Category Archives: The Parenting Squad

6 Tips to a Happy Life With Your New Pet


Photo: Cia de Foto

It’s just about springtime, and with it comes baby animals. All the cute little baby animals with their little wet noses and big eyes begging you to take them home. And then there are your children with their sad little faces, also begging you to take that cuddly puppy, kitten, or bunny.

If you decide to bring home an animal, keep in mind that each year 5-7 million pets are abandoned either because they become an inconvenience or too much work. If you’re going to make an animal a part of your family this spring, make sure you are prepared.

1. Spay or Neuter

People who don’t spay or neuter their pets end up with more pets, and those little babies are at a high risk for abandonment and death. Spaying and neutering is the best thing you can do to ensure that fewer animals are put to sleep because no one wanted them.

2. Train

Your puppy and kitten aren’t going to train themselves. If you don’t do it, you are the one at fault when Fido pees on your carpet. Make sure to properly train your pets to avoid accidents that will frustrate you and your pet. If your pet has frequent accidents, ruins your belongings, or barks and runs away constantly, you’ll be more likely to give your pet to a shelter. Just as you are responsible for your young child’s behavior, you are responsible for your pet’s behavior too.

3. Decide Who Is Responsible

Before getting your new addition, have a family meeting about who will be responsible for what. Every family member can take part in actively caring for an animal. Young kids can help with feeding, older children can be responsbile for taking dogs out for a walk, and you can handle the vet appointments. It’s a team effort and everyone must be on board and willing.

4. Be Pro-active With Pet Care

Certain things trigger unwanted behavior from your pets. If you don’t cut your cat’s nails, she’ll probably shred your furniture. If you don’t scoop the litter box, she’ll probably pee outside of it. If you don’t take the dog for a walk, he will have an accident in your house. To avoid having fur on everything, brush them properly with a product like the Furminator, recently featured on Lifetime Television’s The Balancing Act. I tested it myself, and it made a huge difference in the amount of fur my cats shed. You know what needs to be done — so do it. It’s the best way to avoid any mishaps.

5. Know Your Budget

Pets are expensive. Make sure you know what you are getting into financially. Sit down with a calculator and figure it out. A small dog will cost $1300 for the first year alone. If it isn’t in your budget, it isn’t in your budget. Better to know that now than when you’re faced with a $500 vet bill and contemplating getting rid of your beloved Fido.

6. Give them love

Animals need a lot of attention. Without proper love and care, your pet will become depressed, and just like depressed humans act out, so do depressed animals. Dogs will destroy your home and cats will pee all over. Make sure to pet them, walk them, and cuddle them to ensure they are happy and healthy.

Pets are a big responsibility. They take commitment, time, and caring. Don’t expect your children to be on top of caring for your pet even if they swear they will. After all, they’re kids. Know what you’re getting into when adopting a pet so that that dog won’t be put to sleep and your kids won’t be devastated when your cat has to go to a new home.

I received a Furminator to try out on my pets. My opinions here are my own, though I can’t speak for my cats.

5 Quick Dinner Ideas for Busy Nights


Photo: Quiltsalad

We all have those days when the clocks strikes 4 and we have no idea what we are making for dinner. But take-out can be expensive and unhealthy, and how much pasta can your family eat? There are better backup plans to have in place when you hit a dinner snag.

1. Sandwiches

They’re a kid favorite anyway, so break out the bread and let everyone make their own dinner. Cold cuts, peanut butter and jelly, grilled cheese, or even grilled Nutella can be perfectly paired with some microwaved veggies, canned soup, fruit, or chips for a quick, satisfying dinner.

2. Soup and Salad

A classic quick meal, soup, and a salad are quick and easy to prepare. Plus, if you have a variety of soups on hand, everyone can choose their own. You can create a salad bar for the kids to build their own salads too. It’s much more fun to eat a salad when you’ve designed it yourself.

For an even more satisfying soup meal, you can stock the pantry with prepackaged ingredients from Frontier Soups. Just add fresh ingredients to their dry soup mixes for a filling dinner.

3. Prepackaged Meals

Just because a dinner comes in a bag, doesn’t mean it has to be unhealthy. Kashi makes some great frozen dinners like their Steam Meal entrees, which are natural and filled with fiber and protein. You can also create your own “prepackaged” meals on a Sunday afternoon to save for a night like this.

4. Scrambled Egg Burritos

Quick, easy, and unexpected. Grab those tortillas or wraps and scramble up some eggs. Add peppers, onions, salsa, cheese, and whatever else you like on a typical burrito. Bam! Dinner is served.

