New York Times best-selling author, slow cooking expert, mom of three
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Totally Together

How to Keep Your Kids Healthy This School Year

August 25, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 


The most important thing you can do to prevent sickness is to wash your hands, and teach your children proper handwashing technique.

Back to School Time Brings Germs

It’s back to school season, which unfortunately (lots of times) means It’s Back To Being Sick season.

And that stinks.

I did some work with Lysol over the summer, and had the opportunity to sit down with a representative from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) a few weeks ago during the BlogHer conference.

And guess what?

Preventing sickness — the common cold, pink eye, hand-foot-mouth, the flu, and respiratory illness — is really easy to do.

You just need to WASH YOUR HANDS and regularly disinfect surfaces!

That’s it!

 

A TRILLION Germs live in One Gram of Poop. Gross. Free Printable for your bathroom, playroom, etc.

 

In case you weren’t sure of what number has that many zeros, it’s TRILLION.

There are A TRILLION GERMS IN ONE GRAM OF POOP.

Ew.

It’s a big deal. And I tell my kids that when they pick their nose, it’s “their nose’s poop.” Gross, yes, but it gets the point across. As far as I’m concerned you can’t ever really wash your hands too much.

Another thing that I learned from the CDC representative is that hand sanitizer is not a substitute for hand washing. It will do the job in a pinch, but the best thing is to always use running water and soap.

 

Free Printable Hand Washing Signs from the CDC

 

If you’d like some hand-washing signs to print out to hang in your home, your classroom, or at church, etc., this link has the PDFs.

They are in other languages, too!

 

War on Germs

As I said in my previous post for Lysol, I do try to keep our own home as germ-free as I can, and I do purposely wipe down the door knobs, light switches, remotes, and hand-held screens pretty often with Lysol Disinfecting Wipes.

I’m going to continue to do this, but I’m going to also really try to round up the kids as often as I can to wash their hands. I’m also going to make a very concerted effort to wash hands before we eat anything — this can be tricky on a busy Saturday afternoon when we are grabbing food on the run, or are hanging out at the mall.

But I’m convinced.

Hand washing is easy, and it’s cheap.

What about you? Do you have a plan of attack to keep the germs from invading your home this Back to School season?

 

Planning a Road Trip with Little Kids

August 6, 2014 by · 14 Comments 

How to plan and execute a family road trip with little kids. 2 weeks, 8 states. You can do it!

 

Plan Ahead

We took a 2-week family road trip this summer as our main vacation. We ended up hitting 8 states, and we left from the San Francisco Bay Area. The states that we “tiptoed in” aren’t included in the above map — we ended up only spending an hour in Nebraska and about 15 minutes in Colorado. But I still think it totally counts!

We have a small pop-up tent trailer that we pull with our Toyota Sienna mini van. If you are in the market for a pop-up, we chose the Jayco Sport 10 model, and it fit all 5 of us beautifully (2 adults, kids: 12, 9, 4). We opted to get a model that doesn’t have a shower or toilet because we stayed at (almost all) KOA campgrounds.

We opted for the KOA grounds because they had swimming pools, good bathroom facilities, and a playground for the kids. I also appreciate that the Lights Out time at the campsites is 9pm; I like knowing that i’m not going to hear booming music while I’m trying to get the kids to sleep. The KOAs that we went to were all family-friendly and I felt safe, which was important to me when so far away.

Months (about 6 months) before we left, we outlined our route and made camp reservations. We knew we wanted to see Dinosaur National Park, Yellowstone, and Mt Rushmore. The kids also really wanted to see “the world’s largest baked potato” in Idaho. Those were the destinations we kept in mind while planning our itinerary. Adam also wanted to limit the driving to about 400 miles a day or less.

When planning a family road trip, get an accordion file and fill each slot with detailed maps and emergency room instructions. Safety first!

I bought an inexpensive accordion file folder and divvied it up per day. I included in each slot our camping reservation, a map of the area, and directions to the nearest hospital. I did this for every city we spent the night in. I figured if we had the local emergency room mapped out we’d never need to use it! And I was right! PHEW!!

Do not count on your vehicle’s GPS system or your phone’s turn by turn guidance. Be sure to have roadmaps of all the areas you are going to go to, and before you leave print out turn by turn instructions from one spot to another. Cell and GPS reception is quite spotty in the National Parks, Forests, and in the mountains. We’d have entire days of no cell service.

You can get Tourist Information and roadmaps for every state at this website. And here is my Pinterest Board I used to keep track of my bookmarks.

EXPECT THE KIDS TO SAY THEY ARE BORED

We drove a lot. Although we tried to limit the driving to 3 to 4 hours a day, there were days that we hit traffic or road construction crews or bad weather which slowed us down. I have fantastic kids, but I’m super glad that there wasn’t a dashboard-mounted camera to catch all the times that I yelled at them to stop complaining.

