Category Archives: Family Life

The False Assumptions of Common Core and PARCC

PARCC practice test question

You are probably aware that Common Core testing started last week in a state-wide rollout in Ohio. For our state, it was the implementation of the PARCC test (Partnership Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers). Even if your state didn’t give the PARCC test, if you live in a state which has adopted the Common Core standards, your child may very well be receiving a very similar round of testing.

 

The Common Core math textbooks have been in schools for several years now, spreading as the accepted “new” way to teach math and adopted by many schools nationwide. As this way of teaching math has become more prevalent, parents have started speaking out.

 

As a parent—and educator, and professional—I try to keep an open mind to change. Just because we have always done things a certain way doesn’t mean that there isn’t something better out there—but it also doesn’t mean that the change isn’t for the worse either. Either way, when a change is implemented, we need to be able to look at the effects and objectively analyze the results, then make necessary adjustments.

 

But sometimes we just get change for the sake of change.

 

I have tried to rationalize the concept of Common Core math, and I absolutely embrace the need for teaching students to think critically; however, I have not been able to figure out how on earth Common Core math even comes remotely close to meeting its lofty goal of raising the standard. In fact, I’m pretty sure it does the opposite.

 

So, let’s take a look at an example question from the PARCC practice test for third graders:

Cindy is finding the quotient 27 / 9. She says, “The answer is 18 because addition is the opposite of division and 9 + 18 = 27.”
Part A: Identify the incorrect reasoning in Cindy’s statement. Enter your explanation in the space provided.
Part B: Show or explain how Cindy can correct her reasoning. Find the quotient when 27 is divided by 9. Enter your answer and your work or your explanation in the space provided.

 

Honestly, it is hard for me to know where to start. Not with solving the math problem, but with pointing out all the things that are wrong and inappropriate about this question.

 

Common Core is negatively reinforcing math concepts.

 

First of all, the wording of this question is not directly asking the child to solve the math problem—or find the quotient—with the correct quotient actually being the answer. Instead, the math problem is posed with a hypothetical Cindy getting the wrong answer, based on faulty reasoning. Let’s think about this for a second. Why are we even posing questions that have misinformation in them to students? This can be a very destructive way to teach. I can guarantee that a small percentage of students will pick up on the phrase “addition is the opposite of division” and will remember this, even though it is explained in the question as “incorrect reasoning.”

 

Let me give you an example of the selective hearing that will lead to some students gleaning the incorrect statement of “addition is the opposite of division.” The other day, my third grade son came home from school and asked to play on his ipad. I told him that he could after he had a snack and did his homework. He came over and ate his snack, then went to the living room to play his ipad. I reminded him that he needed to do his homework first. His response was, “but you said I could play my ipad.” Does this scenario sound familiar to any other parent out there? Sometimes kids hear what they want to hear… maybe they only listen carefully to part of what is being said… maybe it was because that was the last part of the sentence and it stuck with him… who knows, but it is not out of the question to think that a third grader, who is just learning multiplication and division might get confused by the wording of this question. Perhaps, an older student, who has a more firm grasp of multiplication and division would be a better group of students to present “incorrect reasoning” questions to.
Second, let’s look at what the actual question is asking the student to do: “Part A: Identify the incorrect reasoning in Cindy’s statement. Enter your explanation in the space provided.” Now, the test is actually reinforcing the incorrect reasoning by asking students to only identify the incorrect reasoning and enter it in the space provided—this part of the question is not explicitly asking the student to explain why it is wrong. It is not until Part B of the question that the student is asked to identify how Cindy can correct her reasoning. Finally, the second action item of Part B asks the student to solve the math problem of 27 divided by 9 to find the quotient.

 

Let’s make sure we are keeping this straight. The student is reinforced of faulty information in the wording of the question and then asked to identify and explain the incorrect reasoning—two times being negatively reinforced—before being asked to come up with correct reasoning as to how to solve the problem and finally coming up with the quotient.  So the tests are not positively reinforcing that a child know the correct answer, but are negatively reinforcing the concept if they don’t now why hypothetical Cindy got the question wrong.  Hmmmm…

 

My suggestion for better wording for this question for a third grader: Find the quotient 27 / 9. Show all your work or explain how you got your answer. The wording of this question asks the student to solve the math problem, positively reinforcing the concept. Asking a student to show all work or explain how they got the answer will give the teacher (or test grader) an idea of the student’s reasoning.

