5 Steps to a Calm Evening


By Erin Kurt, B.Ed,

Whether you work outside the house or stay at home full-time, the toughest part of the day is the same: those frantic early evening hours when there are mouths to feed, homework to do, and cranky kids to handle. The trick is to streamline your to-do’s so you can feel calmer and focus on what counts – spending time with your family. Here’s how.

1. Ease into the Evening

Instead of walking in the door after work or errands and immediately launching into another chore, allow time and space to downshift into evening mode. It’s basically about transitioning. In other words, giving yourself and your family that unwind time.

Creating a calming ambiance, by turning off the TV and playing soothing classical, jazz, or instrumental music, can instantly reset the emotional tone of the house. Another idea is to dim the lights and light a few candles – it makes for a warm, cozy atmosphere that will relax the family.

Another transition idea is to create a ritual. Set vegetables and dip or cheese and bread on the counter and serve juice or water in fancy wine goblets. This will not only take the ravenous edge off so you avoid meltdowns before dinner, but it will feel special and establish the transition time.

2. Create a Dinner System

Rushing to get dinner on the table is a major source of evening mayhem, but a little bit of preplanning can help you power through with a minimum of stress. Use weekends to chart out your nightly dinners, grocery shop, and even preassemble parts of a meal when possible. Consider writing a weekly plan and checking the calendar to see which nights are going to be particularly busy – so you know when frozen pizzas or easy-prep meals are a must.

3. Keep the Kids Busy

All the shortcuts in the world won’t help if you’re constantly being interrupted, so a little creativity may be needed to get the kids out from underfoot.

Make the time you cook be about you and let your older kids, who should be doing homework, know that you are there only to be asked a very important question. Other than that, you are off limits. For younger children, it might be necessary to involve them in the meal preparation or to put on an appropriate DVD. When my son was younger I used to put him in his highchair and talk in an animated way – sort of my own version of a cooking show. Now that he’s older, he helps put ingredients in bowls and pots and stirs just about everything!

4. Plan Homework Time

To avoid last-minute cries of “Mom, I haven’t done my homework yet,” having a homework routine is a must.

After the kids have had a healthy snack and 30 minutes downtime after school, they should begin their homework so that it is completed before dinner.

5. Share the Work… and a Break

Dividing tasks between you and your partner can make family time more serene for both of you. It might be that when your husband walks in the door, it’s his turn to take the baby for 30 minutes so you can get dinner started. Then, after 30 minutes, you take the baby back and your partner has 30 minutes to change and unwind. This way you’ll both be refreshed enough to start your evening together.

Be flexible with this. If your partner is stressed when walking in the house, offer a later-in-the-evening task, such as washing dishes or packing lunches for the next day.

All in all, evenings can be calm if routines and decisions are made ahead of time. Decide what you and your partner truly value and then set up some systems to make it work.

About the Author:
Erin Kurt, B.Ed, spent 16 years as a teacher and nanny around the world. Now, she applies her expertise as a parenting expert and author of Juggling Family Life. You can learn more about Erin and her simple, loving parenting method, and subscribe to her weekly parenting tips e-zine at ErinParenting.com.

Outrageous Orange Recipes for Your Family

By Cheryl Tallman

Once considered a delicacy and quite expensive, the orange holds the prominent position of the 3rd most popular fruit in the USA (just in case you are wondering, apples and bananas are in the first and second place).

Age to introduce: Over 12 months. All citrus fruits are recommended for late introduction, because they are known to be high allergens.

Toddler Treat: Orange Julius

Growing up in California brings back many memories of oranges, but one that is particularly vivid is walking down the road to the Orange Julius stand with my brother and sister, and buying an Orange Julius to quench our thirst. There is nothing like the taste of this delicious drink on a hot summer day. This recipe is simple and comes very close to recreating our childhood memories. We hope you enjoy it.


•           1 cup French Vanilla Soy creamer (Silk brand is great)

•           1 cup of fresh squeezed orange juice (2-4 oranges)

•           6-8 ice cubes


Place all ingredients in a blender and process until smooth. Serve in a cup with a straw.

More orange treats

At the market: Oranges are always picked when they are ripe. Choose ones that are firm, heavy for their size (they will be juiciest). The skin should be smooth. Thin-skinned oranges are juicier than thick-skinned varieties, and small- to medium-sized fruits are sweeter than the largest oranges.

