Join us for our Christmas Galore Link Party! Come share your awesome ideas for Christmas decor, party ideas, recipes, activities and anything else!!

While you're here, be sure to enter our giveaway for Shutterfly and Plum District Goodies! The giveaway has been extended to December 2nd and there will be 5 winners!

Friday, September 30, 2011

Motherhood Moment: If you give a mom a break...

A friend of mine posted this on Facebook and I thought it was pretty on target with how I feel some days. I'm pretty sure it's made the rounds through email and Facebook, but things like this are always worth a read...
If you give a mom a break, she'll decide it would be nice to read a book.
As she sits down to read her book, she'll remember that she likes to drink hot chocolate while reading.
When she goes to make the hot chocolate, she'll decide to do a quick load of dishes while it heats up.
When the dishes are done, she'll decide that the counters need a quick wipe-down.
As she wipes down the counters, she'l...l find a stack of school papers to fill out.
She'll sit down to fill out the papers, and realize she can't find a pen.
She'll go to the office to get a pen and see the stack of bills to pay.
After she sits down and pays the bills and does the paperwork, she'll set it all on the kitchen counter, and see the dishrag still laying there.
So, she'll take it down to the laundry, where she will decide to throw a load of laundry in.
By the time she comes upstairs to get her book and hot chocolate, the hot chocolate will be cold.
She'll decide to skip the hot chocolate (better for the waistline) and read in a hot bath instead.
So, she'll go to draw the bath and find the tub full of toys. She'll empty it out, and notice it needs to be cleaned.
So, she'll clean up the tub quick, and also the toilet, since the cleaners are all out.
Finally, she'll start to fill the tub with water for her hot bath. Just as she does, her husband and kids will come home. The hot (now cold) chocolate will be consumed by one child, while the other gets in the tub. And, she'll realize that she really needs a break.
Is anyone else guilty of doing this? I know I am!

Also, I wanted to let you know that since it's General Conference weekend, things will probably be pretty quiet around here for a few days. In case you missed it, you can check out the collection of General Conference Activity Pages/Packets that was posted earlier this week.

Have a great weekend!!!


Thursday, September 29, 2011

10 Tips for Saving Money at the Grocery Store

After writing my Tips for Saving Money post, I thought it would be good to do a post specifically for saving money at the grocery store. I don't know about you, but besides rent, food is probably the biggest chunk of our budget. It's also where, in my opinion, you'll be able to save the most.

I should probably preface this by saying that we don't eat organic (I'd love to, but for right now those things really are out of our price range, even on sale), we don't have any food allergies that we have to work around or anything else that would limit what we can eat. If your family does have things you need to work around, then just implement the things you can!

Also, these are tips you can use without coupons. I'll talk about coupons in a later post.

1. Don't be afraid to try the generic/store brand products. It's true, some of them aren't as tasty. But really I can't tell a difference in most things. There are a few things I don't do generic - peanut butter (has to be Skippy) and my Aveeno lotion are probably the biggest things. You'll save so much money if you aren't particular about the brand. Don't worry that you'll wind up paying more in the end because you won't like it. Some stores have a 100% guarantee on their store brand products. I know that Wal-Mart and Smith's (a Kroger affiliate, so I think all Kroger brands would have it too) both have this policy in place. I don't know for sure, but I would think that Target would offer the same kind of guarantee also. I've used their guarantee  on different occasions at both Wal-Mart and Smith's. Wal-Mart will simply give you a refund but Kroger will actually give you the same product from the National Brand. If a store offers this kind of guarantee, most of the items should say it specifically on the label. If you still can't find it, ask someone at the customer service desk if they offer anything like that.

2. Know the Sales Cycles of your local stores. It doesn't matter if you're using coupons or not - things will go on sale and that's when you should stock up on those things that you know you'll use. Watch the ads for about 6-12 weeks and you'll see that the same sales start to repeat themselves. When an item is at it's lowest price, that's when you need to purchase enough to get you through 6-12 weeks (or however long, based on your sales cycles, until that item will go on sale again). Knowing that Quaker products are always on sale in January and that baking supplies start going on sale in October will save you lots of money! Here are a couple articles that explain the sales cycles a little better than I can.