 

But let’s be honest, math is numbers, not writing essays. If a third grader can solve basic math facts correctly, time and time again, I don’t really think the explanation is necessary because getting a correct answer indicates that a student has basic understanding of the concept. So if the student can come up with the quotient of 3 for this question, but is unable to identify hypothetical little Cindy’s faulty reasoning or explain what she can do to correct her reasoning, do we say this student missed the question? How much credit does the student get for arriving at the correct answer, but failing to come up with a satisfactory essay for the other parts of the question? Did the teacher fail to teach multiplication and division if the student cannot come up with an adequate essay answer? Is this fairly evaluating a teacher’s ability to convey math concepts?

 

Reasoning for how to solve 27 divided by 9 and identifying strategies to do so is what goes on during classroom instruction. Really, the only person in a third grade classroom that needs to be able to identify Cindy’s incorrect reasoning and figure out what she needs to do differently, is the teacher. The TEACHER.

 

Finally, the computerized implementation of these tests assumes that all students are fully computer literate, able to seamlessly navigate between screens and understand all button functionality. I think it is safe to say that it would be a pretty accomplished feat for a third grader to be able to type with correct finger placement, let alone expecting them to toggle back and forth with the math symbol keys at the side or knowing when to flag a question for review.

 

Teaching students how to use a computer is great—and should definitely be a part of their education, integrated throughout the years, but why must we place even more pressure on students by making this the basis for high stakes testing?

 

I know there are some people out there that think something along the lines of “What’s the big deal? I was tested when I was a kid. We want to raise the standard, don’t we?” Yes, of course we want to raise the standard. Yes, standardized tests have been around for a very long time. But Common Core and PARCC are different.

 

The purpose of the PARCC testing is also different than typical standardized tests. In the past, standardized tests have been given to students every few years to benchmark education. When fully implemented, some students will be tested 12 times during a school year, which will consume several days and take 18-24 hours away from necessary classroom instruction, not to mention test prep time. The purpose, according to PARCC’s website is to now assess students, several times a year: “The PARCC states’ high quality assessments will allow parents and educators to see how children are progressing in school and whether they are on track for postsecondary success. The PARCC assessment also provides teachers with the ability to identify students who may be falling behind and need extra help.”

 

So is PARCC is telling us is that teachers do not know how to do their jobs? A teacher’s ability to assess a student throughout the year and keep them progressing is a pretty basic teaching skill. Why do we need these high stakes tests—putting unnecessary pressure on students and teachers? Why are so many teachers remaining silent when they disagree with Common Core and PARCC? Because their jobs are being threatened. So where are the unions? Why aren’t they standing up for the teachers?

 

If Common Core and high stakes testing are not acceptable or beneficial to a child’s educational process, let’s repeal them and give control back to the states and allow teachers to do what they do best—teach.

19 Action News Picked Up Our Efforts to Repeal Common Core and PARCC

Last week, I had the opportunity to talk to Reporter Dan DeRoos about concerns that parents (and teachers) here in Ohio are having regarding Common Core and PARCC testing.

I am also very happy to report that since starting the petition to repeal Common Core and PARCC just two weeks ago, we have received over 2500 signatures! If you are interested in signing and sharing, here is a direct link to the PETITION. Let’s continue to send a message, loud and clear, to our legislators that we want higher standards in education and accountability, but Common Core and PARCC are NOT the way to accomplish those goals. We need to allow teachers to teach students, not perpetually be in test-prep mode.

I have written a couple of articles on this subject lately:
The Cost of Common Core and PARCC: An Open Letter to Parents and Legislators
The Big Business of Education: Breaking Down the Dollars Behind Common Core and PARCC

The Reason No Woman Should Have Blonde Hair. Ever.

The Reason No Woman Should Have Blonde Hair. Ever.

The Reason No Woman Should Have Blonde Hair. Ever. // Money Savvy Living

 

If you don’t live in a bubble, you have probably heard about the great debate over what attire is appropriate for a woman to wear in public in order for a man to not have lustful thoughts. The arguments in this area are mainly comprised of how leggings or yoga pants, being form fitting, or how sleeveless shirts or dresses, that reveal a woman’s shoulders, can cause a man to have lustful thoughts.

