Happy Parenting It’s the Little Moments

When it comes to happy parenting, it is important to appreciate the little moments. Of course, there are many big happy parenting moments: first steps, first time on a bike, and so on, but what really adds up and makes every day special are the little moments, the times they throw their arms around you for no reason, or reach out to take you hand while you walk beside them, because that’s just what makes them happy and comfortable in that moment.

Sometimes, the little moments happen when they aren’t even there.

Today, while picking up the house a little bit, I noticed that there are basketballs all over my house. There is one in my office, there is one in my bedroom, there is one in the kitchen, and so on. It would be easy to get upset at my six year old for leaving basketballs everywhere, but instead, I remembered how each one ended up there.

basketball on the floor parenting

As it turns out, my kiddo loves basketball right now. He plays with the hoop out back. He bounces the ball on the basement floor. He asks to play knockout, to play horse, and to have dribbling contests constantly. And, that, is why there are basketballs all over the house.

Check out how to setup a 529 account step by step.

While my kids are otherwise occupied, I often try and get a little bit of stuff done. That’s the only way to keep your work at home, freelance writing business afloat. So, when my kiddo is out playing basketball, chances are that I’m in my office writing up some client project, or in my bedroom folding laundry, or maybe in the kitchen making dinner. And, that is where he comes, looking for his dad, with a basketball under arm.

Sometimes, when he asks for basketball with dad, I can hop right up and say yes. Other times, I need him to wait for me to finish, or maybe sometimes we can’t do it then at all. Those times, the ball gets dropped and he either waits, or maybe plays alongside dad. It’s his way of hanging out and spending time, when I can’t.

Now go check out my Acorns review of the savings app.

Of course, later, we’ll spend time together and there will be smiles and giggles and fun. But, the next day, as I go about my activities, and I find basketballs everywhere, I don’t see a mess, I see my son looking to find his dad.

Happy parenting.

Posted in Parenting | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

How To Pack Good School Lunches

You won’t find it hard to find advice on packing healthy lunches for your kids to take to school. Unfortunately, much of that advice isn’t a realistic way to make your child a healthy school lunch.

Healthy Enough

Let’s start with a reality check. If you are already sending hand-roasted quinoa on a bed of arugula with lightly drizzled omega-3 flax seed oil, then go ahead and skip this article. For the rest of us, here is how to pack a good, healthy lunch for you kids.

Let’s do another reality check. What do they eat for lunch at home?

Many parents try to hit a healthier note with the lunches they pack for school than the regular lunches the same kids eat at home. This is likely a mistake. Obviously, if your  kid is unhealthy in some way, and you are trying to make changes, changes need to be made in take to school cold lunches as well. On the other hand, if your kids are pretty healthy and the pediatrician has no complaints, then why mess with a good thing? Chances are your diet didn’t have much quinoa when you were growing up either.

healthy school lunch pack

Now, you don’t want to be filling a lunch box with junk food and sending them out the door, but there is a realistic health level that you can match, and that they will voluntarily eat. Don’t forget, you aren’t there to say, “two more bites,” and chances are that “superfood” you put in there is going straight into the trash.

Best Lunches to Pack for Kids in School

So, what are the best things to put in a child’s school lunch brought from home?

Has your kid ever told you they don’t have enough time to eat lunch. They aren’t lying. Schools are trying to cram more instructional hours into each day, and shorter lunch breaks is one way to do that. At my kid’s school, they literally get 15 minutes to eat, and then they send the kids out to recess and turn the tables over to the next grade.

At higher grades, kids get a little bit more control over their lunch hour, but do you think that your middle schooler wants to sit long in the cafeteria, or do they want to meet up with friends?

So, we are looking for speedy and healthy. This isn’t a great combo, but there are things you can do to ensure your child gets good nutrition from lunch at school.

Made by hand lunches may be full of love, but they aren’t necessarily any more nutritious. A peanut butter and jelly sandwich on Wonder Bread basically has no nutrition other than what is in the peanut butter.

The key to a successfully eaten, healthy lunch is to include all the food groups and nutrition types. Throw in some sort of fruit or veggie, a yogurt or cheese stick for dairy (you’ll need a thermos to send actual milk because it will be too warm by the time your kid gets to it, otherwise), then something with protein, a drink, some sort of carbohydrate like chips or crackers, and a dessert.