Grocery Sale Cycles from Living Richly on a Budget
Real Extreme Couponing: Learning Sales Cycles (with a video!) from Southern Savers

3. Compare the price per ounce/unit, not just the price. This is a big one! Some stores make it easier on you and actually put the price per ounce on the shelf tag. but for stores that don't, simply pull out your calculator (or phone, in my case) and do the math. Taking a couple extra seconds to input some numbers is really worth it, to me anyway. The do an ounce/unit comparison, you just need to know the price and the number of ounces or units. Simple! Just divide the price by the ounce/units. For instance, a jumbo pack of diapers includes 23 diapers and costs $8.99. So $8.99/23 = $0.39/diaper. Once you have the per ounce/unit price, you can determine which is the better buy.

4. Take Advantage of reward programs offered by your stores. Nowadays, almost every store has some kind of rewards system. Smith's has their fuel rewards (earning points towards money off of gas purchases), Walgreen has Register Rewards, CVS has Extra Care Bucks, and so forth. Often times, signing up for that silly little card will mean big savings for you in the end. Occasionally, I'll end up waiting until the end of my purchase to have them scan my rewards card. Before they scan my card, my purchase will be around $80. After it scans and lowers the prices, it's down to around $40-$50. And that's even before coupons. Those silly little cards really do help lower your price. Often times, you don't get the sale price without the card. Be careful at places like Walgreens where they print the reward for you to use at a later time. Those little papers are easy to lose and will usually expire within 2 weeks time. Be sure to go back and use them!

5. Don't be mislead by the 10 for $10 sales. There are sales which require you to buy a certain amount of items (often times they're advertised as "Buy 10, get $5.00 off" or something like that). The 10 for $10 sales typically do not require you to actually buy 10 to get them each for $1. That's their way of trying to make you buy more. And, in my experience, the $1 price tag usually isn't that great of a price anyway! $1 for a can of spaghetti sauce? No thanks. I bought it during the case lot sales for $0.88/each! If you question whether or not you actually have to buy 10, speak with customer service at your store.

6. Know the price points at which to buy! I know this kind of ties in with the sales cycles, but it's important to know what are good prices for your area. In my area, I don't buy ground beef unless it's $2.49 or less per pound (it used to be $1.99 or less but the price has been steadily going up and not coming back down). It will probably take about 6-12 weeks (as you see the repeat of the sales cycles) to know what your optimum price points are, but you'll gradually be able to figure it out. If it helps, create a spreadsheet of items that your family uses the most. Take a look at your past receipts and start inputting that data on the spreadsheet. It will help you visually see what the lowest price point is.

7. Always, always, always shop from your list. What's that? You don't have a list? Well you need to start making one. This goes along with the meal planning that I wrote about previously. Plan your meals and make a shopping list based on those meals. Keep your list with you at the store - don't just stuff it in your purse and forget about it. Make sure you have everything before you leave the store. Having to make an extra trip to the store later in the week to pick up some forgotten enchilada sauce could mean picking up extra items and spending more money. Be honest. How often do you really go into the store and only get the one thing you need? Also, stick to your list. Sure, those ding dongs look tempting, but you're trying to stick to a budget!

8. Don't go shopping when you're hungry! You'll be more tempted by those ding dongs if your stomach is grumbling - which means you'll be more likely to throw some unnecessary items in your cart. Try to go after a meal, or at least after a good, healthy snack.

9. When it comes to fresh produce, know which items are in season. Apples and squashes are usually on sale in the fall and grapes are usually on sale during the late summer months. Find out which fruits and veggies are "in season" with this handy list from Of course, what's in season for you will vary based on where you live.

10. Shop ALONE! I know this one can be hard to do. I actually do all my shopping with my mom and Andyroo in tow. I do the couponing and deal finding for both of us and she's so thrilled that she's saving so much that she's willing to help keep an eye on Andyroo. It works for us. You might consider trading babysitting with another mom so you can each go shopping in peace. I also prefer shopping without my husband. He's always finding things that he wants and I always feel bad saying no. He pretty much knows that I don't buy anything unless it's on sale or I have a coupon, but he still asks. I'm not heartless and I'll usually compromise for something like chips or a snack food. But there have been times when he's added as much as $10 worth of stuff to the cart. It doesn't sound like much, but if he tagged along every week, I could be looking at an additional $520/year! Yikes!

Do you have any tips for saving money at the grocery store? I'd love to hear what works for you!!


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Cut Your Own Cheese Sticks

One of Andyroo's favorite snacks is cheese sticks. Not the cheesy bread stick things, but sticks of cheese. I tried buying string cheese instead, but he doesn't like them as much. Neither do I, so I can't blame the kid.

So I started buying these cheese sticks.
There's nothing wrong with them. They're yummy and satisfying...but they're expensive. The cheapest I found them was at Macey's for about $3.99 (with a $1.00 off coupon) for a 10oz package. Wal-Mart had them at an okay price (better per ounce) at $5.49 (without any coupons, though I did use them there too) for a 13.3oz package.

