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Icon12 Great Homemade Presents to Make With Your Kids By Dr. Laura Markham www.yourparentingsolutions.com It's the thought that counts, and the love that goes into it. No need to spend a fortune on gifts, your kids will love making them for grandparents, cousins and teachers, and the recipients will treasure them. Remember that your goal is to have fun with your child and give a token of affection, not to exhaust yourself. Hopefully this list will get your creativity fired up; more explicit directions are easily available online. 1. Anything from your kitchen: Cookies, jams, fudge, quick breads, your famous spaghetti or barbecue sauce, your special trail mix, or a kit with the makings for something yummy, tied with a ribbon: your perfect pancakes or scrumptious seven bean soup. 2. Booklet of favorite memories: Have your child draw illustrations and write or type up his or her favorite memories of/with the recipient and put it into a binder to make a book. 3: Personalized cookbook: Your recipes, your child's comments and drawings, in a binder. 4. Personalized Mousepad: Let your child draw with markers on a white mousepad. Or use flexible adhesive with any fabric. Or choose a photo and use iron-on transfer paper. Instructions at: http://desktoppub.about.com/od/transfers/l/aa_mousepad.htm Or just do it at a copy shop or cafepress.com. 5. Handmade bath salts:Mix Epsom salts with essential oils, fragrance, and food coloring in a decorative jar. 6. Candles:Add crayon chips to plain paraffin wax and dip wicks in to make hand-dipped. Or just decorate store bought candles. 7. Canvas bags with iron-on designs 8. Homemade calendars with photos of the kids 7. Painted picture frames 8. Tie-dyed teeshirts, sheets, etc. 9. Christmas ornaments with kids' photos 10. Art: For grandparents, a framed picture drawn by a grandchild is the perfect present. 11. For friends and cousins: homemade clay, fingerpaints, bubbles, puppets, a kit of dress-up items, a kit of cool art supplies. 12. Certificates for your services: A massage, babysitting, dog walking, painting a room, flying a kite together. Dr. Laura Markham is a clinical psychologist and the founding editor of the parenting web site www.yourparentingsolutions.com , featuring a popular advice column and parent-tested solutions you can use every day to connect with your kids and create a richer family life. Her work appears regularly on a dozen parenting sites and in print. She lives in New York with her husband and two children. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com. More >>

IconFresh Baby Food On-the-Go By Cheryl Tallman and Joan Ahlers www.FreshBaby.com These days, families are always on the go, whether it's off to daycare everyday or to visit friends and family once in a while. Here are some strategies to help you prepare for your baby's meals on the go. Start with six golden rules for serving Fresh Baby food away from home: Frozen food cubes take 3-4 hours to thaw in the refrigerator and 1-2 hours to thaw at room temperature. Frozen food cubes stay cold in an insulated bag with a freezer pack for about 8-12 hours. To thaw frozen food cubes, microwave for 30-40 seconds. To warm thawed food cubes, microwave 5-15 seconds. Never store frozen food cubes without refrigeration for over 4 hours. Always stir and test the temperature of microwaved or warmed food on your skin before serving to your baby. Once you've got the basics, you're on your way! A travel tote bag is an essential item for any family on the go. Buy an insulated lunch bag and a set of plastic containers with lids that will fit nicely into the bag. The best type of lunch bag to purchase is a sturdy canvas tote that comes with a reusable ice pack-the type you can place in the freezer overnight. Also consider the size of the tote so that it will fit easily into your diaper bag. Planning to get away for a day or going on an airplane, train, car or bus and need to pack up your baby's meals? First before you are ready to leave on your trip, select the food cubes for your baby's meal(s) and place them in the plastic containers of your travel tote. If you pack more than one meal or snack, label the lids of the containers with "Lunch", "Snack", "Dinner" with a permanent marker, sticker or a piece of paper and scotch tape. Pack them all into the travel tote with the freezer pack to keep them cold. Additionally, you may want to pack a bottle of water, since baby's tummies are especially sensitive to components of unfamiliar tap water. The frozen food cubes will slowly defrost inside the tote, and will stay cold for 8-12 hours, plenty of time to reach your destination. Most convenient stores and/or truck stops have a microwave and airlines will usually give you a bag of very hot water to warm baby food with (just be careful with this bag the water is usually VERY hot). Tips for going to a restaurant: Make reservations so you do not have to wait to be seated. Plan the time to have dinner or lunch according to your baby's feeding schedule. Call ahead to find out if the restaurant has a high chair. Make sure the table you sit at has adequate room for everyone, including your baby. Remove everything within reach of your baby-unless you want to see it on the floor! About the authors: Cheryl Tallman and Joan Ahlers are sisters, the mothers of five children and founders of Fresh Baby ( www.FreshBaby.com ). They are the creators of the award-winning So Easy Baby Food Kit and Good Clean Fun Placemats, available at many fine specialty stores and national chains including Target and Whole Foods Markets. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com. More >>