5. Mix and Max

There’s probably enough leftovers in your fridge for everyone to create their own unique dinner. Tuesday’s leftover spaghetti, Wednesday’s BBQ chicken, and Thursday’s meatloaf can be paired with frozen veggies or salad for a complete meal in a jiffy.

Don’t panic when you forget to plan for dinner. Some quick thinking, a well-stocked pantry, and a little creativity can go a long way to make a great meal.

5 Out-of-the-Box Ways to Celebrate Valentine's Day

Valentine’s Day, unfortunately, tends to be more about selling greeting cards than about the genuine expression of heartfelt love. But we all hold the power to make the holiday whatever we want it to be, so this year, think outside the box and celebrate in a way that feels right to you.

1. Spread the love.

Love doesn’t have to be of the romantic variety. Maybe this is the perfect year to gather a group of your favorite girlfriends for a girl’s night in. Quality time spent together is one of the best ways to say “I love you” to all the people who really matter in your life — not just your significant other.

2. Help those in need.

Skip the fancy, overpriced meal this Valentine’s Day and, instead, volunteer to make the world a better place. Need ideas? Check out The Huffington Post’s round-up of Valentine’s Day Ideas: 7 Volunteer Dates.

3. Support your national parks.

The National Parks Foundation has developed an “I ‘heart’ parks” line of apparel, which makes a unique gift for the nature enthusiast. In addition, they’ve also compiled a list of romantic national park getaways — perfect if you’re looking for a bit of outdoor Valentine adventure.

4. Protect your heart health.

February is American Heart Month, so celebrate this Valentine’s Day by protecting yours. Take this opportunity to have your cholesterol and blood pressure checked, and make a commitment to a heart-healthy diet and regular exercise.

5. Commit random acts of kindness.

Did you know that Valentine’s Day falls during Random Acts of Kindness Week? Even small, random acts of kindness can be acts of love, and they have the power to brighten days — and sometimes even change lives.

How to Get Out of the House on Time (Without All the Yelling)

how to get out of the house on time.jpg

Photo: timsamoff

This is serious stuff. Getting out of the house on time and without drama is a challenge with children. Between lunch boxes, backpacks, science projects, and whatever else you need to have with you when you head out the door, your morning routine can become a chaotic mess quickly. Make sure you have a plan.

1. Start on Sunday evening

Make a lunch and snack menu for the week so you always know what you’re preparing for the kids. This will save you that time you often waste standing at the pantry or refrigerator and staring at all the food. You can also spend Sunday evening looking over the schedule for the week to make sure you are aware of and ready for any appointments, after school activities, or field trips that are scheduled. Make sure the ingredients for a healthy breakfast (protein, whole grains, and fruits) are ready for the morning rush.

2. Pack the night before

Make lunch and have book bags packed and by the front door before anyone goes to bed. Each child should make sure he has everything he needs, including sneakers for gym, signed permission slips, homework, and library books to return. If it’s winter, make sure all boots, mittens, scarves, and hats are accounted for and ready to be put on as you run out the door. Pack the bag for your work, too.

3. Wake up at the right Time

Waking up too early can sometimes have the same effect of waking up late. Your mind is tricked into believing you have an endless amount of time to get ready, and that means you end up wasting time. Plan to wake up at a certain time depending on how long it takes to accomplish each morning task. And stick to that morning schedule. Set the timer for breakfast if you have to so that you and your children are aware when time is up for eating and you all must get dressed and brush teeth. If you wake up before the sun rises, consider purchasing an alarm clock that wake you up with light to help your body to recognize that it’s morning.

4. Go to bed

Getting the right amount of sleep will help you wake up on time. But in the winter months, waking up before the sun can be difficult. Our bodies simply aren’t ready. So go to bed early based on the recommended times for your children’s ages.

5. Build a few extra minutes into the schedule

There’s no accounting for freak meltdowns, bathroom mishaps, or traffic. Give yourself extra time to get where you need to go. Otherwise, your car trip will turn into a stress-fest and you’ll all be worked up before you get anywhere.

6. Don’t yell

Whatever you do, don’t yell. You shouldn’t need to with your new system in place, but even if you’re frustrated, remain calm. When you yell, your kids get upset and stressed and therefore make you more upset. Try giving instructions one at a time such as, “Put your shoes on.” Giving too many instructions at once, or instructions that are too vague, creates confusion. If you tell them what’s going on clearly and concisely, they are more likely to actually hear you since there’s only a few words to take in.

Create a morning routine and stick to it. There will always be days when things don’t go as planned, but when everyone knows what is expected of them and what the rules are, your mornings will go more smoothly.

Finding Your Happy Place: A Resource Roundup for Moms and Dads


Every mom and dad needs tools for refreshment and encouragement: sometimes, fun, sometimes relaxing — but always the simple life pleasures that help keep us in a good spirit, set an example for our children, and energize us to be better moms and dads.

Stressed? Worn out? Just need an idea or two? We have gathered some awesome “Happy Parent” tips from resources just for you.

Come On, Get Happy

Get the inside scoop with Secrets to Being a Happy Mom or Dad from Babble. It’s a look at what 7 parents revealed about staying happy in the midst of raising kids. You might be surprised at what they had to say.

Take some refreshing reminders with 8 Ways to Be a Happier Mom, from Woman’s Day magazine. Moments of solitude, a “break” day from regular work, and getting friends back on calendar are all important steps for moms and dads.

Don’t discount those endorphins. The Best Healthy Living Dad Advice from FitSugar concentrates on the healthy living aspects that contribute to both happiness and health.

Catch up on psychology and happy secrets with How to Be a Happier Mom from

Happier with Kids: What’s that you say? Check out Parents — Especially Dads — Are Happier Than Their Childless Pals from Time: Health & Family. The author concedes that other studies produce different conclusions, but compares the studies and what they reveal about parenting and happiness. She also discusses the intriguing concept of the “parenthood paradox.”

Click through 25 Secrets of Happy Moms at for fun, fabulous, totally doable tips.

Happy Family Tips From Our Squad

The day-to-day ways our writers try and encourage joy in our own families – whether it’s a breather for us, or making sure we’re on our best behavior for our kids.

“Every night, I check on my sleeping kids before going to bed. Ever notice how innocent they look when they’re sleeping, even after a frustrating day? I remind myself that they’re excited about what tomorrow is going to bring, so I am, too!” — Kelli Robinson

“I schedule time for me. Without it, I eventually lose my mind!” — Nancy Flanders

“Stand up for what’s right around your kids. You’re setting a great example that will come in handy when they face their own bullies.” — Maggie Wells

“I consciously set aside time or something special for myself each week. It could be a stroll around the mall or a hot bath, even the smallest thing can help to renew my spirit. I also tell my kids I love them, and give them a hug every day.” — Mary Davis

“I try to stay in the moment, especially when I’m stressed. Also, when everyone is upset, I remind myself that, most likely, things will be better in 15 minutes.” — Sarah Winfrey

“Get goofy. When the stress-level is too high, and one of my kids has lost their temper, and I’m about to (or already have), sometimes I can cross my eyes, or say something extra silly that throws them off a bad track, and back on the happy train. — Rhonda Franz

“When I’m having a rough day with my kids, I like to end the day writing in my gratitude journal to remind myself of the day’s little blessings. Sometimes I find it hard to come up with concrete exampls from the day, but I can always spy the glimmers of goodness that got buried in the chaos of the day” — Christa Melnyk Hines

“Lots of hugs and kisses, especially when the kids are misbehaving and on your last nerve!” — David James

“Remember the big picture. So many of the challenges we face as parents are also amazing learning opportunities. If we can just manage to shift our perspective and see them that way. And to help lighten up, and not take it all so seriously – wine. Always wine.” Alyssa Chirco

By: Rhonda Franz is the managing editor of, and a food & cooking columnist for Peekaboo parenting magazine. A city girl at heart, she is now raising three boys in the Arkansas woods with her husband. She has a graduate degree in education, and spent ten years teaching and working with other people’s children before raising her own. Her work has been featured in Chicken Soup for the Soul, MSNBC’s Today Show mom blog, and in parenting magazines around the country. She writes on a variety of things at

How to Include Children With Disabilities in Your Family Exercise Routine


Photo: Honza Soukup

January is Family Fit Lifestyle Month, the perfect excuse to get your family off the couch and moving. But if one of your children has a disability, you may think it’s impossible to find something the whole family can participate in.

Well, not only is it not impossible, it’s extremely important. According to the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition, the obesity rate in children with disabilities is an astounding 38% higher than in children without disabilities. Exercise can help reduce the chance of your child developing chronic and secondary conditions, and it also provides the added benefits of increased self-esteem and greater socialization. But even if your child can’t be physically involved, she can participate. It’s easier than you think.

Plan it Out

You know your child’s abilities better than anyone. Get creative and come up with some ides together. If your child is unable to walk, swimming may be a great option.


Change the way you view exercise. If your child doesn’t weigh too much for you to carry her, get a special backpack to include her in your walks or hikes. Purchase a adaptive bike for your child to use or ride in with you.

Seek Opportunity

Your local parks and recreation department may have inclusive recreation programs available including baseball teams, dance classes, martial arts classes, and gym memberships. All you have to do is ask.

Do It for Charity

Sign your family up for a charity walk-a-thon or 5k. Your child will love having the wind in her hair as you guide her and her chair to the finish line.

Take Lessons

Lessons such as horseback riding work double-time as therapy for children with disabilities from cerebral palsy to vision impairments. Horseback riding in particular has been shown to improve muscle tone, balance, posture, coordination, motor development, and self-esteem according to Kids Rein.

Pick a Sport

Most sports can be adapted for children with disabilities including golf, soccer, archery, biking, baseball, skiing, and water sports.

Check It Out

There are more opportunities and ideas available at I Can Do It, You Can Do It.

There are plenty of opportunities to include your child with disabilities in your family exercise routine. It will benefit your entire family to make sure each member is included in the fun. Chat with your child’s doctors before hand to make sure any activity you pick is appropriate and safe for your child’s needs.

Tagged: children with disabilities, family exercise, including children with disabilities in family exercise routine, inclusive recreation, sports for disabled children, therapeutic lessons

How to Get Your Family Exercising This Year

It’s a new year. Did you make a resolution to be healthier and lose those extra pounds? Why not get the entire family in on it? According to the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition, less than 20% of adults, and only one in three children get their recommended amount of physical activity each day. Obesity has doubled among adults since the 1970s.

January is Family Fit Lifestyle Month. The best time to start any new healthy habit is right now.

Exercise is probably one of the toughest habits to start, but also tough to break once you’re in the groove. Plus, exercise has amazing benefits. It keeps you healthy from your heart to your bones, reducing the risk of diabetes and heart disease. It also boosts your mood, gives you energy, reduces anxiety and depression, and improves your self-esteem because you will be looking better and feeling better. Plus, it’s a great opportunity to spend time with your family.

Plan It With Their Interests in Mind

Schedule one morning or evening a week to a family activity such as bike riding, walking, hiking, or something your children love like skateboarding. Taking an interest in their activity will help build a strong connection between you.

Sign Up

Take a class together. Local parks and recreation departments and fitness centers offer everything from yoga and dance to Tae Kwon Do and swimming.

Think Variety

Pick a new activity for each weekend such as ice skating this week, mini-golf next week, and snowshoeing the following week. All you have to do is a web search on local activities, or pick up your local parenting publication to find some great ideas.

Take Advantage

There are opportunities in each day to get a little more exercise into your routine and promote healthier habits for your entire family. Skip the elevator and take the stairs. Park the car farther away from the store, and walk anywhere you can such as through your local downtown.

Form a Daily Habit

Each night after dinner, take a walk together through your neighborhood rather than watch television. It may help you all wind down and sleep better.

If You Build It…

…they will play. Turn your yard into anything you can imagine: an ice skating rink, a baseball field, a Frisbee disc course, a soccer field, or an obstacle course. It doesn’t have to be perfect or even permanent, just something that works and gets your children (and you) outside.

Do It for Charity

Sign up for a bike-a-thon, walk-a-thon, 5k, or fun run for a great charity. Not only will you be raising money for a worthwhile cause, you’ll be motivated to train and practice for the big event.

Seasonal Outings

Each season brings with it new fun activities. Apple picking and pumpkin picking in the fall, snowshoeing and skiing in the winter, hiking and yard sale shopping in the spring, swimming and boating in the summer. Check your local newspaper for events happening in your area.

Get a Dog

Your kids have been begging for one anyway, right? Having a dog is the perfect excuse to get outside. He needs to be walked. He’ll want to play fetch. He might jump in the lake. Maybe it’s time to break down get that new best friend for your family.

Join the Gym

Joining a gym doesn’t have to be expensive. Planet Fitness memberships start as low as $10 a month per person (They were just featured on The Balancing Act!) and the local Y has family memberships for under $100 a month.

Even one change in your routine will lead to more changes and before you know it, you won’t know how you ever lived without exercise. It can be tough to stay motivated sometimes. But if your family supports each other, and acts as one another’s cheerleader, it will help. You may also want to consider starting fitness diaries to keep track of your goals. Don’t forget that you are your child’s biggest role model; be an inspiration.

Please remember to consult with your family doctors before beginning any exercise routines, especially if you or your children have any pre-existing conditions.