Quite frankly, I was tired of shelling out $4-$5 for less than a pound of cheese! It didn't make any sense to me anymore. And I don't know why I did it for so long. Convenience, apparently!

And then a couple weeks ago I decided to just do it myself. Smith's (a local Kroger-owned grocery store) had their 2lb blocks of cheese on sale for $5.99. Here in Utah (and also in Idaho, I believe), we get a coupon for $1.00 off 2lbs of cheese on, so I printed that baby off and bought me some cheese for cheese sticks!

That's half of the 2lb block. I cut off chunks that were a little less than 1/2 wide.

Then cut those up into sticks, put them in a Ziploc, then back in the fridge. I got about 4 sticks out of each of those chunks for a total of about 52 cheese sticks. They were a little smaller than the Precious cheese sticks, but that's okay.

Andyroo couldn't tell a difference, but my wallet sure did! The 2lbs of cheese sticks lasted us about 2 1/2 weeks. That was with all 3 of us eating them though. And even still, I can handle that price tag much better!


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Framed Fall Letters

Part of the reason I wanted the entryway shelf that I posted about last week is because I want something to decorate. I don't have a mantle or a porch and our entertainment center is just too crowded with the stereo system and the overflowing DVDs.

So now that my shelf is up, I decided it needs to be a little more festive.

It's not a very big shelf, so there isn't a lot of room, but I still think it's cute! And those framed letters were super easy to make. Or at least they would have been if I weren't so indecisive!

The frames are just a 4x6 size - each of them are different and from the D.I. You can't beat $0.50 for a frame, especially since I just painted over them.

I picked 4 fall colors (I used a brown, green, cream, and wine), picked some paper (the hardest part) and them cut out the letters with my Silhouette (the most frustrating part). I think I changed my mind 10 times about the paper I was going to use. Even now, I'm not completely in love with it. I'm sure if I were to scour the racks at the craft store I could find something I LOVED. But I'm trying to be cheap and just use what I have on hand. It's growing on me though.

The inspiration for these letters came from this picture which I found through pinterest and then posted about here a couple weeks ago.

I think I'm going to do something a little more Halloweeny, or at least pumpkinish for the entertainment center. Be sure to check back and see what I come up with!


Thanks to all the fabulous bloggers out there who take the time and effort to host these spectacular parties!! We're linking up here:

Just Something I Whipped Up, Craftastic Monday, Turquoise Lovin', Making the World Cuter Mondays, Making Mondays Marvelous, Creative Me Mondays

Get Your Craft On, Tuesday Confessional, Who's Got Glam, Ta-Da Tuesdays, Tip Me Tuesdays, Take a Look Tuesdays, Show Me What You Got

Whatever Goes Wednesday, Idea Sharing Wednesday, What I Made Wednesday, DIY Under $5, Woot Woot Wednesday, Wow Me Wednesday, Your Whims Wednesday, Lil' Luna Link Party, Hoo's Got Talent

Strut Your Stuff, DIY Diva Thursdays, Hookin' Up With House of Hepworths, Get Your Brag On

Frugal Friday, Creative-ly U, Feature Yourself Friday, Pity Party, Look At Me

Lovely Little Linkup, Weekend Wander

Categorically Crafting

Sunday, September 25, 2011

General Conference Activity Packets

Rather than post an FHE idea this week, I thought it would be a fun to post an activity packet for the upcoming General Conference next weekend (October 1st & 2nd). I thought about being ambitious and making my own, but I haven't been feeling the greatest, so instead ya'll get to partake of the work of some other fabulous people!

And really quickly, I just have to share. I told my husband that I was looking at General Conference activity pages and he said, "Really? That's cool! My mom used to make her own for us." It wasn't said in a condescending way. I just think it's really cool how awesome moms are. My mother-in-law was making her own packets for her kids like 20 years ago!

Anyway, here are a few packets that I found that looked promising...

October 2011 General Conference Packet from - This is geared towards older children who can read and write. They also link you to the packet that the Church creates for primary-aged children.

Conference Activity Sheets from - For primary-aged children. The Conference Journal would be good for older children who can read and write, though there is room for younger children to draw instead.

Conference Packets & Activities from - It doesn't look like they've added any 2011 packets, however they look to be pretty generic (and all the apostles are still the same) so you could easily
"reuse" any of the 2010 versions. I, personally, love that they have a packet geared toward Nursery-aged kids. I think I'll be getting this one for Andyroo. (As a side note, you do NOT have to pay for these, though they have a "donate" option available).