 

From experience, I have one more thing that should be added to the list of lust-invoking thought catalysts: blonde hair. Yes, blonde hair.

 

Probably the most eye-opening, blatant statement anyone ever made to me was about my blonde hair. When I first became a manager, my superior told me that the guys on my team wouldn’t listen to me because they were too busy wanting to sleep with me. He suggested that in order to be taken seriously, I should dye my hair brown.

 

What? WHAT?!  Why on earth would he say that? What made him think that the men in the office wanted to sleep with me because I had blonde hair? I worked hard to get that promotion. I was good at sales and could teach others. Wouldn’t my team listen to me because I knew what I was doing?

 

If I dyed my hair brown would that make me smarter? Would it enable me in some way to do my job better? Would brown hair actually somehow make men hear what I had to say? I am ashamed to admit that I almost bought into his comments. I did actually dye my hair darker blonde for a while. I figured that I would try to make my hair darker gradually. My husband didn’t like it though.

 

Then it occurred to me. Why in the world was I trying to change myself anyways? Why was I the one responsible for the alleged lustful thoughts of male co-workers? So I went back to my regular blonde hair. As a manager, I trained employees in group settings and individually. I took over a team that was not doing well, in fact, dead last in the company, and within a year, we were number one in the company. Believe it or not, I was able to accomplish this even with my blonde hair.

 

Being totally honest here, I have reasons as to why women should not wear blue silk blouses, white pants, or dress-length trench coats because they invoke lustful thoughts in men. I won’t go into those stories because this is a family-friendly article, you’ll just have to trust me when I say that these wardrobe choices elicited some rather inappropriate, lustful commentary. So let’s add those to the list of banned items as well.

 

It is not my intention to ridicule anyone’s personal decision to wear jeans rather than leggings for the sake of modesty. I firmly believe that as women, and for me personally, as a Christian, we should dress in a manner that is respectful of our own bodies. If we demand respect, we will get respect, right? As the mother of three boys, I appreciate a movement for women to dress modestly. That teaches our sons that it is not okay for society to sexualize women; similarly, it teaches our daughters that gaining affection from a man should not be based on merely being able to attract attention with provocative attire. We should all be praising modesty, lest we end up with more Miley Cyruses, scantily clad, twerking and grinding with large foam fingers.

 

The Reason No Woman Should Have Blonde Hair.  Ever.  // Money Savvy Living

 

But what if the list of “do-not-wear-this” is not enough? I mean, we could probably keep adding to it until almost nothing is deemed appropriate, except maybe for sweatpants and sweatshirts. And even then, there may be some sweatshirt-lusting men out there. So what’s the answer?

 

The Bible warns men against adultery and lust; likewise, it directs women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety. Each has a responsibility to act in accordance with God’s word.

 

Men:

“Do not lust in your heart after her beauty or let her captivate you with her eyes.”  Psalm 6:25

“Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.”  I John 2:15-17

 

Women:

“I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.”  I Timothy 2:9-10

“Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.”  I Peter 3:3-4

 

So does this mean that I have to give up leggings, yoga pants, blonde hair, silk blouses, white pants, or any other item that could remotely have the possibility of spurring a lustful thought for a man? No. It is a man’s responsibility to have control over his thoughts and control his desires. It is my responsibility, however, to use good judgment when it comes to my wardrobe choices.

 

Homemade Cinnamon Christmas Ornaments

cin ornaments1

You won’t believe how simple these ornaments are to make… and they fill your home with the wonderful scent of cinnamon! These are a great craft for kids to make. Not only can you put them on your own tree for years to come and remember the fun Christmas memories of making them, but they make great gifts for the grandparents too.

My kids just love helping make these– and we make some nearly every year!  The good news is, they are pretty inexpensive to make.  I bought generic cinnamon (2.5 oz) for $0.88 and the name brand cinnamon was $4.68!  So right away, that is a savings of 80% on ingredients!  To make 24 of these ornaments only costs around $3.

Cinnamon Christmas Ornaments

  • Time: 24 hours
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

3 Ingredient recipe
2 c. applesauce
2 c. cinnamon
2 Tbsp. Elmer’s school glue

That’s all you need! Just mix together until dough forms, roll out (to about 1/4 inch thickness) and use your favorite cookie cutter shapes to make your ornaments. Just remember, if your dough is sticking as you roll it out, “flour” your rolling pin with cinnamon.

