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Editor's Desk
Large Family Gift-Giving

Do you find yourself spending way more money than you want to spend on Christmas gifts for the “larger” families in your life? I always overspend my budget when shopping for my sisters and their families, because they all have multiple kiddos, plus I like to get presents for the grown-ups too. This year, I’m going with (1) family “have fun” baskets, (2) family memberships, and (3) restaurant gift cards, gifts that everyone will dig. I look forward to saving money on individual gifts.

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Discipline Your Child with Time IN

Sure you’ve heard of Time Out, but have you heard of Time In? It’s a positive disciplinary tool that’s starting to make its rounds in the parenting world. Unlike the traditional Time Out method, Time In does not send the child away, off to some lonely, dusty corner of the room or some remote area of civilization! In fact, studies have shown that the old-style Time Out technique can leave a child feeling abandoned and rejected, and often confused. If you give this idea some thought, you might find it easy to draw this same conclusion.  That’s why I was excited to learn about Time IN -  a good alternative to Time Out. Here’s the gist: 

When your child is having a difficult time behaving or obeying, request that he comes to sit or stand somewhere near you. This requirement likely moves him away from any “trouble” he’s currently into, and it allows him to settle down and reflect on negative behaviors, all the while still being accepted and loved by you. You can hold his hand, sit him on your lap, require that he stands next to you while you finish washing dishes, etc., as long as you’re bringing him in rather than pushing him out. As mom, feel free to continue your current activity – a phone conversation, knitting, loading the dishwasher – with  little one nearby, but eventually make time to address the details of the situation.

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Your Family's Cinco de Mayo

Are you having a fiesta for Cinco de Mayo? As a mom who homeschools, I always intend on doing something really cool for the holiday, and then it comes and goes so quickly that I forget! This year, I’ve begun planning early. I see bright colors, Mexican food and music, hat-making and more in my future. Are you interested in doing something fun and cultural for your family for Cinco de Mayo too? Whether it’s an evening time dinner celebration or an all-day extravaganza, these are some ideas to help you pull it off.

Nachos for all! 

Even if you don’t know your way around a kitchen, Tex-Mex is an easy cuisine to put together. A taco salad, nachos (melted Velveeta cheese mixed with milk Rotel, and add ground beef if you’d like), enchiladas (they’re super easy to make!), tacos, perhaps some margaritas for the big kids, tamales, and the list goes on. Cinco de Mayo is the perfect day to make your famous homemade guacamole (or if you don’t make your own, pick up the delicious stuff at H-E-B). You might also consider grabbing a party pack of fajitas from Lupe Tortilla, Chili’s, Pappasito’s or your favorite Mexican restaurant.

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Strike up the convo – Here are 5 Mommy-Friendly tips to help you meet other moms

Some women are natural conversation starters, and some of us need more help. If you want to know how to make small talk with strangers,  WoodlandsMommy.com has some tips for you! Here are 4 mommy-friendly ways to strike up a great conversation with just about anybody, whether you're super shy or bursting with confidence.

Conversation Tip # 1: Introduce Yourself.
This is one of the simplest ways to strike up a conversation. Be straightforward yet friendly. Walk up to the person with a smile and introduce yourself. Relax and let everything else follow. This strategy works even for those who are not as confident as others. Just make sure you know what to say next before making your move. For example, once the person introduces himself or herself back, you can ask them a question like "So how do you know the birthday boy?" or “How long has your daughter been dancing here?”

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"Keeping It Simple" - Editor's Post

This summer, with my husband being out of a job, God has gifted our family with the magic of a dwindling bank account. And what a gift it is.

"How are you keeping your kids busy this summer?" my friends want to know.

Well, truthfully, I'm not. These days, we aren't keeping "busy" much at all.

And I've never been more convinced that by not having a summer of frills and thrills planned for the girls, they're developing in incredible ways. They're sewing pillows, entertaining us with math riddles and brainteasers, building forts, having tea parties with their stuffed animals, writing short stories (more than 20 combined since the beginning of June), experimenting in the kitchen, and more.

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5 Tips to Help you Drink More Water
Is it hard for you to chug down your 8 cups of water each day? (For the record, the actual recommended amount varies, based on age and weight). If you're like me, drinking water throughout the day is no easy feat. I find myself counting down each ounce, and I don't quite make my goal until about 11pm each night.

Experts say your daily water allowance should be pure water (if only tea and Kool-Aid would count!). Especially with the triple-digit temperatures our summer days often yield, drinking water to help maintain your body's balance of fluids is very important. Dehydration is serious business! But did you also know that drinking water can help to control calories, energize muscles, and keep your skin looking great? There are other benefits too, but I guess one we simply can't overlook is that proper hydration will make your trips to the ladies' room just a bit more comfortable, if you know what I mean.
 