General Conference Packet from - She has an awesome temple matching game (that I know Andyroo will LOVE) that you just simply print and use. She suggests making it into a file folder game which Andyroo would enjoy during church also. There's also a temple lacing page and a coloring sheet of the First Presidency.

2011 General Conference Packets from - This is a project from and They teamed up to make these packets which are similar to the packets posted above. Again, there's an awesome Nursery packet along with Junior Primary, Senior Primary, Youth, and Adult packets. How awesome is that!?

Hopefully you've found something that will work for your children. I know that some people might think these are a distraction, but I really think they can help children feel the spirit. They may not understand everything that's being said, but as long as they're watching conference, they're where they need to be. Seeing pictures of the prophets and apostles, the temples, and everything else included in the packets will help them feel the spirit.

No idea what General Conference is? It's when the member of our church gather to hear the words of our church leaders. Find out more about General Conference.


Saturday, September 24, 2011

Preschool Planning & Filing System

Last week, I showed you the printable that I use for planning preschool activities with Andyroo. This week, I'm going to show you how I put the printable to work for me and the system I use to keep myself organized. It's ridiculously easy - and cheap!

This is a simple rubbermaid-type container that I've had sitting around for years - since high school, I think. It wasn't holding anything important (some old ugly scrapbooking paper, some page protectors, etc) so I threw out the unnecessary stuff and put it to good use!

Starting from the front, it contains:

1. An extra notebook for paper purposes. I don't have any filler paper, so if I need to add anything to the folders or write down ideas, I just use the notebook, tear it out, then put it in the appropriate folders.

2. A file folder with extra blank preschool planning pages and tabs. That way if I get an idea for another "unit" I can easily add it to my files.

3. Various 3-pronged pocket folders that hold all the ideas and plans that I've found that need a home. Each one is tabbed and marked so that I can easily see which folder it is when I open the box.

The folders that I purchased (for $0.05/ea during the back to school sales!!) have the whole ridge thing on the side. I had leftover sticky post-it tabs from my coupon binder that so I cut them down and stuck them in the middle.

As a plus, the tabs are erasable/rewritable, so if I ever need to change out what's in the folder, I can easily just change the tab. The tabs are also removable so I can easily move them around or take them off if the need ever arises.

Inside the folder, I have a planning sheet for each of the items written on the tab. So using the folder above, I have a sheet for: Into to the Alphabet, The Letter A, The Letter B, & the Letter C. I'm still accumulating stuff, but if I find something online that I want to print out or copy, I just slip it into a page protector that is behind each planning page.

I chose to add the page protectors so I wasn't always having to 3-hole punch everything and shuffle papers around to get it in the right place.

4. Various preschool (and older) workbooks that I've found. Keeping them in one place makes it handy to find when I need to pull them out.

5. Extra page protectors (you can't see them in this pic) for adding to the folders.

When we're going to be learning about something new, I can easily find the folder with all the information. Easy enough, right!? And super cheap (at least in my case) too!!! Yay!


Friday, September 23, 2011

The Great Halloween Link Up!!

Here at Life in the Motherhood, we're big Halloween fans, especially Heather! Before she moved to Hawaii, she and her husband would throw the best Halloween parties. Costumes were mandatory, prizes were given, and kids were left at home! And man. The costume contest got pretty intense.

With Halloween right around the corner (less than 40 days!), we thought it would be fun to host our own Halloween party! We'd love to see your costume ideas, Halloween decor, and shindig swag!

There are two different categories - Halloween Costumes and Halloween Decor/Parties. Make sure to link up in the appropriate section. Feel free to link up any Halloween related posts you may have! It doesn't matter how old or new they are - we'd love to see them!

We'd love for you to help us spread the word and let your friends join in on the fun too! We'd love it if you could link back to Life in the Motherhood or even grab our Halloween party button! And we'd be especially thrilled if you would considering following us too!


<a href=""><img src="" border="0" alt="Life in the Motherhood"></a>

Let the party begin!!!

Halloween Decor & Party Ideas

Halloween Costume Parade


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Some Help for Flat, Cripsy Cookies

My cookies need help. Seriously. Look at this stuff...

The cookies above were cooked on just a regular cookie sheet. Flat, crispy, and, in my opinion, yucky. I like cookies that are soft and chewy and a little...fluffy?

