Jun 21, 2009


I have been spending a fair amount of time lately reading up on all the different philosophies of allowance and children. Basically, there are a few different opinions.

1) Give no allowance. Just buy your children things as needed or as wanted
2) Give allowance but tie it to chores, grades, etc
3) Give allowance but don't tie it to any specific activity

After reading through the pros and cons of each, we settled on option 3. But in reviewing the various options, it was intriguing to see how they each would fit different families.

Here's our rationale:

We suck at housekeeping. Seriously. So linking any allowance to chores simply wouldn't work. By the age of 6, kids are smart enough to question why you don't have to follow rules that they do. (I got busted tonight for drinking something upstairs which the kids aren't allowed to do) We knew that the chore thing wouldn't work.

But more importantly, we wanted the allowance to be money for whatever they wanted that was given for being part of the family. For behaving like a member of the family - talking at family dinner, getting along with the sibling, hugging your parents (I'm milking that for as long as I can!)

And then, for chores, we give the kids tickets and have a prize cabinet set up. For 50 tickets, you can get a big deck of Pokemon cards. For 10 tickets you can get a glowy, bouncy ball. We figure that this teaches them about working for things they want, delayed gratification, initiative, and saving.

That's our cobbled together allowance strategy. Oh - and we make them donate 1/3 of their allowance to charity. They love writing letters and sticking $1 in the envelope and then getting mail back thanking them for their donation. We think that it's very important to teach them how to give. They are allowed to pick whatever cause they want - my son likes to donate to Toys For Tots and my daughter likes to donate to animal related causes (depending on the animal she loves at the moment).

Anyone else have any allowance strategies?

Jun 16, 2009

Weeknight Meals

Lately, we've been struggling with getting healthy but quick meals on the table for dinner. Both the husband and I have been working a lot of hours and we had gotten into the habit of going out to dinner a little too often.

Since I figure that others are facing the same dilemma, I thought that I'd share our family dinner (which also happened to be under $5)

Balsamic Pork Chops

Trim the fat off of the pork chops if necessary. Spray a pan with cooking spray (or oil if you prefer). Put some spices on the pork - I had lemon pepper seasoning handy. Brown the pork chops. Add in 1/2 cup of balsamic vinegar and 1/3 cup chicken broth. Let it cook down until it's a nice glaze for the pork chops.

Review from the twins:

Twin A: Yuck. Pork is gross
Twin B: This is good. Can I try it with more sauce. Oh wow! This sauce makes it super yummy!

Curry Couscous

Boil water, butter, and seasonings. Add couscous. Let sit for 5 min.

Review from the twins:

Twin A: How do you make couscous? It's yummy. It's a little spicy but good. Maybe we could play duck, duck, couscous....laughter
Twin B: I LOVE couscous (spoken with his mouth open)

Pan Roasted Cauliflower

I followed this recipe from 101 Cookbooks and it was great!

Review from the twins:

Twin A: Chewing, chewing....Eeww! That's gross. It tasted good at first but no..
Twin B: Blech!
Husband (who eats no vegetables): This is the best cauliflower I've had. I still don't love it but I can eat it. Wait...is cauliflower healthy? Oh (dishes up more), this is good.

We generally can't find food that all four of us like so this was a pretty successful meal for us. (If Twin A eats anything at all it's a successful meal)

Jun 15, 2009

Research Studies Regarding Children

Several new studies have recently been released regarding various facets of children's health.


A new study has been released which details the affects of parental depression on children. The study finds that there needs to be a focus on full family treatment in cases of parental depression. Since so many women are affected by post partum depression, I think that this study makes a helpful point that just treating one member of the family isn't enough and that having a supportive environment can help with the treatment and monitoring of depression.

Medical Myths:

There have been a lot of articles lately about debunking medical myths: not swimming after eating (a Red Cross misprint in an early First Aid manual), adding cereal to a baby's bottle will make him sleep longer (I can attest that is completely and utterly false - we did it for partial treatment of GERD due to prematurity and the twins still woke every 2 hours), and many more. This article outlines some of the myths.