IconHolidays with Ease: A One-Pot Turkey Dinner with All the Trimmings By Elizabeth Yarnell www.gloriousonepotmeals.com A holiday meal is typically an occasion for breaking bread and sharing the hearth with our family, friends and community. While not everyone wants to cook for an army during the holidays, there is still something about having a traditional holiday meal that evokes a feeling of celebration and custom. It's not only the combination of foods particular to that holiday ritual that feeds the senses, but also the likelihood that the event offered an opportunity to share the workload increases the bonds of kinship and friendship. For those passing a holiday alone or with one other rather than a crowd, there can be a sense of deprivation with the loss of the opportunity to partake in the traditional feast of the season of turkey, cranberries and sweet potatoes. Here is a great solution to getting the meal with all the trimmings without spending hours and hours in the kitchen or facing a week of leftovers. Because it is an "infused one-pot meal," each ingredient maintains its integrity during the cooking process and emerges separate, intact and infused with flavor, rather than merged into a stew or slab as with more familiar types of one-pot meals. Best yet, you can spend a pleasant half hour or less in the kitchen with your dining companion while you wash, chop and layer the ingredients into the pot. Preparing food offers a great opportunity to chat across the cutting board and gives you each ownership for the holiday dinner success. Just 45 minutes later, when sitting down to eat together, toast each other, toast the holiday and toast the easy answer to holiday dining: an infused one-pot meal. One-Pot Thanksgiving Dinner 2 servings Ingredients 1/2-3/4 lb. turkey tenderloin or boneless breast filets 1/3 cup whole cranberries, fresh or frozen 1/3 cup orange marmalade 1 tsp. lemon juice 1 dash white pepper 1/3 cup shelled walnuts 8-10 pearl onions, peeled, halved 1 med. sweet potato or yam, scrubbed, 1/4" slices 2 cups broccoli florets Instructions Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Spray inside of 2-quart cast iron Dutch oven and lid with canola oil. Set turkey pieces into base in a single layer, trying not to overlap pieces as much as possible. Lightly sprinkle with salt. In a food processor or blender, pulse cranberries using chopping blade (shaped like a backwards "S") until berries are in large chunks. Add marmalade, lemon juice and white pepper and pulse two or three times to mix together. Pour in walnuts and continue to pulse until walnuts are roughly chopped and you have a thick, rocky paste. Drop spoonfuls of cranberry paste onto turkey pieces until only about half is left. Toss in onions and layer in sweet potato slices. Again, lightly salt. Cover with rest of cranberry paste. Top with broccoli florets. Cover and bake for about 40 minutes. You'll know it's ready 3 minutes after the aroma of a finished meal escapes your oven. Notes In a pinch, substitute pulpy orange juice for the orange marmalade. You'll just end up with more "gravy" at the bottom of the pot to spoon over the food when serving. 1/4 cup broth added to the cranberry-walnut paste will also increase the amount of gravy. The turkey, cranberries and broccoli can all be used fresh or frozen (without thawing) and it won't change your cooking time or most things about your meal, though realize that frozen broccoli tends to emerge softer than fresh. The larger the broccoli pieces the crisper they will turn out at the end. Add a kick to your meal with 1 fresh or roasted jalapentilde;o pepper, destemmed, seeded and chopped. About the author: Elizabeth Yarnell is a Certified Nutritional Consultant, inventor and author of Glorious One-Pot Meals: A new quick healthy approach to Dutch oven cooking . The Glorious One-Pot Meal cooking technique is unique and patented (US patent 6,846,504). A Multiple Sclerosis patient and mother of two pre-schoolers, the habit of cooking together with her husband was formed early in their marriage and is one they still enjoy. Visit Elizabeth at www.gloriousonepotmeals.com to sign up for her free newsletter. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com. More >>

