Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Handy Homemade Popsicles!

Popsicles are always in high demand at our house. My son would live on them if I would let him! But store bought popsicles are often laden with extra sugar, food dyes, and preservatives. And the 100% natural fruit and organic ones are often very pricey. So we started making ours at home. And it's so quick and easy that your toddler can help too!

Our favorite combinations involve all-natural yogurt and fruit. This way your toddler thinks they're getting a tasty treat and you're satisfied because you know it's healthy! For a six count popsicle mold, I combine 3 6oz. yogurt containers and around 1/4 cup of chopped fruit in a plastic bag. Then just snip a corner end off the bag and pipe into the molds and freeze. My son's favorite pops are made from strawberry yogurt and a mashed banana. And you can always stir in granola for a bit of a crunch.

For more of an ice pop, we use 100% juice as our base in our molds. These are especially great outside on a hot day! You can stir in chopped fruit for an added health benefit here too. And if your kid loves bugs as much as mine does, then you could pop a gummy bug or worm in each one for a yummy surprise!

We are also big fans of pudding pops! While not as healthy as yogurt or fruit and juice, they are very tasty and cost-effective. You just take 1 3.4 oz. package of your favorite flavored pudding mix and 2 cups of cold milk and combine thoroughly in a plastic bag (yields 6 pops). Then just pipe into molds and freeze. For a more decadent treat, you can stir in chocolate chips, candy, or crushed cookies. YUM!

Monday, March 30, 2015

Managing Pet Allergies

Having a pet that suffers from allergies can be heartbreaking. First of all, they can't communicate their exact needs. So it's up to us as their owners to try to decipher what's best for them, which is not always easy. Charley, my Labrador Retriever, is allergic to the world it seems. But through trial and error, and several expensive trips to the vet, I've learned a few tips for making him more comfortable and keeping him healthy.

I try my best to keep Charley away from his allergy triggers. But unfortunately, one of those triggers is grass and how do you avoid that? The only solution that I have come up with is to keep his coat extra clean during the spring and summer months when the grass pollen count is the highest. (Be sure to always use a gentle shampoo.) Also if I notice that his underside is getting red or a rash is beginning, I start giving him a couple of Benadryls at night. And I spray the inflamed area several times a day with Hydrocortisone spray. I continue doing this until the redness goes away. My veterinarian also initially recommended giving him fish oil daily. But we discontinued this treatment because it didn't improve his skin. However it does help a lot of animals, so you should still try it.

Sadly he is also allergic to some water algae. So that means whenever he goes for a swim in a pond or lake, he gets a bath immediately afterwards. This simple measure prevents a lot of headache later. Without all of this extra care, Charley's skin gets infected easily. And after it's infected the only recourse I have is to go to the vet and get several expensive shots and medications.

Charley also has several food allergies. I found this out after switching his dog food one time. He had grown up on Pedigree and the store was out one day, so I grabbed a bag of Kibbles'n'Bits. Big mistake! Even though I introduced the food to him in a slow mixture with his old food, he became profusely ill and began having bloody, mucus-filled diarrhea. Yeah it was bad! I immediately stopped the Kibble and went to Petsmart for advice. The store clerk there told me that Charley most likely had a dye allergy since there were no dyes in Pedigree and were several types used in Kibbles'n'Bits. So he then recommended their brand of all meat, no dyes or preservatives dog food. Well when I gave it to Charley, the outside of his muzzle began to swell and rash up. So upon returning to Petsmart again, I asked what the problem could still be and the only ingredient that was left that could possibly be the allergen was chicken. So then I was lead over to the Blue Buffalo section to grab a bag of completely hypoallergenic dog food. I started Charley on the Adult Lamb and Rice Formula, which has NO dyes, preservatives, corn, soy, or wheat fillers, or chicken. The difference has been night and day! He has less skin issues, a shinier coat, and more muscle. And since this food is higher in protein, he eats much less of it than his old brand.

Enter fleas! One flea bite causes Charley's hair to start falling out and causes a scaly, scabby rash all over his body. Of course, here again, the best thing is prevention. I do my best to keep him flea-free by washing him with flea shampoo and using flea spray on him and around the house. I've used several of the spot topical treatments in the past, but never found them that effective.You can also purchase several medications now from your veterinarian to give your pet monthly that kill fleas and ticks.