TV Can Impair Speech Development in Young Children

There's been a lot of debate about television in young children. This is another study pointing out that it may not be the best thing. (sorry to all of you Baby Einstein fans) The gist of the study is that parents talk less to their children if they are parked in front of the TV. My take is if you need 30 minutes of sanity and turn on the TV for a distraction, make up for it by talking more afterwards. We had friends that read the encyclopedia to their children, I read 18th century French poetry (hey, it made them calm down when they were fussy), so just take the time to talk to your children.

PE in schools doesn't impact children's activity level

Another study has found that kids with lots of exercise options at school and those with little have very little difference in their weekly activity levels. The real takeaway of the study is that kids will stop exercising once they are too tired. So if you have your child enrolled in a lot of sports activities but they just want to relax at home, it's okay. Alternatively, if your children want to run wild outside, know that they will eventually come back in once they are tired.

Jun 14, 2009

Parents Eating Habits Have Little Impact on Children

A recent study has (thankfully for me!) shown that there is a weak correlation between parents and their children's eating habits.


  • Children whose parents ate a healthier diet were three times more likely to have a healthy diet compared to the kids whose parents did not have a healthy diet by a factor of 10% - the other 90% is attributed to other factors
  • However, peer influence and television viewing may be more powerful influences on what children eat
  • The study also pointed out that most parents don't eat a healthy diet and another study found that most middle aged adults do not eat 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day.
What to do:
  • As a parent, we need to either remain committed to a healthy lifestyle or else commit to a healthy lifestyle.
  • Involve children in cooking and choosing fruit and vegetables. I bring my twins with me to the store and ask them to pick out something new to try each time we are there together.
  • Limit TV or other media wherever possible that advertises to children. We fast forward through all commercials.
  • Talk to your children about why eating healthy is important so that they can over time have the knowledge to make their own decisions and combat peer pressure.
My comments:

Getting my children to eat a healthy diet has been an ongoing struggle. My daughter eats only bland food and my son only likes spicy food. My son is easier to deal with because we can just add hot sauce to just about anything and he'll eat it. My daughter is a lot harder to deal with.

I was a very picky eater as a child (and honestly as an adult as well), so I'm happy to know that only 10% of my child's eating habits will come from me.

Apr 27, 2009

Cooking in Bulk

One of the many things I've learned from having twins is that time is very finite. After a busy day a work, I often don't want to necessarily cook at night. I also don't want to feed them fast food crap.

So, periodically I try to cook a few things in bulk over the weekend and refrigerate or freeze them. There are entire books and websites dedicated to Once A Month Cooking. If you search for OAMC you'll come across numerous website that give you recipes, menus, and shopping lists. I don't have the freezer space or the stamina to cook a month's worth of meals in one day. (I did try it once and just meh)

I recently came across a website called Cooking During Stolen Moments which is fabulous and has beautiful food pictures as well. I've made a few of the recipes that have been easy, tasty, and fun to make. (Plus they get a big thumbs up for also being bacon lovers like us!)

To give an example, while I was cooking waffles in the morning and waiting for each one to cook in my waffle maker, I made the brown rice balls. They made the entire house smell wonderful and both of my kids - who are rather picky - loved them.  And the recipe made enough for us to eat them with a couple of meals throughout the week with some to freeze for later. 

All I can say is...Yum!

Apr 23, 2009

Take Your Child To Work Day

Today was the national (US) take your daughters and sons to work day. Basically it's a day to bring your child to work and let them see some role models, hard work, and fun all combined to continue to inspire them to do great things.

I enjoyed having my children with me at work today. I work in the high tech industry so there were a lot of activities relating to technology, science, and math. Lego engineering, art activities related to shapes, online safaris, etc. 

If your company doesn't have one of these days, it might be time to start looking into it and share what you love about your job with your child.

Apr 20, 2009

Cooking Time

So there are many days that I get home from work late and don't have a lot of time to cook dinner. However, I still make it a priority to eat a family meal as often as possible. 

