rush to the grocery store and that we can relax and enjoy the dinner too.  I didn't make any homemade ornaments or frame pictures for the grandparents.  Better yet, we don't even have an Elf on the Shelf and the PNP has not even sent the kids their Santa message.  There will always be more gifts to buy or cute crafts to make, but maybe I will get to them next year. The thing is I have done enough to give my children and our family a great Christmas. 

So this year let an older relative host for dinner, buy gift bags for presents, and tell Santa not to wrap the stocking suffers.