Homemade Cinnamon Applesauce Christmas Ornaments | Money Savvy Living

Homemade Cinnamon Applesauce Christmas Ornaments | Money Savvy Living

Once your ornaments are cut out, you must use a toothpick, a craft stick, or even a straw to poke a hole in the top so that you can put a ribbon through to hang on tree. Or, if you want to string them for garland, you will want to place 2 holes in the middle of the ornament, at least 1/2 inch apart.

Homemade Cinnamon Applesauce Christmas Ornaments | Money Savvy Living

Homemade Cinnamon Applesauce Christmas Ornaments | Money Savvy Living

 

Optional:  lightly press glitter onto the ornaments while the dough is still moist and let it dry into the dough for decoration.

Once the ornaments have dried for at least 24-48 hours, use glue to decorate after the ornaments with glitter, sequins, or whatever your choose.

Put ribbons through the holes and decorate your tree!

 

Dec 2012 045

Merry Christmas!

*Money Savvy Tip*
Shop at the dollar store or an overstock store for these ingredients, or even ask your local grocery store for damaged containers of applesause or cinnamon, you may be able to save a bit of money on these items. Also be sure to look for generic brands of these ingredients for extra savings.

Why I Gave in and Finally got an Elf on the Shelf for My Kids

DSC_0024

I really dislike the Elf on the Shelf.

I don’t know why, but I find this mischievously smiling elf to be super-annoying. For the last few years, my Facebook feed have been filled up with all sorts of pictures of this elf visiting houses. Every day, he is doing something different and I get to know about it—whether I want to know or not.

I don’t want to sound cynical here, but I don’t really care that your elf, named “Elf,” undecorated the Christmas tree and moved it across the living room, or unrolled 10 rolls of toilet paper to make a snow village, or wrote a magical message in colored soap all over the bathroom mirror, or poops out toothpaste, or anything else he does.

Seriously, maybe I am just lazy, but planning out those types of scenarios, taking the time to actually make it look like he is doing this type of mischief, then cleaning up after this little fiend—well, that’s just way too involved for me. I mean, I already have three kids that I have to clean up after. Why would I want to give myself more work?

I was doing pretty good keeping this secret from the kids too. Until one day my oldest son heard other kids at school talking about an elf visiting their homes—and all the places he had been hiding and the stuff he’d been doing.

Darn it, I was busted. Now I had to make an excuse for why we didn’t have one. So I told the kids that it sounds like the elf gets into mischief and we don’t want an elf coming to our house and making messes for us to clean up, do we? Lucky for me, one of the moms volunteering at school that day told my son that he must have been good because well-behaved kids don’t get elf visits.

Whew! I figured I was off the hook for good now.

Then, last year, this wretched little elf landed at their cousins’ house. Now, I felt obligated to get them one, so I did, at the end of the season last year….and he made his grand entrance this year the day after Thanksgiving.  I must say, the looks on their faces was worth it when they came downstairs in the morning to find that an elf had finally visited our home!  Their eyes were bright with excitement.  My six-year-old looked at me and confidently proclaimed, “Oh yeah… Santa’s real.”

EontheSCollage

However, this elf is not going to make messes for me to clean up—if he does, I will for sure send him back to the North Pole early. Maybe he’ll bring some Christmas treats. Maybe he’ll even leave some messages about the true meaning of Chrismas—the birth of Jesus, the gift of giving, and helping others in need.  He might even bring the kids Polar Express Tickets… yes, I know, I am going from despising this elf to making him a Christmas hero…

It wasn’t just out of obligation that I got one though. Each year, since my oldest son started school, I have seen the innocence fade. From proclamations about how Santa can get to everyone’s house in just one night to “the fifth graders said Santa isn’t real,” to the reasoned statement “it is impossible for Santa to visit every house and get in and out so quickly” and “Do you have separate wrapping paper that is for Santa gifts?” When he asks me if Santa is real, I avoid answering the question directly. “He leaves you presents, doesn’t he?” I usually remind him.

This year may be the last year to keep the magic alive. It may be the only year left that all three of my kids will immediately obey at the mere mention of the threat of getting on the naughty list. It may be the last year that they insist on leaving out milk and cookies for Santa, and even carrots for the reindeer. It may be the last year that they write letters to Santa actually believing they make it to the North Pole. It makes me sad that it may be the last year that they will get up at the crack of dawn (although that is no earlier than usual around here!) and run downstairs to see what Santa left and then jump up and down in excitement.