IconThanksgiving Feast by Jill Cooper LivingOnADime.com It's really hard to find ways to save on your Thanksgiving dinner because, let's face it -- It doesn't get a whole lot cheaper than a turkey dinner! Still, I have found some ways that you can save and today I'll pass them on to you! ;-) For starters, the larger turkeys are usually cheaper, so buy the largest one you can. I hear some of you groaning now about what to do with all those leftovers because you really don't need a 22 lb. turkey for 6 people. Not to worry -- just don't bake the whole thing. I discovered one year by accident that my butcher (at a regular national chain grocery store) would cut it in half for me. Even if it is frozen he can still do it. This discovery really changed my life. (That sounds dramatic, but I was really having a problem becoming "one" with my turkeys.) I suddenly had the revelation that I didn't have to deal with mounds of leftover turkey that haunted my post Thanksgiving menu for years. I had just enough for a good old turkey sandwich and some soup. I mean Thanksgiving really isn't Thanksgiving without a few leftovers, is it? It was so much easier to handle and prepare an 11 lb. turkey rather than to man handle a 22 lb. one. Getting it cleaned and into the pan was a breeze and in and out of the oven was just plain simple. Just wrap the other half and freeze it to use for Christmas. I've often made ham for Christmas just because by Christmas we are so sick of turkey that we don't want to think of preparing another one -- ever! By not creating so many leftovers, your family might not mind having turkey again. That's also potentially one less thing to buy for Christmas dinner. Inexpensive Thanksgiving Turkey Dinner! If you still don't want to have turkey for Christmas, save it for some cold day in January. If you have a large enough crock pot, cook the turkey it the crock pot. If not, cook it on very low in the oven so that it slow cooks all day. Do you know how delightful it is to come home to the yummy smell of slow cooked turkey? Save by making your own pies and instead of buying the expensive pre-made ones. If you are daunted by the thought of making pie crust, just buy a ready made one. They are usually on sale for very little around Thanksgiving. It really isn't that hard to make the filling for most pies. Often they are easier to make than a cake or cookies. If you like the traditional pumpkin pie, most cans have the recipe on the back. I also know a real good book you can find the recipe in called Dining on a Dime. HA!HA! If your family and friends aren't fussy about having the traditional, then you can make banana cream, chocolate, or butterscotch pie. Just take a box of banana pudding, mix it up and pour it into a baked pie crust. Cover with sliced bananas and whipped topping. For the chocolate pie use chocolate pudding with chocolate chips in it and cover it with whipped topping. For the butterscotch use butterscotch pudding, whipped topping and sprinkle with butterscotch chips. My mouth is watering just thinking about it! You don't have to make so many pies that you could open a bakery. I have found that most kids are just as happy with a platter of cookies. Don't overdo it. You'll just wear yourself out! If you have time, make the cookies in the shapes of pumpkins and turkeys. Save on your relish dish. Buying ingredients for a relish dish can get expensive, especially where we live. One year I paid more for my relish dish items than my turkey. If you're having this problem, only use 3-4 veggies on it instead of 10 and cut out on the more expensive veggies. For example broccoli and cauliflower are very high priced for us so I would probably use carrots and celery. I fill the celery with cheese or peanut butter or cut them into fancy shapes. On this occasion, the turkey is the star and most people won't even notice that you cut back on the relish dish. Don't make so many side dishes-- Like I said the turkey, gravy and mashed potatoes are above all else. By the time everyone stuffs themselves on those, they only eat a token amount of the side dishes. Why? ---Because of course everyone wants to save room for dessert!!!!! Jill Cooper raised two teenagers alone on $500 a month income after becoming disabled withChronic Fatigue Syndrome. To read more of Jill's articles and for free tips and recipes visit LivingOnADime.com .Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com. More >>

IconHealthier Halloween By Cheryl Tallman and Joan Ahlers www.FreshBaby.com Halloween is truly a kid's holiday -- good friends, creative costumes, event-filled parties -- all with a cool spooky theme -- who could ask for more? Oh yes, one more thing, the treats -- lots of sugary candy treats! With all the fun of this holiday come a parent's worst fears -- too many sugary treats in your kid's possession and the arguments that ensue over this treasured trove. If you don't feel like to contributing to the neighborhood children's tooth decay, consider giving treats that are healthier. Here are some suggestions: Cheese and cracker packages Naturally flavored and sweetened gun or sugar-free gum Small bags of pretzels Small packages of nuts or raisins Peanuts in the shell Fruit-Roll Ups Granola bars If you are not opposed to sugar, but would prefer your treats to be natural or vegan, we suggest you visit your local natural food store. There are many natural candy companies that offer a big variety of candies. The one drawback, expect to pay more for these items. Natural products come at a higher