Hopefully you can use some of these tips to treat your fur babies this allergy season! And Charley and I would love to hear any suggestions that you have on treating pet allergies!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Quick Cleaning Tips

Image result for spray bottle lemon baking soda vinegar

Peroxide for stain-removal
Hydrogen peroxide can be used to easily remove stains from upholstery, carpet, and linens. Just pour a liberal amount over the stain, let sit for a few minutes, and blot up with a rag. And it's gentle so it won't damage most fabrics.

Homemade all-purpose cleaner
Mix one part white vinegar with two parts water in a spray bottle. You can use this natural cleanser on just about every hard surface. And vinegar is a natural disinfectant.

Stinky dishwasher?
Don't shell out money for dishwasher cleansing tabs. Just pour a cup of white vinegar into your empty dishwasher and add your detergent as usual and set to wash on the pots and pans(longest) cycle.

Slow or stopped-up drains?
Before you reach for the Drano, try pouring some boiling water down your drain to break up clogs. My mom does this periodically just to keep her drains flowing freely. If you boil the water in a tea kettle it makes it much easier to carry. It's natural, cheap, easy, and effective!
*In a pinch I have actually even used a soda to unclog a drain! Makes you wonder what it does to your insides!*

Freshen your carpet with baking soda
Just liberally sprinkle baking soda all over your carpet and let sit overnight. Then just vacuum up in the morning. It should leave your carpet odor-free.
*This treatment also helps kill fleas and their eggs!*

Use aluminum foil to scour pots
Just take a sheet of aluminum foil and ball it into a tight ball. Now use it as you would an SOS pad to scrub the baked on gunk off your pan. I like to "recycle" the foil I line my pans with for this job. Just remember not to use it on any nonstick pans because it will scratch them.

Stinky sink garbage disposal?
Use a lemon to quell garbage disposal odors. Just turn on the sink disposal and throw in a fresh lemon. It will immediately smell better!

Whiten with baking soda & peroxide
You can whiten pretty much any porous surface with baking soda and peroxide. Just slowly combine the two until you have a paste. Then just apply the paste to a scrub brush or toothbrush and gently scrub the offending surface. I've used this to make old, dingy grout, bright and white again. And it also does a good job of removing rust stains on cultured sinks and stainless steel. You can even use it to safely whiten your teeth!

Rags for mopping & dusting
No more paying for Swiffer pads! Just take a regular old washcloth and attach it as you would to your Swiffer mop. You can even make your own floor cleaning solution by diluting a few spoonfuls of liquid dish soap into a squirt bottle of water. Just squirt and mop!
Whenever socks get "holey" at my house, I put them in a special bin to use for dusting. Just slip the sock over your hand, spray with your favorite dust polish, and wipe away dust. When done just toss it in the trash.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Easy Chicken Casserole

Try this easy chicken casserole tonight! It truly is a one pot dish!

1 cup of uncooked white rice
2 cups of water
6 chicken legs (can be frozen or fresh)
1 12oz. bag of mixed frozen vegetables
2 10 3/4oz. cans cream of mushroom soup
Salt and pepper

In a 13x9 casserole dish assemble the ingredients in the order that they are listed above. Cover everything thoroughly with the soup. Do not stir! Then cover with aluminum foil and place in the oven at 400 degrees for 1 1/2 hours. When done the rice will have absorbed all the water and the chicken will be cooked through. Great by itself or with a salad!

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Slow-cooker Spanish Chicken

Are you in need of a quick and easy meal? Then try my Slow-cooker Spanish Chicken recipe. It's perfect for busy moms because you just dump all of the ingredients in the slow cooker and let it cook all day.

Here's a list of what you will need:
2 lbs. Chicken pieces (I prefer to use bone-in thighs)
1 large onion-chopped
1 16 oz. jar of salsa ( I use mild, but you can use medium or hot if you prefer more heat.)
4 oz. green olives
1 packet of taco seasoning
1/2 tsp. of red pepper flakes (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup of water

Just put everything in the crockpot, set it on high, and cook for about six hours. Meat can then easily be pulled off the bone and shredded into the sauce. You can serve it over rice, noodles, or with cornbread.