Kids are kids. Kids complain. Kids get tired and cranky. Know this and accept this before you go.

We had a rule that at the campsites there was “nothing digital.” But in the car? Whatever. Keep the kids happy — give them snacks, little toys from the dollar store, play games, and watch DVDs.

I actually bought boxed sets of new-to-my-kids DVDs to watch on the road like Punky Brewster, The Brady Bunch, Webster, Silver Spoons, and The Cosby Show. These are all family friendly and Adam and I enjoyed hearing them through the car sound system. I also liked how each episode has a bit of a moral dilemma and message.

I’m a total sap.

I had a few rolls of quarters with us that I used to pay the kids every so often for their good behavior. My idea was to dole them out for every 15 minutes or so of quiet but I wasn’t quite all that organized. Instead, I just handed them a handful here and there depending on my mood. They used these quarters to buy candy, stuff from gumball machines, and pressed pennies.

We also needed the quarters to do laundry at the campsites and to pay for parking meters. I was glad to have them!

MEAL PLAN

I’m the crockpot lady, so I planned most of our meals around slow cooker food. I wrote about how I always camp with my slow cooker, here.  This trip was no different, except that we were really on the road more than at a campsite, so I found the stovetop setting and the oven setting of the Ninja to be a much more efficient way to cook.

Bring along a Ninja Slow Cooker on your camping road trip and a long extension cord.

 

I brought along a 25-foot extension cord so we preferred to keep the Ninja out on the picnic table in the evenings while I cooked instead of stinking up the pop-up. It worked very well for us, and (in case you were wondering) you can make AWESOME bacon in it on the oven setting at 400 degrees — then you can use the drippings to make the world’s best hashbrowns!

A pancake griddle is a wonderful tool to bring on a camping roadtrip vacation.

I also packed the pancake griddle for use at the sites. The griddle came in handy during the rain storms that we kept hitting which made cooking outside impossible. We used it for pancakes, french toast, quesadillas, and grilled cheese sandwiches. On nice days I’d use it outside, too, for lunch time cooking.

Although the pop-up has a propane grill and every campsite has a charcoal or campfire ring, we really did find that we used the Ninja or the griddle for almost all of the meals. I found that I could control the heat better and when the kids were starving it was just easier to cook on something I was used to rather than worry about the wind blowing out the propane flame.

How to plan your meals for a long family roadtrip vacation.

Because we are gluten free, I worried that we wouldn’t really be able to find some of our favorite packaged food on the road. I bought a case of Gluten Free Rice Krispies before we left, and we stuck to that and yogurt and fresh fruit for breakfasts. Lunch was usually crackers with peanut butter or salami and cheese. We often ate in the car for lunch or found a local park that we could pull into to let the kids run around and get their wiggles out.

That was actually kind of fun — we would just find a suburb in a small town and drive around to find the local park. We saw some really cool playgrounds!

We ended up eating out for either lunch or dinner almost every day. In a perfect world I suppose you’d always eat at the campsite or prepare your own food, but I found it just not to be realistic. Eating at a restaurant for 1 meal a day was much less expensive than it would be to eat out for all meals, and it honestly was just kind of nice to have somebody bring me my food!

CAMPING, WITH KIDS, IN GENERAL

Camping with your kids provides lifetime memories and helps kids learn self-sufficiency.

 

Using the pop-up has spoiled me, and I’d rather not tent camp anymore if I can help it.  I like that the setup and tear down only takes about 20 minutes, and I like how clean this type of camping is. Since we stayed at KOAs, we all showered daily and the bathrooms were very nicely maintained. I never felt like we were roughing it — the mattresses were comfortable and I liked not having to roll up the bedding each and every day.

The kids all had their “jobs” — and they were very good at set up and tear down after 15 days on the road.

To make our home away from home a bit more comfortable, I did get a Nighttime Bathroom for me and the girls — a Luggable Loo, which came in very handy. To keep it from being gross, I simply lined it each night with a kitchen-garbage-bag and placed an open Size 5 diaper in the bottom. In the morning, I just tied up the garbage bag and took it to the onsite dumpster. It worked VERY well and I’d absolutely recommend the Loo to anyone traveling with small kids or anyone who doesn’t want to be wandering around a campground at night!

I also got a Queen Sized sleeping bag for me and Adam to use. I sometimes feel squished up in a regular sleeping bag, and it was nice to have one less thing to roll up.

SOUVENIRS

We’re frugal people, and although we did each get a TShirt from Mt. Rushmore and a few more things throughout the trip, we tried to limit our spending. Also, I’m not a fan of clutter.

:-)
Collecting magnets on vacation is an inexpensive way to have a souvenir at each stop.

