If holding down a job and taking care of your family are already stressful on their own, what more if you are trying to balance both of them? For working moms in particular, the thought of juggling a full-time job and home life can spell disaster especially without the proper management.

It is understandable that moms get too tired to do the chores or to try putting the kids to sleep after coming from work. It’s not unusual that stress would take a toll on them and as a result, they tend to get too irritable especially when trying to quiet down their kids running around the living room or coming home to a pile of dirty dishes in the sink.

But do not lose hope, hardworking moms! While juggling work away from home and family life is never easy, it can be otherwise manageable. Here are some great tips to help you to achieve the ideal work-home life balance.

1) Learn to say “no.”
In our stay-driven, stay-busy, eager-to-please culture, we’re too hard-pressed to say “No” to every requests. Saying “No” can be difficult at first, and you’re afraid to offend anyone if you decline their requests, invitations and propositions. But in the long run, saying “No” allows you to have free time to do other things that matter more to you. It’s fine if you do not have to attend PTA meetings, escort your kids on all of their field trips or accept extra work projects. In fact, saying “No” is one of the keys to a healthy, stress-free life. It’s okay not to act like a Supermom all the time. But first though, you must take your time and consider whether this request or proposition is worth taking.

Check out the article “How a Stressed-Out, Sleep-Deprived Mom Overcame Overcommitment” which stresses the importance of saying “No.”

2) Teach simple clean-up tasks to your kids.
Do you always have to pick up scattered toys, put away those shoes and do your kids’ beds every time you’re in the house, while feeling tired from work at the same time? These are the things that even three- or four-year-olds can do by themselves. Whenever you’re home ask them, gently and politely, to pick up and stash their toys when they’re done playing with them, put away their shoes, hang up their coats and fix their beds. Show your kids how simple clean-up tasks are done so that they can do them by themselves when they’re left in the house. You don’t have to berate or discourage them if they do not do these tasks properly, or fix up after when they’re done – after all, they’re still learning how to do it and trying to help you.

3) Set daily goals that are realistic and attainable.
What’s the point of a daily to-do list if the goals are too impossible to complete? Again, it’s okay not to act like Supermom all the time, and it’s also okay not trying to be one. Make sure to that your daily goals are realistic and attainable enough to accomplish, and do more if you more time.

4) Plan meals ahead.
Go to the grocery once a week to buy all of the ingredients. Get a cookbook or browse the Internet for quick and easy-to-prepare recipes. Cook the meals in bulk, and save the half of it to store in the fridge for another meal. The same method goes for preparing a salad – make it in bulk and save the half of it for the next meal. It’s also good to buy instant, pre-packaged and microwaveable meals when you don’t have time to cook or you don’t feel like cooking. Have the children make dinner at least once a week if they’re big and old enough. When you’re too busy to even just pop a TV dinner into the microwave, call for a take-out order like pizza and Chinese food.

5) Make time for your family and for yourself.
Try your best to do things with your family together as often as possible, such as going out for a picnic or a hike or even as simple as having dinner. Plan a movie or board game night, or take the whole family your kid’s big sporting event. These activities will not only help in tightening your bond, they are also great to beat stress and

Mothers tend to put themselves last even on their own priorities. As a mom, you know that all too well. However, you need to know that it’s important to take care of yourself. You are the center, the light and the heart of the home and family. You should have all the energy that you need – rest, relax, recharge and have a little diversion, but it doesn’t mean that you have to “escape” your family to do it. Just make time for yourself every now and then – pamper yourself at a spa, go to the gym, meet up with your friends at a coffee shop or re-visit your hobby.

The relationship between a mother and a daughter generates a wide spectrum of emotions – sweet, wonderful, intense and sometimes overwhelming and a bit chaotic. But whatever that may come out of it, it will always be a mutually beneficial and special relationship.

Because the mother-and-daughter relationship usually holds the strongest bond, it is almost inevitable that they will share a lot of things in common – likes, dislikes, some habits and even a few eccentricities. But every mother-and-daughter relationship is different: some have been best friends for long, while others have survived the roller-coaster ride only to realize they have become closer than before.