Some sources that I refer to quite a bit for quick meal prep:

Robin Miller from the Food Network has a show called Quick Fix Meals. She does some more in depth cooking and prep on the weekends (maybe 30 min) and then puts together 15 minute meals on weeknights. Her show notes list the recipes for the week, the grocery list, and provide step by step instructions on what to do to get prepared.

Cooking Light also has a Quick & Easy Meal section of their webpage. They have some great recipes. Additionally, they have 2 books Superfast Foods and 5-ingredient 15 Minute cookbook which are great for quick meal prep. 

I have been experimenting a bit with some quick meal options. One of my favorites to make is Fish in Parchment Paper.

Basically, take some fillets of white fish (trout, tilapia, or whatever happens to be on sale), add in some vegetables - I like to use leeks and carrots, sprinkle some seasonings - for me: salt, pepper, minced garlic, and thyme or dill, and then drizzle olive oil (or throw in a pat of butter) over the top. 

You can wrap up the packets and either freeze them or else refrigerate them for a day until you are ready to use them and then just pop them in the oven at about 425 degrees and depending if they are fresh or frozen - it takes 10-25 minutes to cook. Then just open up the packets and enjoy. 

Apr 9, 2009

Thursday News - Exercise

So I have a bunch of RSS feeds set up on different topics so that I can easily keep abreast of some of the things happening in my field. Much to my amusement, several of the articles from this week were about exercise.

The American of Othopaedic Surgeons came out today to say that you should do aerobic exercise at least 3 times a week. If you are just starting out, then they recommend starting with a 15 minute work out with a 5 minute warm-up, five minute workout, and five minute cool-down. Keep increasing the duration until you get up to 20 minutes or more. That's something that every parent can fit into their schedule!

Keeping with the exercise topic, the American Academy of FamilyPhysicians came out with some tips for sticking with an exercise plan. 

  • If you enjoy exercise, you're more likely to do it. Choose a class, sport or activity that you like, or work out while listening to music or watching TV.
  • Find a workout buddy to motivate you and make exercising more social.
  • Figure out the time of day you enjoy exercising most, and plan it then.
  • Don't push yourself too hard, and if you're in pain, slow it down or take a break.
  • Exercise doesn't have to be a dull routine. Instead, choose a variety of exercises that you like, and alternate them.
So keep on exercising - it's never too late to start!

Apr 7, 2009

Tip Tuesday: Road Trip

Spring break for the twins is next week and since we've learned that we have to time our vacations with their time off school, we are going to Disneyland. More specifically, we are driving to Disneyland. 

So here are my road trip tips:

  • Portable DVD players + library = win. My kids have portable DVD players, their own headphones, and we pick up DVDs for free from the library prior to our trip. It's a great way to keep them occupied.
  • MP3 player + kids CD books & Music. Again, the library to the rescue. My kids have MP3 players (which you can pick up for about $15 now). We then grab some music from the library along with a couple of CD books - The Magic Treehouse series is popular with both kids at the moment. More hours of keeping them occupied while they look at the scenery.
  • Build in interesting stops along the way. We haven't fully determined where we are going to stop, but we have lots of options along the way. Santa Cruz Mystery Spot, Gilroy Gardens, Monterey Aquarium, Bubblegum Alley and the Children's Museum in San Luis Obispo, the beach and Chumash Painted Caves in Santa Barbara. We planned for lots of different options since we don't know when or where we'll need to stop.
  • Pack a travel bag. Cookie sheets make great travel desks and can usually be picked up at the dollar store. Then you can toss in paper, crayons, magnets, magnet clips to hold the paper, etc. We also threw in some window markers so they can draw on the windows while we drive and some other little toys (Pokemon cards are hours of fun right now)
  • Pack snacks/drinks. Pack snacks and drinks for the road trips. It helps avoid some stops and is significantly cheaper than making purchases at gas stations/rest stops along the way.
  • Buy souvenirs in advance. Since we are going to Disneyland, we purchased some little things for the kids from the Disney store near our house which is significantly cheaper than purchasing stuff at Disneyland. 
Do you have any great road trip tips to share?

Apr 5, 2009

Finance Friday

Ok...so it isn't Friday but I still wanted to get a bit of financial information out there.