price tag. You could make a homemade treat. Unless you are in a neighborhood with close friends, we don't suggest this approach. Most parents are trained to go through the Halloween candy and throw out unopened, unwrapped or homemade treats. If you decide to make your treats, wrap your homemade item up well, and add your name and phone number to the bag with the treat. If the parent recognizes your name, it will make them feel the treat is safe. Halloween treats do not have to be edible An alternative to avoiding the junk food challenges is to hand out a non-food treat. Today, many families are opting for this choice. With a little bit of thought and some clever shopping, you can find some really nice items for a few cents per item. Here are few ideas: Cool stickers or temporary tattoos Halloween balloons, you can even rent a helium tanks and fill them on the spot Crayons, pencils, colored chalk or fun-shaped erasers Whistles or noise makers Rubber spiders, worms, or other equally creepy figure Spider, skull, or pumpkin plastic rings Check your local dollar store for fun items. There is also plenty of time to shop online, and have items shipped to you. DollarDays.com and OrientalTradingCompany.com are just two sites that offer a good selection. A quick search on Google will give you plenty more online sopping choices. Halloween Day: Star the day off right, with a festive breakfast of bagels, pumpkin cream cheese (recipe follows) and fresh apples. This meal also works as a great treat for a morning Halloween party at your child's school. Pumpkin cream cheese Beat in a bowl: 8 ounces softened cream cheese 2 tablespoons brown sugar 1/2 cup of canned pumpkin 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice Serve with toasted bagels and fresh apple slices. Before your children venture out in their costumes, make sure they eat a meal before going trick-or-treating. Try the Incredible White Bean Pizza recipe below. It is fast and simple. With full tummies, they won't be so tempted to dig into their bag of goodies before they get back home. Ask your kids not to eat candy while they are out. Incredible Bean Pizza 1 can white beans, drained and rinsed 1 clove garlic 2 tablespoons water frac12; teaspoon oregano 1 pizza crust (like Boboli) Shredded Mozzarella cheese Fresh diced tomatoes Chopped basil Directions: Puree first five ingredients in a blender and spread mixture over the pizza crust. Sprinkle with shredded mozzarella cheese, fresh, diced tomatoes and chopped basil. Bake in a 425 degree F oven until cheese is bubbly, about 10-12 minutes. When your children arrive back at home, don't let them take control over their bag or bucket of candy. Working with them, check the treats and keep only treats which are unopened. Be sure to inspect fruits and homemade goods for anything suspicious. While you are going through their candy, let them pick two or three treats that they can eat on this special night. Store the rest of the candy out of reach and out of sight. Over the next few days or weeks, rationing the treats is the best approach. Allow your children to make their own selections, but tell them they can pick one large piece or two small pieces. If your children have trouble with this, do it for them (in advance). Just place small amounts of candy in bags, and let them select one of the bags. If there is just too much candy, consider donating some of it to a shelter. It will bring smiles to others. About the authors: Cheryl Tallman and Joan Ahlers are sisters, the mothers of five children and founders of Fresh Baby ( www.FreshBaby.com ). They are the creators of the award-winning So Easy Baby Food Kit and Good Clean Fun Placemats, available at many fine specialty stores and national chains including Target and Whole Foods Markets. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com. More >>

IconPumpkin Recycling To Roast or Not to Roast! By Tawra Kellam LivingOnADime.com/ Peter Piper Picked a Profoundly Plump Pumpkin -- Now What does he do with it? Every fall I get many questions about what to do with pumpkins. Many people find curious fascination in imagining what it would be like to grow these versatile little gems, as if growing something that produces a large fruit is somehow more respectable than growing, say, a serrano pepper. Many people eventually venture into pumpkin experimentation. Some succeed and many fail. Much like a dog that chases a car, many people never give thought to what they would do if they actually succeeded in successfully raising a patch of these fall favorites. Whether you have found yourself with more pumpkins than you know what to do with or you are one of the people who had to buy pumpkins and duct tape them to the vine, these tips for roasting and using pumpkins are sure to help you make the most out of them (no matter how you acquired them)! How to Roast a Pumpkin You can only do this with a freshly carved pumpkin! Do not use on a pumpkin that has beencarved and sitting out for several days. To bake a fresh 6 to 7 pound pumpkin, halve the pumpkin crosswise and scoop out the seeds and strings. Place halves, hollow side down, in a large baking pan covered