Storage: Oranges keep for up to two weeks in the refrigerator. But they keep almost as well at room temperature, retaining nearly all of their vitamin content even after two weeks. They will also yield more juice if kept at room temperature.

There’s not much better than fresh squeezed orange to wake up your morning. Get your kids involved by teaching them how to squeeze the oranges — even tiny toddler hands can do it. Here are other ideas for your family to eat more oranges in your meals:

Orange Pancakes: For a nice, fresh, eye- opening flavor, replace half of the liquid needed in your favorite pancake recipe for orange juice.

Orange Zested Muffins: Add 1-2 teaspoons of orange zest to a basic muffin mix. Dried cranberries and almonds taste excellent with orange flavor, so you can’t go wrong by adding a 1/2 a cup of each to the recipe too.

Citrus-y Spinach Salad: Add drained mandarin oranges (buy the kind in juice, not syrup), toasted almonds, chopped hard boiled egg, and thin slices of red onion to a mound of fresh baby spinach. Toss with a poppy seed or sesame ginger vinaigrette dressing.

Mediterranean Salsa: Combine 1 cup of orange sections or mandarin oranges (in juice), ½ cup green or black olives, and ¼  cup of thin sliced red onion with 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil and 1 tablespoon lime juice. Serve over fresh grilled fish. Garnish with chopped mint.

Summer is prime time for kabobs! Try making Orange Ginger Teriyaki Kabobs: Add ½ cup of fresh squeezed orange juice and 1 inch of thinly sliced fresh ginger to your favorite teriyaki marinade. Cut an assortment of veggies, tofu and meats into 1-2 inch cubes/chunks and marinate: veggies/fish for 15 minutes and meats/tofu 1-4 hours (or overnight). Slide marinated foods onto the skewers alternating the flavors. Fire up the BBQ. Place the kabobs on the grill and cook until done, about 5-10 minutes. Turn a couple times during cooking and baste frequently with marinade.

Foods that work well for kabobs:

•           Green or Red Pepper

•           Extra firm or baked tofu

•           White or Green Onions

•            Asparagus

•           Whole mushrooms (especially Shitakes!)

•            Zucchini and yellow squash

•            Pineapple

•            Chicken

•           Firm fish (Swordfish, Tuna)

•           Beef

About the author: Cheryl Tallman is the co-founder of Fresh Baby, creators of the award-winning So Easy Baby Food Kit, and author of the So Easy Baby Food Basics: Homemade Baby Food in Less Than 30 Minutes Per Week and So Easy Toddler Food: Survival Tips and Simple Recipes for the Toddler Years. Visit Cheryl online at www.FreshBaby.com for more delicious tips.

Sibling Rivalry Help


Solving Sibling Strife

By Jody Johnston Pawel, LSW, CFLE

Some parents “let kids work it out” by doing nothing, but if the children use insults, humiliation, or physically duke it out, then it will only make matters worse!

Some parents will dive into the action and solve problems for their children. While this may bring peace and order quickly, it robs children of an opportunity to learn and practice resolving conflicts.

The healthiest approach is to teach children how to work out conflicts with each other, then allow them time to use the skills. If they don’t, then you intervene in a way that helps them solve the problem themselves, but with your guidance.

Here are some more practical tools to use:

A Helpful Way to Look at Sibling Relationships

Any two people in a relationship will likely experience conflict at some point.

How children handle these conflicts and relationships determines whether they will lead to sibling rivalry, which is when the sibling relationship becomes competitive and their treatment of teach other becomes destructive.

Our goal is not to insist that our children love or even like each other, but that they treat each other with respect, even when working out their conflicts.

Six Strategies for Preventing Rivalry

Many sibling conflicts are preventable if parents can address the causes of sibling rivalry. In my Solving Sibling Strife teleseminar, I offer the following:

1. When a new child joins the family, involve the older child from pregnancy and thereafter, instead of pushing away the child out of fear he or she might hurt the baby. Too often, this reject only fuels the child’s resentment and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy!

2. Avoid the Fair & Equal Trap. Instead, give according to individual needs. For example,

  • Instead of “I love you both the same,” describe why you love that child specially.
  • Instead of buying “equal” gifts, give according to need/desire
  • Instead of spending “equal” time, give according to needs and make it quality time.