If you think you need to be drinking more, below are 5 tips to help you:
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Our Homeschool Room Tour

Even some of the unlikeliest moms in our area are starting to consider the option of educating their kiddos at home. There are so many pros and cons to homeschooling, and also very many pros and cons to sending your kiddos off to school. Personally, I think education works best when you’re doing what works best for the child and the family, and every situation is different. So here are two words for you homeschoolers, public schoolers, and private schoolers: ROCK ON!

I’ve homeschooled for the past few years, and we plan to do it again this year. This could possibly change in the future, but until it does, I’ll be enjoying the time I get to spend in our home schoolroom. If you’re thinking of creating a home education space, feel free to take note and/or send me your own schoolroom photos so we can post them.

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5 Easy-to-Give Teacher Gifts That Really Show Your Appreciation


Although last month was officially Teacher Appreciation Month, you might feel compelled to bestow your favorite teachers with a small token of appreciation during this last week of school as well. Here are some thoughtful gifts that are easy on the pocketbook and don't require too much time and effort:
 
1.  Mini Bundtlet from Nothing Bundt Cakes - These moist little cakes are like little bits of heaven! For the teacher with a sweet tooth, they come in half a dozen flavors and make a great presentation. Nothing Bundt Cakes in The Woodlands is located next to Trader Joe's in the Kuykendahl/Gosling shopping center.
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Field Trip Idea: Student Art Exhibits at the Library
The Montgomery County Library is hosting Student Art Exhibits showcasing the works of Conroe ISD students in grades K-12. The  South Library (Lake Robbins Dr) is a participant, and I was pleasantly surprised when I dropped by the facility on Monday evening and was able to view about 50 awesome art pieces created by local students. These student artists are Talented (with a capital "T")! Here's how I plan to turn this into a field trip for my little ones:
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You Forgot that Person’s Name – Here are a couple of no-nonsense strategies to subtly ask!

There’s something about residing in a small town that almost guarantees you’ll run into familiar faces almost every time you leave your house  –the grocery store, the library, Pump It Up, a birthday party, convenience store, etc..  And no matter how hard we try, some of us have a tough time remembering people’s names.  Yes, there are certain “tricks” that can help you improve, but even still there’s a chance a name will escape you from time to time. When this happens, here’s how to handle it:

Scenario 1: Walking down the Kroger aisle, and it’s impossible to avoid eye contact

Hi, our boys are in the same Cub Scout troop.  Do you remember me? My name is Leah.

By taking the lead and being proactive, you reduce the tension, and she will immediately respond with her name. Make sure to pay attention, and use her name in the conversation. By doing so, you are more likely to remember it in the future.

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Make Dinnertime Kid-Friendly
If you're like most moms, you'd love to have a nice dinner where you can relax, enjoy good food and good conversation.  When it comes to our kids, however, their idea of a good dinner would most likely be eating a slice of pizza before diving into a pool of multi-colored, plastic balls, and playing the video games at the local kid’s restaurant.  While we're not going to suggest that you get a large, inflatable, bouncing area moved into your dining room, we do have a few small tips that may help your kids and you enjoy dinnertime at home, together.
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Prepare Your Fall Garden!

If you’re like me, you started off the gardening season with high hopes in the spring. You dutifully prepared your garden beds and planted your seeds, dreaming of the healthy plants and perfect vegetables you’ve seen on websites and in magazines. But by midsummer, the inevitable battles with Texas heat, drought, plant-munching insects, and various blights and diseases dampened your enthusiasm for gardening. And by Labor Day you were relieved to pull out the shaggy, overgrown, not-so-perfect-looking plants, hang up the gardening tools for winter, and plan for better things next year!

Although this desire to "call it a season" after fighting your way through summer's gardening challenges is certainly understandable, there's good reason to press on and plant a fall garden.

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What's Your Child's Bedtime Routine?

If your evenings are chaotic and disorganized, you and your kids need a bedtime routine. The components of a routine will vary from family to family, but being consistent is important for everyone in the family. Ultimately, you should strive to balance four important things:

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Check Out the YMCA This Summer!

Right around this time of year, I start encouraging our readers to check out the South Montgomery County YMCA, so if you’re all too familiar with this spiel, just bear with us for a minute or two while we outline 10 reasons why it’s a superb idea to be a part of The Y this summer.

1.      SOS – Rightfully named “Save Our Sanity,” this is the Y’s year-round program that allows members only to drop off their kids and leave the building (yay) for three hours on some Fridays (usually every other Friday) for only $10 per child (or $20 if you register on the same day). I can think of a dozen things to do with 3 hours of free time in the summer. Can you?
 