I am just not ready to give that up. I know as they find out, my older sons will play along for their little brother, but it won’t be the same. So if getting a silly elf can keep the wonder and amazement going and allows my boys to be “little” for one more year, then count me in.

I have officially crossed over to a place I never thought I’d go… Elf on the Shelf land.

 

 

An Attitude of Gratitude

Being Grateful All Year Long

Being Grateful All Year Long

Every year during the month of November, we see the 30 days of thankfulness challenge… and that’s wonderful. I know that with Thanksgiving coming up, I am typically more mindful of all the people and things in my life that I am thankful for as well. With Thanksgiving less than one week away, here is a great idea to get kids (and adults!) in a more thankful frame of mind: Make a Thankful Tree.

Work on this during Thanksgiving week with the kids or have a few leaves at each place setting and as you sit down for Thanksgiving dinner, have each person write what they are thankful for on one or two leaves and decorate the Thankful Tree together as a family.

Really easy– and inexpensive– to do:

  • Gather a few small branches or twigs from trees in your yard
  • Arrange in a large vase
  • Make leaves out of construction paper or card stock (click here for a leaf pattern)
  • Punch small hole at one end
  • Tie strings in approximately 1″ loops to hang on branches
Photo via: hallmark.com

Photo via: hallmark.com

This can be used as a centerpiece for your Thanksgiving table or just a beautiful autumn decoration. I really also like that you can use this leaf pattern, or any festive leaves that you cut out, in several decorative ways.  Use as: place cards, labels for food at an hor d’oeuvre table, tie around the stem of a wine glass as name cards.

Photo via: hallmark.com

Photo via: hallmark.com

 

While it is important to have a thankful heart around Thanksgiving, I want to make a concerted effort to display this gratitude all year long– for 365 days in a year.  Start each day with an attitude of gratitude.

So how do you keep a thankful heart every day of the year?  Life gets busy and it is so easy to get bogged down with all of the things that make us unhappy, rather than focusing on all of the good that is present in our lives every day.  Here is a list of ten ways to keep a thankful heart and attitude throughout the entire year:

  1. Read a daily devotional, like Our Daily Bread
  2. Subscribe to a daily email that is inspirational or motivational, such as The Daily Quotes or Daily Inspiring Quotes
  3.  Keep a thankful journal
  4.  Volunteer at a local hospital, retirement home, or community center
  5.  Serve food at a local soup kitchen
  6.  Donate gently used items to charity
  7.  Thank God for all the blessings in your life, each and every day
  8.  Say “Thank you” to others often
  9.  Smile more
  10. Speak positively rather than focusing on the negative

10 Ways for New Parents to Save Money

piggy bank

Finding out that you are expecting a baby is one of the most exciting and happy events in life! And even when you find out how much this little bundle of joy is going to cost you—the average cost of raising a child is about $245,000—it is still worth it because nothing compares to holding that sweet little baby in your arms. There are some things that you can do though, to save a bit of money:

1. Don’t buy a diaper bag. You won’t need to buy a diaper bag. Seriously, you won’t. Diaper bags can be very expensive, usually starting at about $30 and ranging up to several hundred dollars! And trust me, if you buy one, you are going to be sorry that you wasted your money. There are several places that will actually give you a diaper bag for FREE:

  • your obstetrician’s office often has free diaper bags (with formula samples inside!)
  • vendors at baby fairs hand out diaper bags, among other samples
  • the hospital also gives out free diaper bags and other samples

I learned about all of these free diaper bags after I had already purchases a diaper bag, which I ended up not liking as much as the free ones! If the doctor’s office or hospital are busy or forget to offer these to you, make sure you ask for samples, coupons, or a diaper bag.

2. Don’t stock up on diapers. Ok, if you are a planner, like me, this one is going to be tough. Yes, you will need some diapers to get you started the first few weeks, but don’t buy a bunch of size 1 and 2 diapers until you see what works best for you and your baby. Some brands of diapers that my friends said worked so well for them—never had a leaky diaper—just didn’t prove to be the same experience for me and my baby. You will probably want to test out a few brands until you see what works for you the best, and trust me, it isn’t always the name brand, sometimes store brands are just as good (maybe even better!).