with aluminum foil and add a little water. Bake, uncovered, at 375 for 1 frac12; to 2 hours or until fork-tender. Remove. When cool, scrape pulp from shells and puree, a little at time, in food processor or blender. Mix with a little salt. To freeze pumpkin puree. Put 1-2 cups in freezer bags along with spices and use in pies. To use pumpkin puree for recipes: Line a strainer with a double layer of cheesecloth or a flour sack dish towel and let the pumpkin sit to drain out the extra moisture BEFORE cooking with it. Pumpkin is very moist, so in order for your recipe to come out correctly, you MUST strain it. Roasted Pumpkin Seeds Boil seeds in water for 5 minutes. Drain well. Sprinkle with salt or seasoned salt. Place a thin layer on a cookie sheet. Bake at 250 . Stir after 30 minutes. Bake frac12;-1 hour more or until crunchy. *Squash seeds may also be used. Pumpkin Smoothies frac12; cup pumpkin frac34;cup milk or vanilla yogurt frac14; tsp. cinnamon 1/8 tsp. nutmeg 2 tsp. brown sugar 4 ice cubes whipped cream (optional) sprinkles (optional) Place all ingredients in a blender. Blend until smooth. Pour into 2-3 glasses. Serve with a small amount of whipped cream on top. You may also add orange sprinkles if you like. Serves 2-3. Pumpkin Pancakes 2 cups flour 2 Tbsp. brown sugar, packed 1 Tbsp. baking powder 1 frac14; tsp. pumpkin pie spice 1 tsp. salt frac12;cup nuts, chopped (optional) frac12;cup pumpkin 1 large egg 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil 1 cups milk Combine ingredients. Stir just until moistened; batter may be lumpy. Heat griddle or skillet over medium heat; brush lightly with vegetable oil. Pour 1/4 cup batter onto hot griddle; cook until bubbles begin to burst. Turn and continue cooking 1 to 2 minutes. Serve with Pumpkin Maple Sauce and nuts. Pumpkin Maple Sauce 1 cup maple syrup frac14; tsp. ground cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice 1 frac14; cups pumpkin Mix together until well blended. In 5 years, Tawra Kellam and her husband paid off $20,000 personal debt on an average income of $22,000 per year. Tawra is the author of the frugal cookbook Dining On A Dime. Dining On A Dime has over 1200 recipes and tips to help you eat better and spend less. For more free tips and recipes visit her web site at LivingOnADime.com/ . Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com. More >>

IconTeaching Kids about Money by Jill Cooper www.LivingOnADime.com ( See Part I for the Steps One and Two .) Step three is to be sure and teach your child about savings and tithing. I will never forget the first allowance I ever received. I was about 7 years old and my allowance was a quarter. I remember two things about that day. The first was that my mom said that out of any money we earned, we were to give 10% to God. I didn't know about percents at the time and had to ask how much 10% of 25 cents was. She said it was 2 1/2 cents. I remember being confused and asking how I was to give half a cent. Then she said the second thing I will always remember from that day. I couldn't give half a cent, so I should give 3 cents because that extra half cent would show our thankfulness for all of the many other things that God had given us as gifts that weren't in the form of money. To this day I have always given my tithe without hesitation and I round it up to an even number. Because there are so many extras that God has blessed me with other than money; the sack of tomatoes from the neighbors garden, the used car someone sold me at a discount, the meal that was brought to me by a friend when I was sick and so on. Do you see what a big influence my mom's words and actions had on me? She was my best example as you are the example for your child. As far as savings goes, I always tried to teach my kids to tithe, save a little and spend a little. I have found though that the best way for a child to learn about saving is through the "hard knocks" of life. Maybe for a child, I should change that to the "soft knocks" of life. ;-) There is no better way for a child to learn to save than for that child to quickly spend all of his money at a bubble gum machine and on candy bars and then see a sibling, who has carefully saved, be able to buy a really cool toy the next time they go shopping.Another way for kids to learn about saving is, when they desire something very much, to have mom or dad tell them to save their money for it. You can't break down and buy it for them because you will defeat the purpose. It's hard I know. It's even worse being a grandmother and not breaking down and buying them everything they want, but after a while you will come to realize how exciting it is for a child to save and save and then finally reach their goal's end. How much should you pay a child for allowance? My first quarter was enough for me to buy four Hershey's bars with almonds, to tithe and to save a couple of cents. I thought I had died and gone to heaven -- four whole candy bars! For this reason, I have always regulated my children's allowance to make sure that they have enough money to buy four or five candy bars. I wouldn't want to say, since some think I'm an expert in