And these were cooked on a cookie sheet using my Silpat (a silicone "sheet" that you use for baking). While they came off of the sheet easily, rhey still spread a little too much for my liking. I know they didn't cook evenly because the cookie dough wasn't all the same size. But that's beside the point. 

These are the best of the batch. I was hoping for a more even bake, so I pulled out my pizza stone, preheated it, and baked them on there. Not as much spreading, but they still weren't what I wanted.

You should know that all the cookies above were baked from the same batch of cookie dough. I was trying different things using different methods.

And them my cookie life changed. Our Primary President brought in some cookies for sharing time and they seriously looked like the pictures on the packages of store bought cookie dough (which I can never get to turn out either). The other ladies in the presidency were also impressed and asked for her secret. It's not really a secret though. Want to know?

She uses shortening! Am I the last one to know about this? I've always used butter or margarine (the cookies above were done with butter). I think I've tried shortening in the past but didn't really get the result I was wanting so I didn't use it again. I decided to try it though.

Look at those beauties! She said she uses her grandma's recipe, which I didn't get. Instead I just used the recipe off the back of the chocolate chips bag (which is basically what I always use) and substituted shortening for the butter/margarine. She also said to let them cook ONLY until they looked almost done - not until they looked done. Then let them cool on the pan and they would keep cookin

It worked! These things were seriously so good!

No more burnt edges, underdone middles, or rocks. Just perfection!


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Key & Coat Shelf

Hubs and I have been married for almost 5 years now and throughout that entire time, I've always meant to come up with some kind of coat rack. In our first apartment, we used the vacuum cleaner as our coat rack. The coats and jackets just got piled on top of the vacuume cleaner. Sad, huh!? In our apartment now, the high chair was used as a coat rack. Whenever we needed the high chair, I'd pile the coats ontop of the table for a while. The high chair is in storage now and the jackets are moved around to different chairs around the table depending on where we want to sit. Right now the jackets are hung up in our bedroom closet (so their not cluttered on the table and chairs) but it's going to be time to pull them out again. In fact, we already did on Saturday! It was rainy and yucky and about 55 degrees when we left the house. And since they're out, they need a home. One that isn't the table or chairs, preferably.
No longer will the coats ben shuffled around. No longer will the keys be lost in the mess on the table or buried at the bottom of my purse!

I found this little unfinished beauty at the D.I. We have another shelf much like this one (without the hooks though) above our couch that has our last name carved into it. When I saw this one with the heart on it, I knew it would be the perfect companion for our other lonely little shelf.

Two dollars. That's all she cost! Adding in the cost of the paint I used, this little project cost a total of $3.75! Yay for cheap!!

I used Dark Chocolate and Fawn from the Americana Paint line. As a side note, I was NOT at all happy with the coverage of the Dark Chocolate. It took about 4 coats and almost the whole bottle of paint to get good coverage. I've use Americana and have always been happy with the way it covers (so much better than the super, super cheap stuff). I don't know if they've reformulated or if it was just this colors. Anyway, back to the project.

So, I slathered on the Dark Chocolate until she was good and covered. Then did some dry brushing with the fawn to add a little more of a textured look. You can't really see it in the picture though.

It now hangs right by our door, all decorated and pretty. Once I get some of my fall decor stuff done, I'll be switching these things out and putting some of it here on this shelf.


Thanks to all the fabulous bloggers out there who take the time and effort to host these spectacular parties!! We're linking up here:

Just Something I Whipped Up, Craftastic Monday, Turquoise Lovin', Making the World Cuter Mondays, Making Mondays Marvelous, Creative Me Mondays

Get You Craft On, Tuesday Confessional, Who's Got Glam, Ta-Da Tuesdays, Tip Me Tuesdays, Take a Look Tuesdays, Show Me What You Got

Whatever Goes Wednesday, Idea Sharing Wednesday, What I Made Wednesday, DIY Under $5, Woot Woot Wednesday, Wow Me Wednesday, Your Whims Wednesday, Lil' Luna Link Party, Hoo's Got Talent

Strut Your Stuff, DIY Diva Thursdays, Hookin' Up With House of Hepworths, Get Your Brag On

Frugal Friday, Creative-ly U, Feature Yourself Friday, PityParty, Look At Me

Lovely Little Linkup, Weekend Wander

Monday, September 19, 2011

Hair Curling Techniques: A Review

My hair is...awkward. That's a good word.

It's stick straight and flat until it gets to the bottom, at which point is gets a little fluffy and the ends start to flip out every which way. This happens no matter what length it is.