One thing that I've noticed lately is that my kids seem to be growing at a super fast pace. This has resulted in needing to buy kids clothes at the change of every season. Here are some tips on how I save money on kids clothes:

1) Freecycle.org - You can sign up for your local freecycle list and keep an eye out for clothes. As a warning, clothes typically go really fast. On the flip side, it's also a great way to get rid of toys and clothes really fast out of your house. Freecycle was a group of friends that wanted to keep things out of landfills and it's basically people who trade stuff they no longer want to others. We've gotten jogging strollers, kid bicycles, toys, etc through freecycle

2) Mothers of Twins/Multiples Club Sales - The Twins clubs often have sales of gently used clothes (as do several other moms groups). It's a great way to buy clothes fairly inexpensively. Typically most clubs have one in the fall and one in the spring. You can go to the national page and find a club near you.

3) Ebay/Craigslist - You can also sometimes get a pretty good deal on clothes from ebay or craigslist. Parents will sell a bunch of clothes. I managed to completely outfit my daughter one spring with one purchase from ebay of $40. 

4) Discounted kid clothing sites - There are several sites that offer discounted kids clothes. I often use kidsurplus.com they sell brand name off season clothes for pretty good prices. Also, the sale section of most major retailers often has some great deals too if you plan ahead and buy for the next season. (buy next year's winter clothes now for example)

Do you have any great tips on finding kid clothing?

Apr 2, 2009

News: Mothers of multiples have higher risk of PPD

Although the information came out on April 1st in Pediatrics, unfortunately it is no joke. Mother of multiples often have a higher risk of postpartum depression than single births. The scariest part of this study is that only 27% of mothers of multiples sought treatment for their depression.

How to identify postpartum depression? From the Mayo Clinic:

Postpartum depression
Postpartum depression may appear to be the baby blues at first — but the signs and symptoms are more intense and longer lasting, eventually interfering with your ability to care for your baby and handle other daily tasks. Signs and symptoms of postpartum depression may include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Insomnia
  • Intense irritability and anger
  • Overwhelming fatigue
  • Loss of interest in sex
  • Lack of joy in life
  • Feelings of shame, guilt or inadequacy
  • Severe mood swings
  • Difficulty bonding with the baby
  • Withdrawal from family and friends
  • Thoughts of harming yourself or the baby

So please seek help if you think that you are experiencing postpartum depression. Talk to your doctor. I use the general rule of thumb - if you have more days when you cry than when you don't, you need to seek help. From my experience, waiting doesn't make it better and you can't will yourself to get better. The best way to think about it is that there's a glass in your head and that after having all those hormones surging through you, the glass got a bit empty and just needs to be refilled.  

Mar 31, 2009

Tip Tuesday

Although my kids are now 5, we learned a few things to make life easier from when they were little. So these tips are geared toward the in diaper age range.

  • Always keep a spare fully stocked diaper bag in the car/trunk and include: extra clothes, wipes, diapers (obviously), spare food & drinks, washcloth, small first aid kit, a few toys or books, and plastic bags - in case you need to pack away the soiled items...you don't want your diaper bag to smell bad, trust me!
  • If you ever need to give a young child medicine that tastes bad, retail stores sell a product called a Medibottle or Medicine Cup which have a bottle nipple and then a little cup that you can put the medicine in. It's much, much easier and you won't have your baby spit out iron drops which will stain your clothes for example.
  • For those of you that don't like to do laundry, buy your baby all of the same color and brand of socks. Particularly if you have more than one baby, this will save you the time and trouble of trying to find matching pairs of socks that are the size of an ipod.
Stick around for more tips in the coming weeks and share any of your tips!

Odd & Ends

Melange is a word that describes an assortment of things. Since I am a worker, mom, student, wife, and friend, I play an assortment of different roles in my life. My goal for this blog is to discuss topics that revolve around the central theme of motherhood and families:

Monday - Cooking (not because it's a "mom thing" but simply because I love to cook)
Tuesday - Tips and Tricks
Wednesday - Relationships
Thursday - Latest news
Friday - Finances

Feel free to post any comments...