finances, that my whole belief system revolves around the price of candy bars but hey, if the shoe fits, I must proudly wear it. Of course, as the children grow and take on more responsibilities they should get gradual "pay raises" in their allowances. Just a couple of closing thoughts: With more money comes more responsibility. Keep the amount of money you give your children in proportion to how responsible they are. This will help them to learn to use their money wisely rather than to waste it because they have more than they know what to do with. In the same way that you wouldn't give a ten year old a new car to drive because he isn't responsible enough yet and doesn't know how to use it properly, don't give your children more money and things than they can responsibly handle. Teach your children to use their own money to buy those things that they want so badly, rather than buying lots of things that you can't afford. This will this teach them how to save, how to be more discerning when presented with an opportunity to buy something and how to care for things better and appreciate the things they have more. Lastly, but possibly the most important: teach your children to use a small part of their money to buy gifts and to give to others. This could include anything from buying a family member something little at a garage sale to giving 50 cents to the humane society or to that special offering for missions at church. Remember, the whole object is to learn to be wise stewards of their money and to be givers not takers. Jill Cooper and Tawra Kellam are frugal living experts and the editors of www.LivingOnADime.com . As a single mother of two, Jill Cooper started her own business without any capital and paid off $35,000 debt in 5 years on $1,000 a month income. Tawra and her husband paid off $20,000 debt in 5 years on $22,000 a year income. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com. More >>

IconTeaching Kids about Money - Part I by Jill Cooper www.LivingOnADime.com So many people ask how to teach their kids about money, hoping we can give them a 1-2-3 formula to use that will help their child become a wise caretaker of his money and maybe even a future Bill Gates or Oprah Winfrey. Many parents ask this question because they are terrified that their children will turn out just like themselves when it comes to spending money. They hope that the "Do as I say, not as I do" method might actually work in this case. The bad news is it won't. Children usually become "chips off of the old block". It really is a monkey see, monkey do world. They almost always learn by example - your example, dad and mom. The good news is that you (parents) can change. That is the first step in the formula. Put into practice the things that you want your children to learn. I know a lot of you don't want to hear that but I'm afraid that is the way it is. The good news is that it really isn't as hard as you think. If you expect a 5, 6, or 7 year old to learn to handle money wisely, surely you as a grown adult will be capable of doing it too. I read a lot of novels. You can learn quite a bit about human nature from novels. In almost every novel I read, the hero works as hard as his men and expects no more out of them than what he expects of himself and the men love and admire him for it. Now I know I'm talking about a novel but think about it with regard to these everyday life examples. How do you feel at your job if your boss places strict demands on you to do certain things that he is not willing to do himself? Resentful, angry and frustrated? Your children feel the same way if you expect them to be wise in money matters when you are not. The second step in the formula is to teach children how to earn money before they learn how to handle it. This should seem logical and you may say "Well of course everyone knows that!" but do they? The people we deal with on a daily basis don't seem to know that. How many people do you know (maybe even you are guilty of this yourself), who spend money they haven't even earned. Do you instantly say not me! Hmmm... How many dollars worth of credit card debt do you have? Isn't that spending money you haven't earned yet? We need to keep our eyes open to how we handle money, before and after we earn it. The best way to help children learn positive work ethics and give them a chance to earn money is through chores. There is nothing wrong with age appropriate chores and jobs. Chores help to teach children the weights and balances of earning and spending - Earn $10 and you can spend $10. A lot of parents live with the idea that one can spend $10 and then frantically try to work to get $10 to pay for it. Another alternative that seems to be gaining popularity is to mooch off of someone like their parents or to become indebted to a credit card company. Is it surprising why children are getting confused? It is because they are receiving mixed messages from dad and mom. This is why it is so important for parents to get their acts together first. I believe in giving allowances for chores that are done. This is a great way to teach our children the earning - spending concept. It teaches them