That said, I did collect a magnet from all of our stops, and I love looking at them now that we are home. Magnets are cheap — I think the most expensive one was $4.99, and all of the tourist-type spots have them.

collect one rock per vacation spot and write the name and date with a Sharpie

I also really like the idea of taking 1 rock per place to keep as a momento. This is illegal in a lot of places, though, so if you get in trouble I release all liability!

WOULD I DO IT AGAIN?

Yes. In a heartbeat. This was such a fantastic trip, and filled with so many memories. I loved every bit of it, and would highly recommend setting up a longish trip with your own family. One of my favorite things was that we were gone long enough for the daily set up, tear down, driving, etc. to feel like The New Normal. We all got into a groove, as a family, and truly enjoyed living in the moment. In this day and age of being Plugged In at All Times it’s hard to really just live in the moment sometimes.

Since I don’t have a personal facebook page and since Adam and I are pretty private about our family lives and don’t want our kids online, I didn’t feel the need to constantly update social media — I didn’t want anyone to know we were gone, anyway!

it was freeing.

And you should DO IT!

:-)

in case you were wondering about the actual itinerary: San Francisco, Reno NV, Wendover NV, Salt Lake City UT, Vernal UT, Rawlins WY, Casper WY, Mt. Rushmore SD, Buffalo WY, Cody WY, Jackson Hole WY, Jerome ID, Winnemucca NV, Lake Tahoe CA

and here was my big WE DID IT! splurge:

frame a large US map and use pushpins to remember all of your stops along the way

Travel Map with Push Pins. The goal is to see if we can get to every state with the kids before they leave for college.

 

Happy Travels!!

Golden Rules for the Family — printable

May 12, 2014 by · 8 Comments 

The Family Golden Rules

click the link for a printable PDF version of the golden rules for your use –steph

The Family’s Golden Rules

Summer is coming, and I plan on having the kids home with me. I don’t like having the kids at camps and try not to have a lot of structured activities planned during the summer months. It’s a little old-school, I know, but I just really like having them home with me and I like the uninterrupted free time and play that occurs when we don’t have something we HAVE to do.

And I’m kind of lazy.

And I’m terribly cheap.

That said, I do have things that I need to accomplish this summer, and in order for me to get my work done, the kids need to find a way to fend for themselves and not run completely feral.

We have chore charts, and we do follow The Daily 7 as much as we can to keep the house in somewhat decent order. I try to let them work out their own squabbles (my kids are currently 12, 9, and 4) and choose to not intervene unless truly necessary.

(see above. I’m kind of lazy…)

AND? I am not going to always be here. I need these kids to grow up to be responsible members of society, and in order for that to happen, I can’t swoop in and fix every last thing. They’ve got to figure it out on their own.

I’ve gotten a few emails about chores, and responsibility charts, and decided to use those emails as a springboard to make up a list of Golden Rules for the house. These are certainly not the *only* rules in our house, but these are the ones that I expect to be drummed into their heads before embarking out into the Wild Wild World.

Feel free to print these out and hang them up in the play room or family room.

I hope you’re having a wonderful day!!

related:

age-appropriate listing of household chores, Wipe On/Wipe Off chore charts, “closet” homeschooling for the summer 

update to Family Game Night

July 20, 2011 by · 9 Comments 

 

I seem to be getting gutsier in my old age. A month or so ago I wrote about starting a Family Game night tradition in your house, and listed some of our own family favorites. Kim and I talked in the comment section about how it would be neat to have a lending library of family-friendly games at school or in the community, and I really liked that idea.

So I emailed Hasbro.

and they sent two HUGE boxes of games— 50 in all — for the school.

I couldn’t be happier.

Thank you, Hasbro.

I need to make some sort of checklist for checking out the games, and figure out where I’m going to house them. I may need to work out of the back of the van if I can’t find an empty cabinet somewhere! The girls (and their friends) are making inventory lists for each board game, and are putting the little pieces into separated ziplocks. So far the biggest hit game has been “girl talk” which has been deemed the BEST SLUMBER PARTY GAME ever. I haven’t looked over the cards very carefully, so I’m not sure exactly how appropriate the content is, but the boxes say ages 8 and up. I’ve noticed a lot of walking backwards and duck quacking…

I’ve been trying to figure out how our PTA can give back to the school for a while (without spending any money, since there ISN’T ANY), and having a lending game library will be a huge help. We just lost our biggest “free” fundraising effort–the Amazon Affiliates account, because of the new California tax laws. This is a big blow to our school, and I am looking into ways to replace that income. If anyone has any ideas (we have Scrip, and need to campaign big time this year to get more people involved) I’d love to hear them. I really liked the Amazon thing because it was such easy money and parents didn’t feel nickled and dimed—

I’ve got six weeks to figure it out.

ack.

In the mean time, I’m going to enjoy the last month or so of summer vacation and soak every bit of it up that I can. I love having everyone home—even though it means I’m in constant fire-fighter mode.

things are going well for you?

 

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