3. Avoid Comparisons. Instead, simply say what you need to say to one child without any reference to the other.

4.  Avoid putting children in roles and using labels — even good ones. They foster resentment and jealousy.

5. Avoid Unhealthy Competition. In unhealthy competition, the pressure to win is more important than the fun of playing or the value of the skills we learn in the process. When parents encourage their children to race, to motivate them into action, there will always be a loser — usually the youngest or weakest child. Losing only discourages children more — and the more discouraged the child becomes the more likely the child will resent the winner and retaliate later. Instead, make an activity fun by singing a song or setting a timer to see how quickly the task can be done, with no winners or losers.

6. When disagreements escalate into fights, it is a symptom of the

feelings the children have but have difficulty expressing.  So allow children to have and express negative feelings about their siblings — as long as they express them respectfully.

Two Quick Responses that Can Stop Conflicts or Fights

1. Problem-Solving “On The Run”:

Sentence 1: acknowledge feelings and what the problem seems to be. Sentence 2: Ask what the child(ren) can do to solve the problem.

2. Tell them they need to solve the problem on their own, respectfully. If they can’t/won’t, tell them if you need to solve it for them, they might not like your solution AND they will have to do problem solving with you later to come up with a longer-term solution.

If they can’t work it out on their own

Use a 3-step process from The Parent’s Toolshop book that I call F-A-X Listening:

1. F-ocus on Feelings

Call a meeting and explain the purpose

Explain the ground rules

Write down each child’s feelings and concerns.  Read them aloud.

Allow each child time for rebuttal

2. A-sk helpful questions

See if you can help them identify what the real issue is. For example, if they are arguing over the remote but when you listen to their feelings you hear the issue is really personal space, that’s the problem you want them to solve.

3. X-amine possible solutions

Invite everyone to suggest as many solutions as possible.

Write down all the ideas.

Have them decide on the solutions they can both/all agree to.

Follow-up to see how things are working.

All it takes is doing this F-A-X problem-solving process a few times with verbal children and they will start using the process when you tell them to “work things out respectfully.”

Get more information from Jody Johnston Pawel, LSW, CFLE, second-generation parent educator, president of Parent’s Toolshop® Consulting, parenting expert to the media worldwide, and author of 100+ practical parenting resources, including the award-winning book, The Parent’s Toolshop at: http://www.parentstoolshop.com/

Online Ancestry Search: Where to Start

Finding Information on Your Family Ancestors Online

There’s only so much you can do to find information about your ancestors from using old family records, newspapers, and such. Sometimes you have to search elsewhere, particularly if you’ve run into a road block. Finding information on your family ancestors online is one way to get past those road blocks and get back on track.

Obviously you’ll need to have a starting place when you’re searching for your family online. You may have a list of names, birth and death dates, and places of birth or death. These are a great place to begin, no matter how you go about finding your ancestors.

Obituaries are printed for everyone who passes away. If your loved one passed away after 1962, you can search the Social Security Death Index to determine exact date of death. The index will provide the person’s birth date, death date, and the place they last resided.  You may also want to try Genealogy Bank which has obituaries from over 1100 newspapers dating as far back at 1977.

If you already have some information about family members from the past, you may want to search for them on other online websites. Some genealogy websites are free to access and those might be the best place to start looking if you’re new to genealogy. After you’ve learned more about your family you may want to sign up for a subscription on the membership-based genealogy sites.

Free genealogy websites you may want to check out when finding information on your family ancestors include:
* Rootsweb.com
* MyHeritage.com
* FamilySearch.org
* EllisIsland.org
* CyndisList.com
* USGenWeb.com

Each of these websites will provide you with search functions as well as give you information on the best methods to search for your family online. Many genealogy websites also have forums where people can ask for information from people around the world.

The better-known genealogy websites require paid membership. These include Ancestry.com, Genealogy.com, WorldVitalRecords.com, and OneGreatFamily.com. These paid websites can be as little as $3.33 per month or as much as $24.95 per month depending upon if you choose to access to files in the United States or worldwide. Normally you will be billed annually for your membership.

If you’re not sure a paid membership site is right for you, most of them have trial memberships between one and two weeks. That will give you ample time to do some searching, find information that will be helpful in locating your family members, and let you know if there is a need to sign up.