A while back, after Heather posted about how she gets her beautiful, wavy hair, I tried her method. I have always loved Heather's beautiful, wavy hair and jumped at the chance to recreate her look. I was pretty happy with the result, but I didn't really enjoy the almost 2 hours it took to do it.


I also tried using my straightener. I got a little bit of a different curling effect. It provided a bigger, rounder curl. And I wasn't really in love with the way all the ends seemed to sick out. I kind of looked like a frizz ball. Even after a few attempts, I couldn't get the ends to look any different. I wasn't standing in front of the mirror for quite as long (maybe 1.5 hours instead), but I still wasn't getting the look I wanted in the time I wanted. I don't have that kind of time to spend doing my hair for anything other than a super special occasion. I also wish (temporarily) that my hair were longer so I could really pull off this look.

So, I wanted something that didn't require so much time in front of the mirror. Then I found another technique - mini buns. I left my hair up in these silly looking buns for most of the day and then slept on them that night. I took a picture but can't seem to find it. Anyway, when I finally took them out, my hair had taken so well to the curl that I basically had a bunch of tiny corkscrew curls sticking out of my head. Seriously, they were all probably about 6 inches  - just tiny little ringlet curls. I had an afro! Definitely NOT the look I was going for.

No pics of that monstrosity. Sorry!

So I was browsing YouTube looking for other techniques and ideas when I came across a video that talked about using mousse to scrunch the curls. I don't remember which video it was, so I can't link you to it. Sorry. But the technique only required a little bit of time with a blow dryer. Mousse happened to be on sale at Smith's, so I decided to give it a try.


Heather will probably laugh at me for saying this, but I seriously thought that using mousse to get curls would only work if your hair was already curly. Not so! I put a little mousse on my damp hair and then start scrunching and drying it (I don't use any kind of diffuser attachment). If I don't like a particular set of curls, I spray it with a bit of water and re-scrunch and dry it. It's SOOOO easy!

This is the mousse that I use - mostly because it was on sale. I haven't tried any others, so I can't attest to their curling power. As a plus, my hair smells so yummy all day long!

I LOVE the outcome! I can curl my hair in about 20 minutes now! This has actually become my "go-to" hair style now because it takes less time and patience than straightening and backcombing my hair (both of which are necessary to produce a hairstyle in which I feel comfortable leaving the house). Hubs says he loves it, too, which is a plus!!


Sunday, September 18, 2011

FHE Ideas: Preparing to Serve a Mission

Song: I Hope They Call Me on a Mission (Children's Songbook, pg #169) (Download the song here / See and hear the music here)

Scripture: D&C 133:37

Lesson Ideas:
  • If you or your spouse served a mission, find pictures, letters, souvenirs, etc and display them for your children to see. If you served in another country or spoke another language, consider doing a sort of themed night - try and make some authentic food, decorate, or even practice words from that language. During FHE, talk about your daily routine, the hardships you encountered, and the blessings you received.
  • If you or your spouse didn't serve a mission, consider finding someone to come and talk to your family or combining your FHE with another family whose parent(s) served a mission and are willing to discuss it with your family.
  • I know that the missionaries are very busy, but you might try inviting them over for dinner or even just to do a presentation for your family. You could have them talk about what they do on a daily basis, what the MTC was like, or what they did to prepare before their mission.
  • Give each member of your family a missionary name tag and, if desired, have everyone dress in their Sunday best (white shirt and tie for the boys, modest dresses for the girls - what you would wear as a missionary). Practice going in pairs and knocking on your own door and pretending to be the missionaries. Discuss what it is you would say to try and present the gospel to someone you don't know. I thought about creating my own, but decided to see if I could just find any online. Here are a couple I found:
    • Member Missionary Tag - click "save as" then put as many as you need into a word document. Print and cut!  
    • Customizable Missionary Name Tags - You're able to change the name on the name tags and then print them out. Both Elder and Sister spots are available!
    • Or just get a black piece of card stock and, using a white crayon, write "Future Missionary" or "Member Missionary" or whatever floats your boat. This is especially good for kids who can't read yet! :)
  • Read through and discuss this article about 10 Practical Ways to Prepare to Serve a Mission
  • Write letters to the missionaries in your area thanking them for their service. You could hand deliver them with a plate of cookies (or some other treat). If you're not sure who your local missionaries are, talk to your bishop or Ward Mission Leader.
  • Discuss why it is important to serve a mission. Why we should be willing to share the gospel and why giving up our time to serve the Lord is important and beneficial. You could also talk about what we can do now as member missionaries to help the Elders and Sisters who are out there serving.
  • If your children are older, you could watch (or find clips from)either "The Best Two Years" or "The Other Side of Heaven." Both are favorites of mine!