3. Don’t stock up on formula either. Start out using just one type of formula, don’t test these out initially. But you should not buy several bulk cases of it until you know that your baby will be ok with it. You don’t want to find out that you’ve spent hundreds of dollars on a formula that your baby won’t be able to use because of lactose intolerance or acid reflux.

4. Sign up for baby food, formula, and diaper coupons. You can sign up for these easily online. Some of the main ones to check out: Pampers, Huggies, Similac, Gerber

5. Sign up for store rewards programs. Many stores offer rewards programs, such as Babies’ R Us. You earn points for each dollar spent that will earn you coupons for future use in the store, so you can save money on future purchases for your little one! You may also notice codes on products that you buy, such as Huggies and Pampers. Those points can be entered online to earn items, such as a free photobook from Shutterfly!

6. Use cloth diapers. If you really want to save money on diapers, you may want to opt for cloth diapers. Of course, there are some up-front costs for this, but considering that in one month’s time, a newborn will go through about 300 diaper changes (a bigger baby will probably use about 150 diapers a month), you will probably end up spending about $35-75 per month on disposable diapers!

7. Choose breast milk over formula. If you choose to nurse your baby, you will be taking advantage of a free source of food! Besides the antibodies and health benefits to your child, the money savings are a very nice benefit.

8. Use store apps or price matching. It can take a bit of planning to search for sale items ahead of time, but many stores will give you discounts on baby items. Target has created the “Cartwheel” application for smartphones, which offers different discount on items each week. You can typically save 5-10% on store brand baby items, including diapers, wipes, and baby food. Another great way to save is to price match; stores such as Walmart will accept competitor ads on any item in there store, including name brand baby products.

9. Utilize a flex spending account for medical bills or childcare. If your employer offers a Flex Spending account, take advantage of it for medical expenses or childcare for your baby. Money comes out of your paycheck, pre-tax—so you will reduce the amount of taxes withheld from each check, which will increase your spendable cash each month!  You should be able to find several free income tax calculators online that can take the guesswork out of the entire process.

10. Buy gender neutral items. As tempting as it is to run out and buy everything blue that you see as soon as you find out that you’re having a boy, try to restrain yourself if you plan on having more than one child. It can be very expensive to purchase everything that you will need for a baby when you are expecting your first child… and it doesn’t get any cheaper if you need to replace all of these items when your second child is a girl. Items such as strollers, receiving blankets, sleepers, even nursery decorations, can be gender neutral so that they could work whether you have a boy or girl. A little thinking ahead can save you big bucks!

Tips for Planning a Baby Shower on a Budget

Here are some great money-saving ideas for throwing a fabulous baby shower on a budget from Guest Author: Kimberly McLeod, Creator of Life is a Lullaby

A few weeks ago I threw my best friend a baby shower. If you haven’t checked out the details, you can view it here: This Little Piggy Baby Shower.

Throwing a party is never a cheap undertaking, but you don’t have to break the ‘piggy’ bank doing it.

Here are a few tips to save money when planning a baby shower.

5 Tips for Planning a Baby Shower on a Budget

1. Make your own invitations. You can easily invite all the guests via email these days (unless it’s your grandma who doesn’t have a computer – in that case, you may need to do one hand written). I like paperless post. They have a lot of free options to choose from and you can easily see who has RSVP’d. Another option is to create the invitation on the computer and email it out. Finally, if you want to mail out invitations – there’s still a way to save. There are a lot of free baby shower invitations online that you can customize or print off.

Here’s a really unique and fun idea from Oh Happy Day:

Invitation in a Box // Oh Happy DayInvitation in a Box // Oh Happy Day

2. Cook your own food. Getting catering can almost double or triple your costs. Yes it takes more work to make the food yourself, but you’ll save a TON and people will appreciate it more because you made it from scratch. Guests may also offer to bring something. Take them up on this offer if you don’t feel like you can handle it all yourself! Ask another friend to help you on the day of also. Getting a few other friends to bring some appetizers or punch can really help with the cost. I like to serve buffet style that way you can arrange all the appetizers on a table. Cold cuts or egg and tuna sandwiches are always a favourite and usually cost friendly & easy to make.

3. Create your own games. Don’t waste money purchasing special cards or papers for games. There are thousands of ideas for games that don’t cost a thing to do but are still fun!