As with any attempt at finding information on your family ancestors online, be sure to spell their name correctly. If you’re having problems finding them, you may want to consider that the surname (last name) may have changed over time. Try variations of spellings to ensure you find the people you’re looking for.

Get Back to Family Dinner


Engage with your kids each night with help from Dr. Lynne Kenney. Includes creative “theme ideas” for every day of the week.

Lynne KenneyGet Back to Family Dinner

By Dr. Lynne Kenney

Families today are busy. With after school sports and other activities driving our lives, a sit down dinner often falls off the “to-do list.” But a family dinner is more than just eating vegetables: research shows that sitting down to dinner is an important protective factor in maintaining the health and well-being of your children.

Dinnertime is the perfect opportunity to relax, connect and talk about your day. It’s a non-threatening environment that can really help your kids open up to you and tell you what’s going on in their lives. It’s your chance to get to know one another, learn about your likes and dislikes and create memories. Make it relaxed, have fun and enjoy.

Not sure where to start, here are two steps to getting back to family dinner:

1. Establish a set dinnertime: By making it part of your routine, it becomes a comforting norm. Dinner is anticipated and expected. You don’t really have to be at the dinner table in your home. Make dinner wherever you are. Family dinner can take place anywhere, by the soccer field, in the driveway or while waiting for your daughter to get out of gymnastics. The key is to be present with your children, engage with them, take the time to get to know who they are as they change and grow.

2. Engage your children in activities that extend beyond the dinner hour: Help your kids do their homework after dinner.  Play card games, make-up math fact fun, or paint, draw and write songs. Any activity that brings you together makes mealtime meaningful. Take your time, talk, laugh and talk for minutes or hours.

On the nights when you eat at the table, you can even establish a specific theme for each night of the week:

Monday Night is Discovery Night
Bring the “Discovery Box” to the dinner table. Place unique, familiar or fascinating objects in a box and allow each child to pull an object and talk about it. After dinner go on-line or take a trip to your local library to learn more about topics related to the things in your discovery box.

Tuesday Night is Reading Night
Prepare early readers by bringing everyday objects to the table that have words or print on them, such as cereal boxes and other items in your cupboard. Play reading and guessing games using the printed materials. Play games with the words, making silly sentences, tongue twisters and fun stories.

Wednesday Night “You are a STAR”

Play find your “Star Word.” Assign one word to each child. That is the word that makes them A STAR at this meal. Frequently occurring words such as “The, and, it, him, her, she, he” are good beginning words. Then have each child bring a book to the table, choose a page, and name how many times their STAR word appears. That number becomes the child’s “Magic Number” for the night and every time he encounters that number for the rest of the evening he gets to make a wish or discuss his current life dreams and aspirations.

Thursday Night is Show and Tell

Play show and tell at your family table. Have your children bring an object, a piece of art, a song or something to share. Shine the “spot-light” on one child at a time and allow only him or her to share.

Friday Night is Family History Night
Bring family photos, heirlooms or pieces of family history to the table and talk about your family ancestry and historical family members’ life experiences.

Saturday Night is Game Night

Play board games, cards, chess or checkers at the table after dinner to enhance your family experience.

Sunday Night You’re on Broadway!

Put on a show, dance, sing, do a skit. Laugh and “lift each other up” with genuine compliments, enthusiasm and joy.

Dinnertime is your time to connect so whether stationary or on the run, you enhance family relationships and help your children develop trust when you extend your family dinner with family fun!

About the Author:
Dr. Kenney is an avid writer, blogger and media producer. She co-produced six videos with BabyFirst TV, and appears as a resident expert on Sonoran Living ABC 15. Lynne hosts The Family Coach Solution Studio on BlogTalk Radio. Her Better Living Content has appeared on ABC, the Montel Williams Show, and various child/family websites (including Ladies Home Journal and Better Homes and Gardens). Dr. Kenney is a consultant to The International Nanny Association and The National Head Start Association, for whom she was National Ambassador, 2007. Find more at www.lynnekenney.com.

Valentine Party! 11 Games Kids Love

If you are planning a Valentine’s Day party for children, games are essential. Here are some ideas appropriate for various age groups.