another life skill to prepare them for when they enter into the work world. It's simple. Do your job, do it well, do it on time and you will get paid. Whatever you do, don't give your children allowances when they haven't earned them. You are doing your children a great injustice when you do this. They learn early on that they don't have to do a thing because mom and dad will pay for it. Twenty years later, parents find themselves with a 28 year old man sitting on their couch, watching their TV and munching on pizza and chips that their hard earned money paid for. They can't figure out how to get rid of him or what went wrong. By giving kids money and "stuff" without having to earn it, they learn to be takers and not givers. Then we wonder why, as adults, they have the attitude that the world owes them something for nothing. They have learned that they have no reason to bother to lift a finger to contribute to society. Some people refuse to give allowances because they say that children should do things because they are members of the family. They need to learn to do things without expecting a reward. I agree with this to a certain extent so what I did was divide the jobs up into certain categories. For example, feeding the cat, walking the dog or raking grandma's yard could be done just to teach the care and responsibility for someone else because we love them. This teaches responsibility towards those we love, expecting no reward. Things like keeping their rooms clean and beds made could be included under the allowance category. There were also times when we would have extra large projects like painting a fence or cleaning a very messy garage. In these cases, I would give the kids a little extra because they were such big jobs and the kids had worked so hard doing them. Like everything else there is a happy medium. Everyone likes a reward for a job well done. Even God rewards us for jobs well done. If we never give our children an allowance, they could become resentful. You may ask, "What do I do if I really don't have any extra to give my children at this time in my life?" First, you don't need to give children a lot. Even a small amount can seem huge to them. You can also pay them in other ways. For example, if you do this job, I will let you watch TV or play video games for an extra hour. Sometimes these things are more important to a child than money. My grandson mows my yard for me. He would do it for nothing, but I like to pay him a little for it. One day when he was done mowing we walked to a convenience store by my house and I bought him a slushy. He was more excited about that than about all the money I had paid him before. If you really have nothing to pay them at this time, that's OK too. Children have a very keen sense of justice. They usually know when mom and dad are not paying them because things are in "crisis" mode. If you have been fair with them in the past, they know you will be fair with them in the future when things aren't so tight. See Part II next week... Jill Cooper and Tawra Kellam are frugal living experts and the editors of www.LivingOnADime.com . As a single mother of two, Jill Cooper started her own business without any capital and paid off $35,000 debt in 5 years on $1,000 a month income. Tawra and her husband paid off $20,000 debt in 5 years on $22,000 a year income. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com. More >>

IconThe Great Milk Crisis by Jill Cooper LivingOnADime.com I rushed to my computer to write this when I heard the news. I knew there would be a great panic over it and thought I could hopefully calm some fears. What was the news? Was it something earth shattering like flood, epidemic, or war? No! But it made the headlines - "The price of milk is going up!" I could hear the panic in the newscaster's voice and the trembling in "Mrs. Woman-on-the-street's" voice as she answered his question, "What will you do now?" "I guess I will have to just start watering down my children's milk because they just love it so much." Then she took a deep heart wrenching sigh... Of course, I'm telling you this with tongue in cheek. We live in a world of panic and fear. I try to put these things in perspective. I mean compared to the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl (for those of you who aren't up on your history, that's not a new football game ;-), the flu epidemic of 1917, and World Wars I and II, the fact that the price of milk is going up 50 cents ranks pretty low on my list of things to panic about. No, I don't have lots of money to throw away. At this time in my life I am pretty much living off the same amount or less than most people on welfare or some elderly people on social security so any price increase is hard on me too. What I found most interesting was the next item of news after the earth shattering milk scare. It was about a new "apple" that is coming out on Friday and everyone can hardly wait to buy one for $500. I mean to me, paying $2.50 for three pounds of apples is outrageous, let alone spending $500 for one apple! OK, I've got my tongue in my cheek once again! Even though my children think I am completely