It’s important to set aside a schedule for the mother-and-daughter bonding time . It will help you slow things down a bit and allow the two of you to listen to each other, to get each other even better, and enjoy each other’s company. Even simple activities done at home can improve and enhance their relationship, and bring out those precious moments that will be forever etched into your memory. The following activities can work regardless of the various stages of a mother and daughter’s life.

1) Treat yourselves to a “royal spa day”.
Whether your daughter still has Cinderella dreams or has grown too old for them, it doesn’t matter much – she still wants to be treated like a princess, even just for a day. Plan for an all-girls spa day where mother and daughter deserve to be pampered royally. It should come complete with facials, hand and foot spa, manicure and pedicure and make-up application.

If you cannot afford a fancy spa treatment, you can easily create that at home where you can experiment with DIY spa treatments, eat wholesome snacks (no chips for now) and take turns pampering each other.

2) Take a hike
Even the simplest activities can bring a profound experience. Taking a hike together will boost mother-and-daughter bonding. Spending alone together with nature may open your eyes to a lot of things along your path. Plus, this activity can help in reducing emotional and mental stress. It also allows you to get to know each other a little better and deeper that will further cement your relationship. Not to mention you’ll be getting some good amount of exercise as well.

3) Have a rainy-day movie marathon
Gloomy days can be boring and can bring one into a foul mood. In order to stave that negativity off, why don’t you launch a movie marathon? Whip it up with a hot cocoa and a bag of chips, and then settle yourselves on a warm, comfy couch before turning the TV on. Your movie selections may consist of Disney favorites, beloved chick flicks or even action-fantasy films if you both of are into that sort of thing. Or have a good round of Netflix.

4) Go on dates
If your daughter has siblings, she’s probably wishing to spend some time alone with you. At least once or twice a month, plan for a mother-and-daughter date and pick out the most fun things that both of you would love to do together. These things may include a day at a spa (mentioned in no. 1), visiting an oceanarium or a marine park, going to a baseball game together or signing up for a comprehensive two-day cake and cupcake-making class or a pottery class. It helps to be creative when you plan your own mother-and-daughter outing to keep the fun and interest factor going.

6) Cook meals together
Whether it’s on special occasions such as Christmas or Thanksgiving or on ordinary days, it’s always special when mother and daughter cook meals together. Mothers and daughters who cook and eat together, spend quality time together. The sense of accomplishment by preparing and cooking food is rewarding, much more when you do it together. If your daughter doesn’t have any cooking skills yet, then it’s the best time to bond with her by teaching her basic cooking techniques, because cooking is a survival skill and an adventure at the same time. You may also teach her family heirloom recipes or your own piece de resistance. It’s also a good way to introduce her into eating healthily by preparing meals out of fresh and wholesome ingredients.

5) Volunteer to help others
As a parent, it is important that you should instill a charitable spirit and a commitment to help others in your children. Volunteering together will not only tighten your mom-and-daughter bond, but it will also bring you closer to the community. Helping other people and supporting the good causes that you believe will allow you to feel the joy and satisfaction of making a difference, even in just a small way. There’s no greater feeling in the world than bringing light to other people and making them smile, and spending quality time with each other at the same time.

Nowadays, kids are stuck with their smartphones and tablets. Get them to be active no matter the season (not just spring or summer) with these games and other activities that will guarantee hours of fun and learning! Plus, they’re not so hard to set up.

1) Water balloon games
Fill up several balloons with water and tie up the ends. Perfect for water balloon throwing challenge, balloon stomp, blindfold water balloon toss game, laundry basket catch, relay games, water balloon darts, water ballon pinatas and several other fun games that you can ever think of! The only limit is your imagination.

2) “Simon Says”
It involves of a participant named “Simon” who tells the other players what to do by saying the phrase “Simon Says.” If “Simon” says something that doesn’t have that phrase and the player does what he says, they’re out of the game. This popular and classic game also helps in building your child’s listening and attentive skills.

3) Scavenger hunts
Gather some items that are easily found at the park or even at your own backyard – flowers, pebbles and leaves, etc. Affix those items with names and have the kids to start looking for them!