Here are a few low cost game ideas:

  • Guess the weight of the mom & dad to be when they were born
  • The person with the closest birthday to the due date wins a prize
  • Guess the size of the belly using ribbon
  • Guess that baby song/celebrity baby etc
  • Wishes for baby – guests write out 2-3 wishes for the baby and the mom to be gets to take this home with her

4. Craft the decorations yourself. You can create your own DIY diaper bouquets, tassels, garlands, and pom poms and they can look fantastic!

Here are some tutorials on how to make some DIY decorations:

How to make your own…

Diaper bouquet // Life is a Lullaby

Tassels // Little Mommy Nest
tassel

Easy Streamer Garland // Oh Happy Day

Fringey Streamers // Oh Happy Day
streamers1

Pom Poms // Two Twenty One

5. Get Free Printables for the Finishing Touch. You can find a lot of free printables online that you can create to make cupcake toppers, the invitation etc. Just google your theme and “free printables” and you’ll be surprised what you might find. I threw a ‘This Little Piggy” shower-theme and snagged these free printables from Lil Luna.

Here are a few baby shower free sets from Pottery Barn Kids:

Bundle of Bots // Pottery Barn Kids
bots-templates

Pink or Blue // Pottery Barn Kids
pink-or-blue-templates

Guest Author: Kimberly McLeod

Life is a Lullaby

Kimberly is a new mom, a wife, a marketer, and a curator of ideas. Let Life is a Lullaby inspire your everyday dreams! You can follow Kimberly on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.

10 Tips to Help Your Baby Sleep Better at Night

sweet, sleeping angel...

sweet, sleeping angel…

If you are the parent of a newborn, or even a toddler, you are probably a bit sleep deprived. While there may not be a magical wand to wave and make your little one sleep twelve hours in a row, there are some things that you can do to help your baby—and you—get a more restful night of sleep.

 

Bedtime routine

Newborn babies learn from their experiences what is going on in the world around them. Of course, it takes a while, but if you are diligent to put a routine in place that leads up to bedtime, such as bath time, then they will grow to expect that bedtime is coming after bath.

 

Milk

It may be an old wives tale that warm milk before bed helps you sleep better, but it certainly does seem to have some benefits, if for no other reason than making sure your little one’s tummy is full. It is hard to go to sleep—and stay asleep—when you’re hungry. Even as kids get a little older, they may still like to drink a cup of milk (or have a serving of yogurt or cottage cheese) before bed.

 

Quiet activities

Babies or toddlers can remain engaged for quite a while when something is going on around them that they find interesting. Just before bedtime is probably not the best time for a loud toy with lots of moving parts. So put the loud toys with lots of moving parts away and do quieter activities, such as coloring or reading.  Even a baby can sit on your lap and enjoy listening to a bedtime story.

 

Turn down the lights

Yes, your baby probably can fall asleep any time of day no matter what is going on around them when they are really tired, but turning the lights down low is another indicator that bedtime is near.

 

Sing or play soft lullaby music

Hearing a certain song can also indicate that it is bedtime. Not to mention the soft, soothing sounds of lullabies actually encourage relaxation and sleep.  Check out these wonderful lullaby CDs, or just softy sing your child to sleep, such as: Baby Mine, Classics Songs for Bedtime, Bedtime Prayers: Lullabies and Peaceful Worship, Bedtime Mozart: Classical Lullabies for babies, or Piano Lullabies: Babies’ Bedtime Favorites.

 

Ambient noise is a good thing

Have you ever tried to fall asleep in a quiet room that you are able to hear every crack and creak of your house? It’s not easy to do. Running a humidifier or a small fan can give enough background noise to drown out those bumps in the night and enable a better night of sleep.  Or you can try something like the Sleep Easy Sound Conditioner, white noise machine to see if that will help soothe your little one.

 

Keep the daytime sounds going at naptime

Make naptime drastically different than bedtime. Encourage naps during the day in a light-filled room that has typical daytime sounds. Don’t bother pulling the drapes or turning down the television; this extreme difference can help your baby differentiate between daytime and nighttime.

 

Don’t nap in the bedroom

Put your baby down for a nap in a bassinet or pack-n-play in a location other than your child’s bedroom. This is just another cue for your little one that indicates the difference between when they are expected to sleep a short time at naptime or for a longer period of time at night.