Valentines Day Party Games For Elementary Kids

“Throwing the Smile” Game

Sit everyone in a circle and have one person smile wildly at the rest of the group. Everyone else must sit as stone-faced as possible. Then the person smiling dramatically wipes the smile off her face (by literally wiping her hand over her  mouth in a swiping motion) and “throws” the smile to the next person in the circle. That person puts the smile on, and again makes a wild, silly smile at the group, then wipes it off and moves on. As soon as someone smirks or smiles that is not supposed to be smiling at that moment, he or she is out. It’s harder than it sounds and kids often end up in fits of laughter.

Pillow Race
Bring in two large stuffed hearts (either pillows or just plush stuffed hearts). Divide the kids into two teams and tell them they must run to the finish line with the heart between their legs. (They won’t be running so much as stumbling forward.) Once they return to the group, they should take the heart and give it to the next child, who puts it between their legs and so on. Whichever group finishes the entire relay first wins.

Wrap the Gift
Give the children a couple rolls of toilet paper and instruct them to wrap another child mummy style. This is a popular game at Halloween, but in this case they are wrapping a present. Divide the kids into two teams and time them. The team that finishes first, wins, and gets to put a big red bow on their “package”.

Famous Couples
Help elementary students remember some of the great couples by having them complete the match to a famous other half. For example, if you say “Romeo” their answer would be “Juliet” (hopefully). To play this game, divide the kids into two groups and give each a buzzer or similar type item. Present the famous start of the pair. You might say, “peanut butter” and if one of the teams knows the match is “jelly” they will buzz in with their answer.
Some other options are:
“Eggs and (bacon)”
“Coffee and (sugar or cream is OK here)”
“Cinderella and (Prince Charming)”
“Cookies and (milk)”

Heart Stacking Contest
Kids love those little Valentine’s candy conversation hearts available everywhere around Valentine’s Day. Create a heart-stacking contest, which is a lot of fun and can create some team spirit. Initially, each child will get many hearts. Plan to have a few bags on hand if you are doing this game with a classroom full of kids.

Have them build as high as they can with the hearts within in a given period of time (30 seconds to a minute is plenty). If their contraption falls, they are out. Keep playing the game over and over again until you are down to two final contestants. Have everyone cheer him or her on as they try to build the highest (and longest lasting) tower of hearts. Be sure to have a prize for the winning architect.

Valentine’s Bingo
All kids love a good game of Bingo. For a seated game that might help the kids rest for a minute, play a game of Valentine’s Day-themed bingo. The bingo squares might have pictures on them like hearts, flowers, cupid, arrows and the like. Be sure to have a prize for the winner, and play the game over and over so the kids can all have a turn at winning.

Valentines Day Games For Preschoolers

Valentine Fishing
Preschool-age children love to fish. You can create a fishing game with small toy fishing poles and hearts (as fish). Use an empty plastic tub as your “lake” and put into it red hearts cut out of construction paper or cardstock. Each heart is good for a prize. One might be good for a Hershey’s kiss, or other small candy, another might be for a small plastic heart. Put magnets on the cardstock hearts and a magnet on the fishing pole. Then the kids can “fish” for hearts and win a prize at the same time. Each child should only be allowed to “catch” one fish each.

Balloon Races
Preschoolers love balloons and you can create a heart target for them to aim their balloons at. Create a target out of cardboard or heavy cardstock and put it on the floor somewhere. You might want to have several targets on the floor. Give the kids balloons that have been blown up but aren’t tied shut. Let them let go of the balloons in the direction of the target and see where their balloon lands. Be forewarned: kids will want to play this over and over again, so either have plenty of balloons ready to go (perhaps held closed with a clothespin) or have plenty of adults around who want to blow up balloon after balloon.

You can also play a similar game by putting a heart target into a box or laundry basket and having the children try to hit the target with an inflated balloon.  Be sure to provide prizes for everyone!

“Cupid, Cupid, Love” and “Cupid Says”

Preschool age children love a good game of “Duck Duck Goose” or “Simon Says”. For Valentine’s Day, you can put a twist on these classic games. Have the kids play a game of “Cupid, Cupid, Love” instead of “Duck, Duck, Goose” or have them play “Cupid Says” instead of “Simon Says”. Be sure to add a smooch at the end of each order in “Cupid Says” or have the kids incorporate Valentine’s Day activities, like “Cupid says, give your neighbor a hug”.