4) Making “mud pies”
For a kid, nothing compares to the feeling of mud squishing between their hands and turning it into “mud pies.” It’s time to get down and dirty with this simple but fun nature activity! It also espouses your kid’s creativity.

5) Sand games and water fun
If you live on a sandy beach, you are quite lucky! The beach and the sea are your vast playground. Aside from the usual water activities, you can also get your kids into playing with sand. There are different types of fun activities using sand, such as making sand castles, sand drawings, making a “sand angel,” building a sandman and lots more!

Kids love the water, but remember to keep your eye on them as they wade through the shallow waters — especially on the younger kids! To keep them safe as well as provide them additional element of fun, check out 15 Fun Float Ideas for Your Pool or Next Vacation for cute water floats.

6) Making art pieces and décor using natural materials
Exploring nature doesn’t have to be done in a faraway forest – it can be done at your front yard or at a nearby park dotted with lush plants. You can make arts and crafts using natural materials that you’ve gathered from your nature walks, such as painting using different kinds of leaves or a collage using fallen acorn nuts. Have fun making Christmas decors using fallen pine cones that you’ve just collected from the nearest park, and sprinkle them with silver-colored glitter or polystyrene powder for the “snow.” These are the perfect activities especially during fall or winter.

7) Winter activities
Most kids get so excited whenever they encounter the first snowfall – and that means it’s going to be a winter wonderland for them! There are many fun outdoor activities during the winter season: building a snowman, making a “snow angel,” snowball fight games, ice skating, sledding, building snow forts, making igloos, creating ice art, and so much more!

Having fun with kids doesn’t have to be very high-tech or costly. Some of these classic outdoor games and activities have proven, time and again, to be a hit even with kids in this generation.

There are lots of benefits your children can get from doing outdoor activities such as getting lots of exercise, developing their creativity and promoting their social skills, among other things.

Some outdoor activities, like nature walks, also ignite your children’s curious nature and their desire to explore more new things.

Cooking is a basic survival skill, which is true. But it doesn’t always have to be a chore. As you can see, there are lots of people – whether professional chefs or home cooks – who find joy in cooking. That’s why it’s better to impart this notion of cooking and preparing food to your own children while they’re still young – that it is not just a job, it can also be really fun! It’s always enjoyable to make things from scratch. Cooking also helps you to bond closer to your kids as well.

The following are a few good recipe suggestions for your kids to start. Since cooking works with heat, you should closely supervise your children in the kitchen, but eventually, they will be able to cook on their own. Who knows, they will become chefs in the making!

It’s also a good idea to find kid-safe cooking tools on department stores or online to minimize the likelihood of injuries.

1) No-Bake Peanut Butter Treats
It requires the most accessible ingredients: 1/3 cup of chunky peanut butter, ¼ cup of honey, a half teaspoon of vanilla extract, 1/3 dry milk powder (preferably nonfat), a 1/3 cup of instant oats and two tablespoons of graham cracker crumbs.

Mix the wet ingredients first (peanut butter, honey and vanilla extract). Mix them together until combined well. Add in the rest of the ingredients, mix well and shape them into small balls – that’s the most fun part! Cover and keep them in the fridge. Now they’re ready to eat!

2) Bread roll pizzas
Most kids love pizzas, and we’re sure they will be thrilled to make their own! Split the rolls in half to form the “dough” and let your kids customize their own toppings – pizza sauce, pepperoni, many kinds of cheeses, ham, bacon, pineapple – it’s up to them! Pop the pizzas into the oven and wait until they’re warm and cooked well.

3) Easy Fruit Pops
They’re basically just Jello and Kool Aid. But kids will definitely enjoy making them – and eating them as well. Plus, Kool-Aid comes in a variety of colors and flavors to choose from, so that adds the fun part of making them.

Ingredients include a packet of Jello, a packet of Kool-Aid, ¾ cup sugar, two cups of boiling water and two cups of cold water. Combine all the ingredients, except the cold water, and stir until the dissolved. Then add the cold water and pour into popsicle molds. Freeze for at least four hours until set and solid.