Ideas Ho To Make Good School Lunches for Kids

Here are some ingredients and other ideas to help you pack a healthy, good lunch that actually gets eaten.

  • Protein bars – I like Clif Bars myself. They have tons of different flavors and none of them have high fructose corn syrup. They offer a way to get protein and will also help fill up your child so they aren’t hungry later.
  • Yogurt tubes – Get a better one that GoGurt, and you have protein and calcium in a quick to eat tube that will almost never get left behind. Most yogurt tubes can be frozen. Stick a frozen one in your child’s lunch in the morning and it will be ready and fresh come lunch time.
  • Apple Sauce or Fruit Packs – Sure, real fruit is better, and if your kids will eat it, go for it. For me, apples seems to come back with just one or two bites out of them. It all comes down to time, and apples take a while to eat, especially if you are younger.
  • Healthy Popcorn – Pop your own fresh popcorn, or get one of the “health” ones to help round out your kids lunch.
  • Juice – If your kid is overweight, too much juice is often part of the problem. If not, juice CAN BE a good nutrition value. The catch is that you have to buy 100% fruit juice. Too much juice is actually sugar water flavored with juice. Check the label, if it says, sugar or high fructose corn syrup, put it back on the shelf.
  • I like the little packs of gummy fruits for dessert. Don’t be fooled by “made with real fruit”. If you splash some fruit into the vat as you walk by, it’s “made with real fruit”. Regard these as a dessert or treat.

What ideas do you have for making your kids’ lunches. Did we hit all of your favorites?

Posted in Feeding | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Which Child Memories to Keep

One of the hardest things for parents is deciding which childhood toys, clothing, school projects, and other memories to keep, and which ones to throw away. It starts with a new baby and saving things like Baby’s First Spoon, Baby’s First Dress, and so on. Eventually it balloons into bags, and boxes, and piles of baby’s first things, followed by toddler’s first things, and finally kid’s first things. And, that’s all before you even ponder which of your kid’s school work, pictures and projects you should save.

The difficulty is that you don’t want to throw away priceless memories, but you also don’t have infinite storage. The solution is easier than you might think.

Baby Keepsakes and Memories

Starting with your newborn baby, get a large one of those plastic, Tupperware-type, containers with a lid. This gives you a few benefits. First, an airtight lid means there won’t be any dust, or spills. Second, the rigid plastic means whatever is inside will be protected, and can even be stacked on, or under. Finally, it gives you a limit.

memories baby toddler child storage keepsakes

When that large bin is too full to put anything else in it, then it is time to sit down and go through it. With the passage of time, you’ll find that things you once couldn’t bare the thought of parting with, are no longer that meaningful to you. You may not donate, or throw those things away. Once you’ve cleaned out the things that aren’t truly beloved keepsakes, you should have a much smaller collection.

At this point, you have two options. First, you can go back to refilling that box. This option makes the most sense if either

  • a) Your child is still in the same stage of development. – That is, if your baby is still a baby and you are going through baby stuff, continue filling the bin. But, if you are going through infant stuff, and your baby is now actually a precocious little toddler, maybe it’s time to move on.
  • b) Or, if your clean out didn’t give you much room in the box, then just admit that it is almost full. Go back to filling it, until it is.

Once you have decided that the box is “closed,” that is, you aren’t going to be adding to it then it’s time to get a new box. If the stuff would fit into a smaller container, then buy a smaller one that fits what you have. If not, then buy another big one. Either way, label the filled box as Baby, or Toddler, or Age 4-6, or whatever. It goes on the bottom of the stack since you won’t be opening it as often to put new stuff in.

Now start filling the new box.

Repeat the process above until you declare that box as “finished.”

Keep Going Back to Find the True Baby, Toddler, Kiddo Memories

The trick to not building up a huge pile of these is that when you fill the second (or third, or fourth), then pull back out all of the boxes you considered finished. Go back through them again and make sure everything in there is still meaningful to you.