*This recipe can also be doubled so that you can use the leftovers to make Chicken & Cheese Enchiladas. All you need to do is mix in some shredded cheese and spoon mixture into tortillas and wrap them like a burrito and place in a baking pan. Be sure you place them seam down. Then cover them with your favorite store bought enchilada sauce and top with shredded cheese. Bake in the oven at 375 degrees for 45 min until cheese is bubbly and slightly browned. Top with a dollop of sour cream.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Teething Is Such A Pain

Image result for baby teeth coming in
I hate it when my toddler is teething. It is agonizing for both of us. He is currently cutting his top back molars and is miserable at night. So that means I'm up most of the night comforting him and popping Tylenol in his mouth. And during the daytime he gnaws on everything, including me. And it's been this way for us since the first tooth.

We have tried everything-ointments, medicines, home remedies. Nothing alleviates the pain completely. He just has to suffer through until the offending tooth makes it through the gum. All I can do is take the edge off the pain by using Tylenol chew-tabs. I tried several different brands of liquid Acetaminophen and Ibuprofen before my mom turned me on to the chew-tabs. They have definitely been a Godsend for us. But I know that no two children respond alike to the same medication. So that leaves us mommies to figure it out with trial and error.

Worse yet is when you meet another mother and ask her how she treats teething pain and she tells you her child has no problem with it. That one always sends me off to silently fume, wondering why it is that my kid has to have such a hard time. But I still have no answer. That's just the way God made him.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Stop Teasing My Kid!

So this morning I took my toddler to our church playgroup as I usually do. He was having lots of fun running and riding cars around the gym with the other kids until a bigger kid started teasing him with a toy car he had found.
Of course my little boy loves cars, so as soon as he saw it he began asking for it from the other kid, even trying to trade his cars for it. When I suggested the option of sharing to them, my son was open to it, but the older boy was not. So I then proceeded to explain to my son that the other kid didn't want to share his toy and that was ok because it was his and not everyone shares. I then tried to redirect my little one to another activity.
Things would have been fine after that but the other boy just kept riding up to my son and dangling the car in front of him and snatching it back, which eventually caused a meltdown. I interrupted this and suggested we go play ball instead, to which the same kid declared the ball was HIS! Apparently everything was HIS! I corrected him but it didn't make a difference, he just kept on.
Finally I gave up trying to reason with him and just scooped up my son and left. It highly frustrated me, but I was out of options. What's a momma to do? I'm new to the group and didn't want to complain. And his mom was no where to be found. I'd love to hear any suggestions you might have for dealing with this type of behavior.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Easy Pipe-cleaner Daisies

Try making these easy pipe-cleaner daisies with your toddler! My little one had a blast! Of course I handled the glue gun, but if you don't have one on hand or are uncomfortable using hot glue around your little one, you could easily substitute another type of glue.
Here's what you will need:
colored pipe-cleaners
a bottle cap (I used a milk jug cap)
glue gun
glue sticks
Fold pipe-cleaners in half loops as shown and bend the ends to fit down into your bottle cap. These will be your daisy petals. You can add as many as you would like.
Place your pipe-cleaner petals down into the top with the loops facing outward. The flat part of the top should face down so that it's the center of the finished daisy.
Glue all of the petals in place. Let dry and then fluff out petals. We hung our finished daisy in the window.
Have fun!


Monday, March 16, 2015

Ode To The Froggy Potty

Image result for froggy potty

Last week my little one insisted that HE carry his backpack into daycare. Last night he finally decided that he was ready to use the big kid potty. We have been struggling with potty training for several months now. First he was excited to learn, then he decided it was more of a hassle, and a couple of months he flat out refused.

Now he has a renewed interest and has been going on his froggy training potty frequently. But using the big boy potty has always been an issue, until last night. After eyeballing it carefully, he gestured for me to put in the seat insert and help him aboard. After a few seconds of uncertain tension, he relaxed and began going. A huge prideful grin then came across his face and he clapped for himself. He continued to sit there for several minutes and bask in his accomplishment. Of course his Daddy and I couldn't stop gushing praise about what a big boy we had!