Another fun alternative is to pour the ingredients into cute little Gummy Bear-shaped molds. You can find silicone Gummy Bear molds on this link “Cool Ice Cream and Dessert Accessories.”

4) Easy Nutella Brownies
Who doesn’t like Nutella, especially the kids? Now your little ones will be able to enjoy Nutella more by making these easy and chewy three-ingredient brownies!

This recipe just calls for: 1 ¼ cup Nutella, two large eggs and ½ cups of flour.

Combine all the ingredients and mix them together until the batter becomes smooth. Pour the batter into a greased baking pan. Have the oven pre-heated at 350 degrees Fahrenheit before popping the pan into the oven. Make sure that the brownies won’t get overbaked (otherwise they will become dry and won’t be fudgy).

5) Mini Lasagna Cups
This is an easy and fun twist on a classic Italian dish! Use won ton wraps and put them into a cupcake and muffin pan. Add the ingredients normally found in a lasagna such as marinara sauce and ground beef. Kids would love to add lots of cheese on these cups! Bake these mini lasagna cups into a pre-heated oven and wait until the cheese begins to melt.

Crafting sessions with children are always fun! Check out these three easy, engaging and fun arts and crafts ideas suitable for kids (and also kids at heart!) and for all occasions. The great news is that these arts and crafts ideas use anything that you can find – household items, recycled materials and things you can find from nature. Not only they are fun, but they will also tap your kids’ imagination and creativity. Some of these crafts even serve a practical purpose!

DIY Nebular Jar
A nebula is an interstellar cloud of gas and dust in outer space, which can be seen at night by the naked eye. If your kid is a fan of astronomy and anything about outer space, they will surely love this “intergalactic” craft project!

What you need:
1) A piece of newspaper to keep your works pace clean
2) A clear jar with a lid
3) Paint (preferable tempera paint)
4) Cotton Balls
5) Glitter
6) Water

How to make it:
1) Fill up about one-third of the jar with water.
2) Add a few drops of paint.
3) Mix paint and water together until the paint is thoroughly dissolved.
4) Put some cotton balls into the combined paint and water, and push them down until they are filled with the mixture.
5) Add glitter.
6) Repeat the procedures No. 1 to No. 5 until the jar is full.

Desk Organizer from Recycled Materials
This craft does not only engender your kids’ creativity and imagination, it also helps promote resourcefulness and care for the environment.

What you need:
1) Newspaper (to keep the work space clean)
2) Three empty toilet paper rolls
3) Paint
4) Paintbrush
5) Glue stick
7) Glue gun

(Reminder: please supervise your children while they are using the glue gun, as it can burn their skin)

How to make it:
1) Coat the three empty paper rolls with paint (the colors are up to you!) and set them aside to dry.
2) Load the glue stick into the glue gun and plug it into a nearby electrical outlet, and wait until the glue stick heats up and starts to melt.
2) Use a hot glue gun to stick all the three painted toilet rolls together, forming a pyramid.
3) Make sure that the edges are even so that it stands well. Your desk organizer is done and ready to use!

Sponge Bath Toy
Bath time for kids will be more fun with this googly little friend! It’s easy to make, too.

What you need:
1) Bath sponge
2) Scissors
3) Glue stick
4) Glue gun
5) Bendable straw or a pipe cleaner (preferably red)
6) Googly eyes (preferably big ones)

(Reminder: please supervise your children while they are using the glue gun, as it can burn their skin)

How to make it:
1) Using scissors, cut one edge of the bath sponge into a curved and round shape.
2) Using scissors again, cut slits in the bottom to create “tentacles.”
3) Load the glue stick into the glue gun and plug it into a nearby electrical outlet, and wait until the glue stick heats up and starts to melt.
4) Glue on the googly eyes on the sponge.
5) For the lips, cut a small strip of the bendable straw or pipe cleaner and glue it to the sponge.
6) Voila! It’s ready to play!

Looking for more fun arts and crafts ideas? How about picture frames? There are many wonderful DIY picture frame tutorials and this is one of them: DIY Picture Frame Ideas. They’re not only ideal to place you snapshots, but also any  piece of arts and crafts (whether portraits, landscapes, your kids’ art or calligraphy art which is quite popular nowadays).