You’ll find that some things fill your heart with joy and memories, and others inspire a more subdued reaction. Part with anything you feel you can. There is no need to be ruthless, just honest with yourself. That first blanket may always be special, but maybe not that first burp towel.

As time passes, you’ll find yourself only with what you truly cherish, and chances are, it will never take more than a few full boxes. Find room for them in your attic or basement (this is while sealed plastic is the way to go). Before you know it, you’ll be pulling them out, not to consolidate, but to remember after they go off to college, or get married, or whatever.

Either way, you’ll never accidentally throw away something you actually loved, and there will still be room in your kitchen to actually cook a meal without maneuvering around the “baby’s old stuff” piles.

Posted in Parenting | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Better School Pictures Cheaper

School pictures have been around forever. Every year, it’s basically the same thing. The school sends home an envelope with a notice about school pictures and an order form. Then, parents pick a nice outfit and send their kids off to school so that a stranger can spend two minutes taking a quick picture of your child against a hanging backdrop. Game, set, match.

Of course, it isn’t quite that simple. For starters, there are always the kids (or parents) that forget it’s picture day so they show up wearing that mustard stained shirt. Then, they don’t take things like Gym or recess into account, so that carefully styled hair might look a little crazy (or, just as bad have ONE piece sticking straight up).

Read the latest to see if Credit Karma is safe.

Expensive School Pictures

School pictures can be very expensive, but there are ways to get a good deal on school pictures.

frame for school picture

First, feel free to go a la carte. School picture companies make a lot of extra money by getting you to spring for a package of pictures you may not need. Does anyone really use, or carry wallet-sized pictures anymore? Do you really need six 5x7s? Before you tick the box next to the “most popular” package, do the math to see how much it costs to get just the pictures you really want. The difference may surprise you.

Free School Pictures

At almost all schools, the way the deal works is that the photographer takes pictures of all the kids, whether they order or not. Then, those pictures end up in place like the yearbook. If you don’t want school pictures, you don’t have to order them, but they’ll still get a nice picture in the yearbook.

Take School Pictures Somewhere Else

Remember that just because someone is taking your kids’ pictures at school doesn’t mean that has to be their school picture. You can take a million pictures for free in your local park, or outdoor area, or just in your backyard. Set your digital camera to its highest quality settings (the ones that take the biggest pictures) and fill up your memory card with poses and smiles. Chances are, when you get them to the computer, there are at least a few you would want to use as a school picture. Then, have those photographs professionally printed by Snapfish, Shutterfly, or the like for much cheaper than you get those school photos.

You can also book a free photography appointment with a photo studio, or many stores like Target. They may not be the best photographs ever taken, but they can certainly rival the photograph of your child that gets taken in the same light, in the same pose, in just two tries in the school cafeteria. Just remember that they push expensive photograph packages as well. Usually the best advice is to take a list of what you want and stick to it. Don’t pay for upgrades like digitally inserted butterflies or words.

School Picture Retakes

Deciding whether or not to have retakes can be a stressful decision. The shots you have now are good, but you think they could be better. Of course, they could also be a lot worse. To hedge your bets, scan the first pictures on your highest quality settings. Borrow a friend’s scanner if yours isn’t good enough. Then, go do the retakes.

If you like the retakes, keep them (you paid for them.) If you don’t, stick them in a drawer and have your originals printed out (you paid for them too, remember?) Either way, you can have the pictures you want to keep.

Posted in School | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Summer Updates Coming Soon

Summer has been crazy at the Undefeated Daddy house. Don’t worry, though. I’ve got notes, ideas, and more.

We’ve been to Disneyland which means I have plenty of great tips for easier travel, where to stay around Disneyland, exactly WHERE to walk into Disneyland (since everyone seems to forget to mention that online), how the rides are. Tips for easy line management and more.

Plus, we’ve got pool tips, backyard pool fun ideas, cheap easy water games and play, and much more.

We got one of the kids an Amazon Fire for the birthday, so we can compare to the iPad, iPod, tablets and more. With plenty of great tips and tricks for how to make using electronic devices fun and educational, without turning them into screen-staring zombies.

All this and more…. right after I get back from Vegas!

(Oh, yeah. Also up, how to take a great vacation, without your kids!)

Posted in News | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment