Monday, May 30, 2011

Reston Animal Park

We took our three year old son to the Reston Zoo in Reston, Virginia on Saturday. It was his first visit and it was precious to watch his face as he took it all in. There was a large petting barn area where you could feed the sheep and lambs and pigs.  And a reptile house full of lizards and snakes. The pony ride he was too scared to try, but he liked seeing the monkeys and parrots. The highlight was definitely the wagon ride through the open area, where they had a variety of animals roaming free. They would occasionally stop the wagon and let them animals come right up to it, so people could feed or pet them. It was fun to be so close to these large animals that you normally only see on TV or from a distance.

The ostrich was a little fiesty so you had to watch out for him (he bit one little girl's finger...poor thing) and we were dodging the horns on our other hefty friend. They only animals they kept further back were the camels and zebras. But we got close ups with llamas and wildabeasts among others. It was a riot. If you haven't taken your children to the zoo in awhile, it's a great idea as the weather turns warm this summer. It's fun to get outside and walk around, while encouraging the children to love animals at the same time.  

Check out the website for the Reston Zoo:

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Fire Drill

The fire trucks in our cul de sac
We woke up this morning to the screech of the fire alarms in our house going off. We didn't smell smoke or see flames, but after a few minutes of trying to figure it out I ushered all of the kids outside and called the fire department. They came and checked things out and determined that there was a weird short in the alarm system, so when one of the units stopped working it set off all the rest. I was kind of embarrassed to have them come out when there wasn't really a fire, but they said that we did the right thing. Gave us some reminder tips on fire safety. This was a bit of a wake up call for us, so I wanted to pass some reminders on to you all as well. Call a family meeting and talk together about how to keep your family safe in case of fire.

- Plan your evacuation routes from various rooms in the house. Make sure the children all know what they should do if they can't find you. Decide on a meeting place outside the house where people should gather. The mailbox might be a good choice for instance. Or the next door neighbor's home. Do a practice run with your children to be sure they understand.

- Be sure you have working fire extinguishers on every floor of the home. Particularly in kitchens and other rooms where fires often begin.

- Install smoke detectors if you haven't a minimum one in the kitchen, in each bedroom, and near the furnace room. Set up a schedule to test them and change the batteries. Daylight savings time is a good reminder to check the alarms. It's a good idea to install carbon monoxide detectors on each level of the home as well. Carbon monoxide is odorless and deadly, so these can save lives.

- Have your dryer vents cleaned out annually, and vacuum out the sensors in the smoke alarms monthly. Keeping them clean insures that they can detect properly. Do annual maintenance on your furnace and air conditioning units to be sure they too are functioning properly.

- Visit a fire station open house with your kids so they can get to know the firefighters and see their uniforms. Children get scared in emergencies and firefighters can look very frightening through the smoke in their big suits and helmets. Familiarizing the kids with what a firefighter looks like can help them to trust them when needed.

-Place a flashlight in each bedroom, and teach the kids how and when to call 911.

- If you have a two story home, it is a good idea to purchase ladders to go in each bedroom so family members could escape through the windows without jumping if the doorway was blocked.

- Send copies of photos and important family papers to relatives or place them in a safe deposit box, or purchase a fire proof safe for such items. That way when an emergency strikes the only thing you are worrying about is the safety of the people involved.

- Don't forget the pets! Discuss together how you would be sure to get the pets outside in an emergency.

Thankfully in this case it turned out to only be a minor problem. My younger boys actually thought it was great fun and very exciting to see the firefighters drive up in the trucks. But I am thanking my lucky stars tonight that nothing bad happened. I am determined to revamp our family fire safety plan in case it's not just a fire drill next time.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Rescuing Family Dinner - Bottoms in the Seats

I am on a mission at my house to reclaim the family dinner hour, but an important part of that is making sure that you have bottoms in the seats. ;-) Short of straightjackets, bribery and temptation are your greatest allies in this endeavor.

Some ideas to lure the family to the table and keep them there long enough to enjoy a meal together?

- Cook early so the smell of whatever delicious meal you are making greets them when they first walk in the door. Crockpots are your best friend when using this technique. Smelling the pot roast all afternoon will not only have them dying to come to dinner, but likely they'll be hovering around for a half hour beforehand asking when it will be ready. You can use that time to chat and catch up on their school day as well.

- Proclaim that dessert is only for those who remain at the table until everyone else has finished eating. This not only teaches them the rules of politeness, but also extends your time together into dessert as well, rather than have everyone scatter to the wind and bolt from the table as soon as they have scarfed their meal. When they know they can't leave until everyone is done anyway, they'll tend to slow down and savor the experience more. This is better for family bonding time, and for digestion too. :-)

-  Utilize carpools as often as possible, so that even if one child must be absent for a sports event or something, you can still be there making sure the rest of the family is together for dinner.

- Set the table. Use a tablecloth and have fresh flowers as a centerpiece. Fold the napkins under the forks. Make the table look appealing and it's a more pleasant experience to be there. You can buy sturdy, wash and wear cloths at Target fairly cheaply. It's a small thing that makes a big difference. Treat ordinary family dinners as special events and the kids will begin to see them that way too.

-Have fun...Don't use this time to discuss family problems or talk to kids about mistakes they've made. Keep the conversation light and fun so dinner time is seen as a comfortable happy time together.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

New post!

Blog returning!!! Won't post quite as often Perhaps but I'll do my best!

Easy Formal Hair Styles For Teens

It's Prom and wedding season again. Lots of occasions where your girls may need fancy "do's." Don't want to pay a fortune having their hair done at a salon?  There are some simple yet elegant styles that you can do yourself at home.  My stylist friend Sylvia Westergard showed me how. (Thanks to my daughters for being models for me)  Here are a couple of samples. The full article is on my website at in the style section.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

My 4 Year Old's Quote of the Day

Driving in the car my 4 year old son asked me out of the blue, "Mom, are my grandpa's going to live forever?"

I told him that no one lives forever so unfortunately one day they would die, but that I hoped it wouldn't be for a long time.

He pondered that for a minute and then said, "Well, that will be sad...but at least they'll get to see Michael Jackson!"

Indeed they will son...indeed they will. :-)

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Rescuing Family Dinner - Mealtime Conversation Basket

The beautiful tradition of a family "sit down" dinner seems to be getting lost in our society today. This makes me very sad. I know at our house we are too often on the run, grabbing take out  in the car. Or only half of the family is there. Or we're cramming dinner down fast on our way to the next event. This  habit spills over into nights when we don't even have much going on, and people drift from the table to watch a TV program or do homework. Studies show that when families sit down to dinner together regularly, kids get better grades and have lower risk of eating disorders and getting involved with addictive substances. There is also a lower risk of depression in teens who eat dinner with their families on a consistent basis.

So I've decided that enough is enough.We're going to rescue the family dinner at our home and as I come up with ideas on how to do this I'll post them in a series here beginning with this one.

In order to encourage conversation around the dinner table I put together a basket full of slips of paper containing the "question of the night." Each evening as we sit down to the table to eat, a child will get to draw a question from the basket that each family member will answer. Some examples of possible questions are:

"What is one rose and one thorn from your day?" (one good thing that happened and one bad)

"If you could be an animal which would you be and why?"

"What color describes your mood today?"

"What is your favorite movie?" (or book, or family vacation etc.)

"Who is a famous person from history that you admire and why?"

"Name something you are thankful for"

You can tailor the questions to the ages of your children and let the kids participate in coming up with questions for the basket.  It really is a lot of fun and engages the children in what's happening at the table, so they don't rush so quickly through their food while thinking about what comes next. Plus it's a great way to learn a little more about each other too.