I’ve been more mindful of the future recently, and the fact that we need to start planning for the kids. I want them to go to college, and this means saving for a college fund.

I also realised that I need to cut down on my spending and start putting aside some savings. On a mission, my first step was to assess what I actually spend my money on. I’m not a huge spender, mind you. As I’m a stay at home mom I depend on my husbands modest income, and we do get by. Even so, looking through my bank statements was a bit of a slap in the face.

I realised I spend about $5 a day on Starbucks – and this has been happening for the last few years at least. Strangely enough, it correlates with me becoming a Mom – coincidence!? I calculated that if I can somehow forgo this, I can save at least $1,800 per year! A crazy amount, and more than enough to start a healthy college fund for the kids.

I didn’t want to forgo this daily treat – just the cost associated with it. Luckily, I then read about online surveys at Paid Surveys Fanatic and found that some of these sites were paying up to $10 per survey! Granted, this sites lists the paid survey Australia opportunities, but many of them are applicable for those of us here in the US. With a potential solution to my problem, I gave it a try… and it was a success!

I’ve since signed up to loads of these sites and receive at least one survey offer a day that can pay anywhere from $1 to $10, which evens out nicely to cover my coffee bill. They’re also super easy to complete. I can do a survey on my smartphone or tablet from anywhere, at anytime. Usually I just do them while sitting on the toilet. The glamorous life of a stay at home mom!

While I accept that they’ll never make me rich, they have certainly done a lot to alleviate any guilt associated with my one-a-day Starbucks habit. I’d suggest giving paid surveys a try to any stay at home mom that wants to earn a few extra dollars. There really is nothing to lose!

I don’t know how it’s happened but somehow my biggest little baby has started school!

They say time flies and it really is true. Just the other day I was holding her for the first time and now she’s started one of the biggest adventures of all – school!

I knew it would be a big deal for me as well, but I didn’t realize how big of a deal. I knew that I would miss her and I would have to let a piece of her go and that would be hard, but I didn’t realize that there would also be a learning curve for me.

For one, I had never had to make school lunches before. I’ve had my babies at home with me or in part time child care where food is provided. I thought it would be more simple that it was. Everything seems to be fancier and more full on with many more rules than when I was a kid, from what’s allowed to be taken to school to how it’s presented.

starting school

I also didn’t realize how much they would have sport and we didn’t have enough suitable clothing. It’s only been a few weeks and I am also surprised how many clothes she is wearing out already! And shoes. The special school shoes I bought her have not held up either.

Speaking of shoes, I also mucked up with sports shoes. She has one with laces but since she can’t do them up herself yet, they are not allowed so I had to buy some others.

We’ve also had to get used to homework and just fitting everything into a day. I can’t believe how fast the day goes for me with school to split the day up.

It’s also not as fun at home without big sister to keep everyone entertained.

There are many up sides though. She is just loving school and she is growing up so much right in front of my eyes. She has made many new friends and her confidence has grown a lot. She is also reading and writing better. All up, I’m very proud of her and it’s been exciting sharing this new journey.


Travelling with kids

If you are like me then the idea of traveling with your kids is terrifying. A long car ride, or worse, a flight, with young kids sends shivers down your spine.

At least that’s what I used to think – then I gave it a go!

It turns out that traveling with kids isn’t anywhere near as bad as I imagined. In fact, it’s fun!

Travelling with kids

We have taken a few trips with our kids and next month we plan to travel all the way to Italy with them. This is something I never would have dreamed that I would do!

Our vacations so far have been within California or to neighboring states. We also flew down to Mexico last summer. I was initially worried about that but we had the best time. It was so good to have two weeks of quality family time where all our energy went on each other instead of being taken up with work, cleaning and cooking. We were able to just have fun and it was great for my husband to get so much time with the kids.

I had worried so much about silly things – like the kids screaming all the flight and all the time we were away or the kids not eating anything, us getting all sick and other silly worries. I found this article good for helping me feel better about it all and better prepared. The reality was that none of these things happened. We just had a good time.