computer illiterate, I do realize that the new "Apple" they were talking about was some sort of fancy hand held computer/phone (I think ;-). Here's my point: We sometimes have our priorities goofy. These people were horrified at having to pay an extra 50 cents for milk -- food that they really needed for their children, but they thought nothing of having to pay $500 for what basically amounts to a new electrical toy. Having milk prices go up is irritating yes, but it is not the end of the world. (Having my Hershey's candy bar double in price over night -- now that is something to panic over. HA! HA! Talk about priorities! ;-) Before you come unglued each time you hear that the price of bread, milk or gas is raised, try putting it into perspective. I don't want you to think I am taking this whole thing too lightly. I do want to help make things a little easier for you, so here are some tips to help you save if the price of milk is getting out of control in your area. Most of these basic principles can be used with any food item whose price is getting higher than you would like. One of the main ways to save on milk is portion control. You have heard me say again and again that we need to start seriously controlling the amount and portion size of the food we give our children. The woman in the news interview above said she would just have to dilute the milk for her children. That really isn't the best solution and usually all that does is to make the milk taste nasty. Now that I think about it, I guess that would be one way to keep the kids from drinking more of it but it's not really the best idea. A better solution is to have the children drink water more often. Use milk (and juice) only as part of the nutritional value of the meal, not as a primary way to quench thirst. When you plan your menu, if you have cheese or yogurt for your meal, you don't have to serve milk because you already have your dairy. Let everyone drink water. If there is no dairy in the meal, give them a proper serving of milk (6-8 oz. not 16 oz. which is the size of a lot of glasses used at meals). Waste not want not. This good old fashioned saying really is true. Stop wasting milk. How much milk is left in that half eaten bowl of cereal and poured down the drain each morning? What about that large glass of milk that you poured for your child who drank only half of it? The average American family could cut the amount of milk they buy by 50% just by controlling portion sizes and waste. (That includes that sour milk in the fridge that always gets thrown out). Stop your children from using the "dump" method with their cereal. You know what I mean, they pour out the cereal, not paying attention to what they are doing, until there is a huge mound in their bowl. Then they pour in enough milk to equal the portion of cereal they have dumped in. You may have to take the time and effort to pour the kids' milk in their cereal bowls for a while to help cut back until they learn to use the right amount themselves. Sometimes something as simple as pouring the milk into a pitcher that is smaller and easier for a child to handle can help. I find a gallon of milk hard to pour so I can't imagine how a young child can handle it properly. I use a small pitcher for my kids and grandkids and they have always loved getting to use the cute little pitcher. I think it is one of those "little things" that helps make their lives easier and they appreciate that. Make foods that don't use as much milk. Instead of having cereal every morning, make oatmeal, eggs and toast, or pancakes. I like to use milk even if my pancake mix calls for water but you can change that to half milk and half water and it will still taste good. Instead of making pudding for dessert, make a pan of brownies or cupcakes from a box that calls for no milk. Having company this summer? Think watermelon instead of homemade ice cream. Watch for milk that is marked down and buy all that you can. Most people don't realize that you can freeze milk. All you have to do is be sure you shake it well after you thaw it. Find out when your store stocks the milk or mark it down. I was at a store just yesterday and there was a man putting some cheese on the shelves. I simply asked him when they stocked their dairy products and what time. He didn't mind telling me at all. As much as I hate to admit how old I am, I have lived many years now and one thing I have found is the price of food always changes - up and down, this way and that - but it is nothing to panic over. Everything usually balances out in the end. Just adjust your eating habits accordingly and you will do fine. Besides, over time most incomes usually end up adjusting to the price of things, so it all balances out. Hopefully, you can now enjoy your next glass of milk... but watch out for those terribly expensive "apples"! Jill Cooper is the editor of LivingOnADime.com . As a single mother of two, Jill Cooper started her own business without any capital and paid off $35,000 debt in 5 years on $1,000 a month income. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com. More >>

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