And then it was mentioned that soon we would no longer need the little froggy potty. My heart sank! The realization of my little baby boy growing up set in. He's getting so big so fast-too fast! Seems like only yesterday we brought him home from the hospital. I know that every parent goes through this as they watch their child mature into an adult. But that doesn't make it any less bittersweet when it finally happens to you! And yes, when the day comes that I have to pack up that little green froggy potty with the kooky eyeballs that he so often pointed to, I will shed a tear.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Teaching Responsibility With Pets

Our two year old son has never met anything furred, feathered, or finned that he didn't like! So naturally he loves his pets! They are his constant companions and partners in crime. You can imagine two dogs, a cat, and a toddler all running around the house playing. It gets a little chaotic at times!

But with all that playing my toddler actually learned how to love and care for his animals. He helps feed and water them. And he loves giving them treats! He can even put their collars on for a walk. By watching us he learned what his pets needed to be healthy and happy. And it's not a responsibility he takes lightly! He has become so concerned for their needs that often he calls my attention to their empty food bowls, even if it's not feeding time!

He is also equally aware when they are not feeling well or hurt. Having pets has taught him a great deal about empathy and compassion. They have also made him more caring and gentle. I'm sure all of you animal enthusiasts out there can relate to this and I would love to hear some of your stories!

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Hiking Safely With Your Little Ones

Black Bear with Cubs by Amy Turberville

Spring is just around the corner! Time to head outdoors and enjoy nature with your little ones. When you do be sure to follow these simple rules to keep everyone safe and happy.
  • Always tell someone where you are going and when you will return.
  • Be prepared for sudden weather changes. Always pack extra clothes, jackets, rain gear, boots, and a hat for your child, as well as yourself. Pack sunscreen and bear and bug spray as needed. And always pack a first aid kit.
  • Wear bells on your backpack or put bells on your dog's collar to scare away bears and other predators. Never approach a wild animal, especially a mother with babies!
  • Be mindful of the terrain. Know your child's physical limitations.
  • Pack snacks and plenty of water. But beware! If you are outdoors in bear country be sure to use bear-proof containers and do not leave any food scraps down.
  • Take plenty of breaks so your little one can rest!
  • Never start a campfire in an unapproved area or leave one unattended.
  • Be aware of all water hazards. Pack a life preserver if you plan on being in proximity to them.
Following these simple rules can help keep you and your child out of danger in the great outdoors. Be safe and enjoy nature!

Friday, March 13, 2015

How To Treat A Toddler's Seasonal Allergies

Treating seasonal allergies in a toddler can be tough. After trying a room humidifier, Benadryl, and several homeopathic remedies, we found taking a daily dose of children's Zyrtec works best for my son. In this post I will highlight several trouble-shooting tips for treating a toddler suffering from seasonal allergies.

First you should examine your child's environment for potential allergens. Does he/she sneeze around pollen or dust, etc.? If so, do your best to eliminate the aggravating item. Make sure to keep your home clean and free of dust, lint, and pet hair. You may also want to use an allergen-removing air filter in your home's furnace/central air handler. Basic filters can be easily found at stores like Lowe's and Home Depot and are very cost effective. More expensive specialty brands can be found online through retailers like Amazon. Some children also benefit from having an air purifier or humidifier in their room. Just be sure to clean and change the product filters as directed or their effectiveness is drastically reduced.

So what if you cannot remove the aggravating allergen? Say it's the blooming trees or grass outside, as it was in my son's case. Then you will have to find the right kind of allergy medication that is suited for your child's age and symptoms. There are several over-the-counter medications now for children two years old and up. Benadryl is the oldest and most cost effective of these, but causes drowsiness and dizziness or dry mouth in most children. Newer brands like Claritin and Zyrtec cost a little more but have far fewer side effects and are labeled non-drowsy, so they are great for daytime. There are also several homeopathic products from companies like Similasan and Zarbee's that help relieve allergy symptoms naturally. You may have to try several brands before finding out which one works best in your child. Always be sure to ask your child's doctor before starting any new medication for specific dosage instructions.

Good luck in the upcoming allergy season!