Valentine 20 Questions

Preschool teachers might want to encourage creative thinking with a little game of “Valentine’s 20 questions”. The teacher can have a visual in mind, which might be a heart, or Cupid, or a card or something relative to the holiday. The teacher says “I’m thinking…:” and the children must ask questions about what the teacher is thinking. The teacher can give tiny clues along the way especially if he or she is losing the interest of the younger children in the group. Whoever figures out what the teacher is thinking can be the next one to begin the next round of 20 questions. Be sure to ask the child what they are thinking before the next round begins or it could go on longer than it needs to!

Pin the Heart on Cupid
Children love “pin the tale on the donkey” so why not “pin the heart on Cupid”? In this game, simply provide each child with a big red heart with his or her name on it. Have a big cutout of Cupid on a wall and blindfold each child, spin him or her around and have them stick their heart on Cupid (there should be adhesive of some sort on the back of the heart). Once everyone has stuck their hearts, let them look at where they ended up.

Easy Homemade Spa Treatments and Beauty Recipes

You don’t need an expensive trip to the spa to rejuvenate. Here are some simple at-home spa treatment recipes you can make yourself.

Sugar Scrub:

Make your own sugar scrub to exfoliate your elbows, knees, back, arms and legs. Just take one cup of brown sugar, one cup of raw oatmeal and one cup of olive oil. Mix the ingredients together in a jar and then apply to dry skin. Stand on a towel or plastic bag and massage slowly in circles. Step right into the shower and rinse off the scrub.

Refreshing foot scrub:

Combine two tablespoons of vegetable oil, two tablespoons of natural sea salt (or beach sand, which you can get at the craft store), three drops of rosemary oil and three drops of peppermint oil. Mix the ingredients into a paste and then massage the paste onto your feet.

Concentrate on rough areas, such as your heels or calluses. When you rinse off the mixture, your feet will be silky smooth.

Botanic Choice has inexpensive vials of essential oils. It’s nice to have a few vials of your favorite scents on hand for aromatherapy and spa treatments. If you’re just getting started with your essential oils collection, try Lavender, Rosemary, and Peppermint oils. We post current Botanic Choice Coupons here >

Pumpkin Facial Mask:

Pumpkin adds moisture to your skin, no matter what your skin type. Just use three tablespoons of pureed pumpkin from a can and one-half teaspoon of honey. If you have normal or oily skin, add one-quarter teaspoon of milk. If you have dry skin, add one-quarter teaspoon of buttermilk.

Once you’ve mixed together all of the ingredients, clean your face using your regular cleanser. Spread the mask over your skin and then leave it on for 15 minutes. Clean off the dried mask with warm water. You can follow it up with rose water (see below) and then apply your moisturizer.

Carrot Avocado Facial Mask:

Combine a mashed carrot, mashed avocado, and a beaten egg with a few tablespoons of honey. Stir well, apply, let sit for about 15 minutes, and then wash off with cool water.

After you’re washed and nourished your skin with the natural face mask above, use grated cucumber or diluted lemon juice as a toner to help tighten your skin and close up your pores. (Remember to keep all ingredients away from the eye area.)

Cuticle softener:

This treatment is simple to use and can prevent jagged nails. Combine a teaspoon of olive oil and a teaspoon of vitamin E oil. Mix them together in a bowl and then massage the oil into your cuticles. After letting the oil soak in for fifteen minutes, you can wash away the excess oil with soap and water.

Lemon softener:

The acid in lemons will work wonders on your rough elbows and rough knees. Cut a lemon in half and then rub it on your rough patches, then rinse it off in the shower. This treatments soften skins and can even lighten dark areas.

Rose Water:

Rose water is a well-known toner and astringent. It costs a lot when you buy it by the bottle, but you can easily make it yourself. Firmly pack rose petals into a cup and place it in a bowl. Pour two cups of boiling water over the top and cover.

Steep the roses until the liquid is cool and then strain out the petals. Refrigerate the water in a sterile glass jar between uses. Apply to the skin with a cotton ball to tone and tighten your skin.

Here are more recipes and ideas on Momscape:
Natural Beauty Recipes
Homemade Beauty Products

Pampering Recipes for Moms