Saturday, September 17, 2011

Car Seat Use and Safety

(A note before continuing: Car seat law vary greatly between countries and even states. I can only attest to the requirements of The United States - specifically here in Utah. If you're in another state or, especially, another country, PLEASE check the laws and regulations regarding the use of car seats. And if something I say isn't correct, is misleading, or causes question, PLEASE let me know. I'm no expert! I don't want to mislead anyone out there. I want all of our little ones to be safe and sound!! I also won't be making any specific car seat recommendations. But I will provide trustworthy sources where you can find recommendations.)

Besides providing shelter, food, and a safe environment, one of the most important things we can do for our children is to obtain and correctly use a car seat. At least in my opinion it is! There are a lot of people out there (especially those in my parent's generation and before) that don't quite "get it" when it comes to car seats. Believe me, I've had to listen to all the arguments against car seats!

My father-in-law especially doesn't care for them. When Andyroo was about 6 months old, we were visiting my in-laws and ended up taking a 2 hour car ride (both ways - 4+ total) with Andyroo's grandparents. Andyroo has a cousin just a few weeks younger than him and their little family was there too. So after a whole day of 2 babies who were DONE with car seats, we spent almost 2 hours on the ride home discussing why car seats are or aren't necessary. Longest car ride ever! And, you know, I really can't blame the people who don't get why. I mean, for most of my childhood, I didn't ride in a car seat. My mom said they brought me home in a little bassinet that just sat on the seat - no buckle or straps. I survived without a car seat. So did my sisters and millions of other babies before us. And, as was pointed out during that crazy car ride, who is the government to tell me that I have to buy an expensive piece of plastic for my baby? Am I really so fearful of being pulled over and given a ticket (or worse) that I'm going to keep my child strapped in "unnecessarily"?

It isn't the government that makes me afraid. It isn't being pulled over that scares me. It isn't that I like seeing my child crying to get out or getting agitated because he's tired of sitting in the car seat. I keep my child strapped in a car seat (while we're in the car, of course) because I love him. I want him to be with us for as long as he can be. I've seen the evidence that car seats keep children safe. I've heard the stories of children who weren't properly restrained and were thrown through the windows of cars and died. I don't want that to be my child! I love him and I'll do whatever I need to in order to keep him safe. If that means a car seat, then so be it! Compared to 25 years ago when I was a baby, there are more cars on the road, more distractions (for yourself and other drivers), and cars driving at faster speeds. It just makes sense that our children need more protection.

The reason this is on my mind is because Andyroo is quickly outgrowing his current car seat - and it's time to search for a new one. I thought that it might be useful to other parents out there to share some of my research and information.

Use Your Car seat Correctly
The first thing that I want to say is that no matter which car seat you purchase (whether is a $40 Cosco Scenera or a $200+ Britax), the most important thing is that it is installed and used correctly every single time!! It doesn't matter what you use, just use one and do it correctly. If you have any questions about whether your seat is installed properly or about how to use it, there are certified car seat technicians available to help and answer your questions.

If you need installation help, please use the following information to find someone to help you. (And don't freak out, the CPS acronym means "Child Passenger Safety," not the feared Child Protection Service)
If you have questions or need help installing your car safety seat, find a certified CPS technician.
Lists of certified CPS technicians and child seat fitting stations are available on the following Web sites:
  • NHTSA (or call NHTSA Vehicle Safety Hotline at 888/327-4236)
  • SeatCheck (or call 866/SEATCHECK [866/732-8243])
(Above information found at this link
I also know that here in our town, about 2 or 3 times a year, I'll hear about Car seat Check stations that are being set up so that, if a parent/guardian chooses, they can have someone inspect and check their seat.

Extended Rear-Facing
You should also know that the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has changed their recommendation for car seats for children under 2. You can find more information here, but in a nutshell, the AAP

Car seat Recommendations
As I said, I won't be giving any specific car seat recommendations. I only know the ones I've used - the Graco SafeSeat and the Cosco Scenera. At each new car seat, I've done some research about the current seats on the market and the current recommendations. The car seat that works best for you is based on a few things - your child (height, weight, age, and growth rate), your car, your budget, and your needs. In our situation, we could have eliminated the infant car seat, but I liked the option of removing the car seat from the base and being able to transport the baby wherever. I wasn't too hip on the carriers at the time, but you could use a convertible car seat from the start and just plan to use a stroller or carrier at all times. When we bought our Scenera, money was really, really tight. Even spending the $40 was really pushing our budget. It's a no-frills car seat that served it's purpose. It's what we needed at the time. We knew we would have to buy another (or possibly two) car seats in the future, but it's what we could afford. It served it's purpose. It was installed correctly and used properly and I know, had we ever been in an accident, it would have done it's job and kept my son safe.