 

Don’t hold your baby while they nap

If you get in the habit of holding your baby the entire time that they nap during the day, they may get used to being held while they sleep—and that may carry over to nighttime as well. Of course, this doesn’t mean that you can’t hold your baby while they snooze at all. Snuggle your little one as much as you want, but putting them down to sleep, without being in your arms, should be a part of each naptime too.

 

When your baby cries, go to him

This topic is somewhat controversial. Some people tell you not to run to your child when they cry at night; however, as a parent, I cannot leave my baby in a dark room by themselves, crying in the middle of the night. Your baby needs to know that when they cry, for whatever reason, that you are there for them. If they don’t need a bottle or a diaper change, they may just need a little comfort in order to go back to sleep.  But keep in mind, going to see what is wrong or changing a diaper does not mean that you should have to stay up all night…

 

While those first months are a bit disrupting to your regular night of sleep, it does get better.  Know that you are going to be tired—and make an effort to just be tired, not grouchy with it!  Yes, this can be a struggle, but my husband and I decided that it would be better to simply be tired, not tired and grumpy with each other or the baby.

Honestly, looking back, some of those middle-of-the-night snuggles in the rocking chair, in which I had to struggle to stay awake, were pretty wonderful times.

Priceless memories.

 

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Making S’More Memories

smores

It never ceases to amaze me that some of the things that my kids get the most excited about in life are so simple. I mean, if my husband and I say that we are going to get a little fire going in the fire pit, the kids jump up and down likes it’s Christmas… well almost just like that. None the less, they excitedly jump around and start yelling for s’mores. Now why is this so exciting? We make s’mores all the time using the microwave to slightly melt the chocolate and puff up the marshmallows.

But that just doesn’t compare to the experience of making s’mores over the open fire.

DSC_0106

Besides the fact that they get to have extremely sharp roasting sticks, which is a novelty in and of itself for them, they get to “play with fire.” As you can imagine, having three boys, I try to avoid sharp objects… and fire… and sugar, the other major component of this. Maybe that is why it is so exciting. This combines sugar, sharp objects, and fire– all of the forbidden elements of my little boys’ lives.

Of course, it wouldn’t be as exciting if someone didn’t catch a marshmallow on fire either. In fact, I think that we may lose as many marshmallows to being consumed by fire as what actually end up edible. My middle son always says that he didn’t mean for the marshmallow catch on fire, but really, when he holds the marshmallow a bit too close to the flame, and it actually does catch on fire, I think he is secretly satisfied with himself.

smore braylon

Even though we did this several times this summer, and now into fall, there is something special about the family gathering together around the fire pit, talking, laughing, and just enjoying a little family time. It’s not a big event, but it’s fun. It’s not expensive, bit it’s memorable.

I hope that when my boys grow up and have families of their own, and when they roast marshmallows over a fire to make s’mores, they can’t help but be drawn back in time to the memories made this year.

smore chase derek2

Even though this ends up to be a sticky, face-and-clothes-covered-in-chocolate-kind-of-mess for my trio, I can’t help but be a bit amused by it all.

Spending time together as a family is what it is all about– making memories together by just being together and actually enjoying being around each other.  There are so many ways to spend quality family time together, and it doesn’t cost anything:

  • Movie night– my kids love to pick a movie that we watch together as a family– of course, enjoyed with some popcorn and M&M’s!
  • Game night– I don’t know why, but it is something special for the kids when my husband and I play the Wii or xbox with them.  They play all the time by themselves or even with each other, but they get so excited for us to play with them.
  • Picnic in the park– go to a local park.  Let the kids play, then take lunch, a snack, or just popsicles to enjoy.
  • Ice cream sundae bar– letting the kids have ice cream is one thing, but let them top it with hot fudge, caramel, sprinkles, whipped cream, etc… it is all of a sudden an exciting event.
  • Camp out at home– yes, this one is going to probably have your back hurting for a couple of days (at least it did for me!).  We set up a tent in the basement in the winter and put sleeping bags in it and the kids loved it!  I loved that they had fun, but I also loved sleeping in my bed the next night.  It makes it worth it though that a year later, they are still talking about the camp out in the basement and wondering when we can do another.
  • Outdoor fun– take a hike, go bike riding, play basketball, soccer… you get the idea.

I see for myself, and any parent will tell you, that the time that you have with your children flies by all too quickly.  Make the most of each day.  Take the time to make s’more memories.

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