Some things I do find essential for a great family vacation are staying in great accommodation, working around the kids nap times and being well prepared. The first time we went away, we stayed in a tiny hotel room and it did not work out that well. The next time we stayed in apartment style accommodation and that was so much better – we need our own space. We also need great facilities with plenty of space around the resort so the kids can run around. We especially like a big pool and room service comes in handy for when we can’t be bothered going out.

Nap times are also important. I have found as long as the kids are well rested, things go well – just like at home! If they get cranky and over tired, things stop being fun. I actually quite like having nap time every day. We all chill out for awhile and it’s nice.

I can't wait to go to Florence!!

I can’t wait to go to Florence!!

Going to Italy will be more challenging as there is just so much I want to do! I hope I am not aiming too high. I have never been before and it’s a life long dream so hopefully it goes well. Wish us luck!

Why I love toddlers

Toddlers seem to get a bad rap. There is so much talk of the terrible twos, toddler tantrums and other such things that it seems like all the positives of toddlers get ignored. And there are lots of positives.

I actually love toddlers. They have their challenges but I think there are more good points than bad points (like saying goodbye to breast feeding). Here’s why!

Why I love toddlers

1. They are super cute.

Toddlers are super cute. They are such little things with such big personalities. From the way they dress to the way they play to the way they draw, they are super cute to watch and enjoy.

2. Their amazement in the world is beautiful to watch.

My favorite part of toddlerdom is the amazement they have in the world. It doesn’t take much for their faces to beam and their interest to be heightened. It is a great age to explore and discover as you can see them lapping it all up. It doesn’t have to be far afield exploring either – they love the little things, like a walk to the park. It’s fun!

3. They love cuddles.

No other age group seems to lap up cuddles like a toddler. They love many many cuddles and aren’t shy about launching themselves in your direction to get one. The amount of love that they show is priceless.

4. They nap.

As much as I love toddlers, I also love that they generally sleep well at night time by this point and also have a decent day time nap. I love the downtime in the middle of the day giving us both a chance to rest.

5. They don’t talk much.

If you have had a preschooler, you will know why this is good! They can say enough to get their point across but don’t have a million questions and the constant chit chat of older kids which helps stop my own brain from exploding!

6. Even when they have a tantrum, they are still small enough to handle.

Tantrums are never fun but toddler tantrums can at least be cute! And they are still small enough that you can pick them up and remove them from a situation if you have to. You also don’t get as many judgmental looks as what happens if your preschooler has a tantrum.

7. It doesn’t take much to make them happy.

Toddlers are super easy to please. Just give them a tutu or a snack or some blocks or anything at all really and you are likely to see a big smile and have them happily play for awhile. It’s great!

There are many more reasons why I love toddlers – these are just the main ones! Do you love toddlers?

I have to admit, I was nervous about using a convertible car seat. Before I purchased one, I read a lot of reviews. I saw a few of them at parenting.com before reading more reviews. My main concern was safety. I had read previously that convertible car seats were not as safe as infant car seats and this made me nervous, as it would any mom.

In recent years their safety profile has definitely improved. I finally settled on the Britax USA Advocate. I settled on this for one major reason – it looked the safest! It looks so well cushioned and comfortable and I definitely found this to be the truth.

Installation was very simple. Actually, I found it simpler than most infant car seats I have used in the past. But the real test would be on the road. I strapped my daughter in and she seemed very comfortable! It was a hot day too and the fabric seemed to breathe quite well.

Asleep in her seat. (Obviously we were parked!)

Asleep in her seat. (Obviously we were parked!)

My son is older than my daughter so I was excited to see how it would fit him. My daughter is young enough to have the seat sitting rear facing (the way I prefer), but my son now requires a forward facing car seat. Switching it over was sooooo simple and he told me that he was very comfortable!

I seem to have also found the solution to sleep time. For some reason, both of my kids that tried this car seat fell asleep within about 10 minutes… that was weird.

So, would I recommend a convertible car seat?

Without a doubt. Previously I would have agreed with the worry about their safety profile, but they are now better than ever. I am considering purchasing a second one. And apparently you get ones that sit three across. My bank balance better watch out 🙂