There are forums out there where you can get specific car seat recommendations. I haven't specifically asked the people on the message boards for a specific recommendation, but I peruse the boards and can often find someone in a similar situation and work from those recommendations. The two forums that I've found the most helpful are:

The Car Seat Message Board on iVillage - You do need to be a member of iVillage to post, but membership is free. They also have lots of other parents articles and forums that you can join!

Car Seat Forum on Car-Safety.Org - Again, you have to be registered to post in this forum.

There are many knowledgeable people that can answer your questions there. They both have CPSTs on the board to help you. If you're looking for reviews about a specific car seat, you might considering checking out sources like:
  • - Your local library probably has hard copies of the magazines in which the reviews are published, then you don't have to pay to read specific reviews
  • - Much like Consumer Reports, but you don't have to pay for specific reviews and information
  • - This is solely based on what consumers have to say. All of the reviews are submitted directly by consumers. Great for getting firsthand opinions about everyday use.
  • - Kind of like a blog format. Lots of good firsthand experience and reviews
  • The Baby Bargains Book - I picked up this book soon after I found out I was pregnant. I can't attest to the most current edition, but the one I used had lots of reviews for car seats. You could also check out the website associated with the book.
  • Friends and Family! Word of mouth is great. They may not all be Certified Technicians, but they've used car seats too. Your best bet is to talk with newer mothers - ones that are still buying car seats. They're probably more in the loop with current car seats and information.

Using car seats that are used, expired, or have been in an accident
I've seen a lot of posts on sites like Craigslist and Freecycle offering or selling their old car seats. In my opinion, it's not something I would ever do. I might consider borrowing someone else's car seat if I knew them well enough to know it had never been in an accident. Why not use a car seat that's been in an accident? Even at slow speeds, there could be damage done to the frame of the car seat - damage that you can't see. Most insurance companies will cover the cost of a replacement car seat if you've been in an accident. The other reason I wouldn't purchase a used car seat - most car seats are only good for approximately 6 years. They do actually expired. After so long of being subject to heat and cold and dust and everything else, the plastic starts to wear down, belts could come loose, etc. You just can't always see or know what's going on with the car seat.

Curious if your seat has expired or when it will expire? Most car seats have a sticker on them with the manufacture date and the expiration date. If it isn't there, consult your owner's manual. Don't have the manual anymore? Go to the manufacturer's website and find the manual online.

Are you using a car seat that you know has been in an accident? Talk with your insurance agent to see if it qualifies for replacement!

Also, don't use any aftermarket parts that don't originally come with your car seat. By that I mean any additional headrests or strap covers. Their use hasn't been approved by the manufacturer and could alter the ability of your car seat to protect your child in an accident. Using them could also void the warranty that comes with your car seat. Blankets and other covers are fine but anything that comes between your child and the belt or the carseat (besides their clothing) shouldn't be used.

Other options for purchasing a car seat
Car seats are expensive. There's not denying that. There are affordable options out there though. Like I mentioned earlier the Cosco Scenera is about $40 and can be used for children 5-40lbs. If you can afford that, check with your local agencies. Some WIC (Women, Infants, & Children) offices can either provide or cheaply sell car seats. If they don't do it through their office, they could definitely point you in the right direction. You could also talk to your pediatrician to see if he or she knows of any local resources for cheap car seats. You won't be getting a Britax or Diono, but you'll be getting a safe seat for your child to use.

Some other resources
It can be daunting to try and narrow it down to the right car seat. It can be overwhelming to figure out what kind of car seat you should be buying next - Convertible, High Back Booster, Belt Positioning Booster, etc. I've found a few resources that you might find helpful. - This specifically links to some great, basic information about the different kinds of car seats available and provides some great resources on using car seats correctly. - This links you directly to the FAQ section of their website which has a lot of great information on car seat usage and installation.

I hope you've found something in here that was useful to you. If you still have questions or if I didn't go over something well enough, then please feel free to ask. And I know that car seats can cause a little bit of a debate (especially with the new AAP recommendations and the whole front-facing vs. rear-facing thing) and while I don't mind discussion, I don't want this post to become the source of intense debate or anything of the sort.

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