2.      Swimming pools and swim lessons– Many of our readers first learned to swim at the Y. Did you? Perhaps your child(ren) can too! The Y’s also a great place to be for leisure swimming! Of course, The Woodlands area isn’t short on community pools, but the Shadowbend Y has an indoor pool (and Jacuzzi) that is perfect to use when the weather isn’t so friendly. The pools at the Branch Crossing YMCA (including the family waterpark) are super cool too!
 
3.      2-hour child watch – Okay, so you can’t exactly leave the premises (unless you take off on foot, to jog around the vicinity), but up to two hours of child care by trained staff is yours for the taking, every day if you need it. Sure, you can catch a Zumba or Body Pump class, or you can do like some of the other moms – sit in the lobby with your cup of green tea and type away on the laptop or catch up on chat time with your mommy friends. The possibilities are endless!
 
4.      Date Night – The Y’s Parent’s Night Out is for potty-trained kiddos ages 3 to 12, and their trained staff will watch your crumb snatchers for a whole 5 hours while you go do the dinner and movie thing (or whatever it is you do). It’s only $15 per child for members! (Go ahead, do the math on this. Your regular babysitter changes you a LOT more!)
 
5.      Group fitness classes galore! Spin classes, water aerobics, yoga, mat pilates, Zumba, Body Pump… we could name them all but we’d simply run out of space. So many options to vary your workout, and there’s no additional charge for these classes. Bravo!
 
6.      Climbing walls – Usually, if you want to hit a climbing wall place, you’ll pay a per-visit fee. At The Y, however, general access to the climbing walls is all a part of your membership. And if you thought the climbing walls were just for your kids, you obviously haven’t tried them yet. You’re in for a fun challenge!
 
7.      Summer Camps – The Y’s Summer Camps are available for both members and non-members alike, but of course membership has its privileges. Y members save on camps and all other special activities, and the savings is often significant.
 
8.      Creekside Outdoor Adventure Center – This is the newest Woodlands-area Y facility, and our favorite! An outdoor amphitheater, tipis, a dozen tree houses, basketball goal, a large grassy playing field, outdoor giant swing and more are what makes this YMCA location a true retreat! Of course, there’s also the group fitness classes, cardio/weight room, child watch and more staples that we’ve come to know and love of the Y.
 
9.      Family Fun Activities –From Movie Night under the stars to Family Adventure day to on-site camping, the Y makes it easy to spend quality time with your family. They also host a magnificent, open-to-the-public Trick-or-Treat Trail for Halloween, YMCA Healthy Kids Day in the spring, Holiday Open House and other fun events throughout the year.
 

10. Youth and adult sports. They’re one of the most economical options in The Woodlands for learning and/or participating in your favorite sport.

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Personalized and Creative "Family" Easter Baskets
Easter is a time of fun and celebration, and it's also a time for giving the perfect gift baskets to special people in your life. This year, consider making a deluxe "family" basket for one or more special families that you know. It's easy.
 

1. Find a suitable basket to hold your Easter gifts.

2. Stuff the basket with artificial grass.

3. Fill the basket with an abundance of useful and fun gift items..

4. Wrap the basket in cellophane, or tie on a colored ribbon.

5. Attach a gift tag or greeting card.
 

Fill your basket! Use our ideas below!

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Here's a thing (or two) about planning your own garden...

Nevermind the health benefits for a sec… it’s just downright pretty cool to serve up a salad for your family with the vegetables you picked minutes ago in your own garden. Fact: If you have any type of land in your background, there's a good chance that lately you've considered starting yourself a vegetable garden. There has been a huge increase in the number of moms (yes, modern moms like YOU) turning to their own gardens to grow their own vegetables to save money and eat healthy food and live a more holistic lifestyle overall. Some say that gardening is even a stress-reliever (although when I think about the trials of my first-time gardening experience this past year, I'm not so sure I'd agree).

The point is, however, organic gardening is enjoying a level of popularity like never before, and raised gardening seems to be the popular choice. A quick stroll around a few of the backyards in your neighborhood might reveal small board or stone sided rectangles in peoples' backyards housing mini vegetable gardens. That’s called “raised bed” gardening, and it’s actually a GREAT method for breaking into gardening. As with all new hobbies, there are many considerations (and for the record, we are NOT experts on raising vegetables. In fact, we’re still trying to figure out how to raise our kids!), but we wanted to give you a bit of info to get you started.

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Top 5 Myths About New Year's Resolutions

At this time of year we’re usually posing the question, "What New Year's resolutions did you make?" It seems most responses we’re getting lately are along the lines of "I don't make New Year's resolutions." It's about time to put to bed what we consider to be the top five myths about New Year's resolutions and whether or not they are worth our time.

Myth #1: They do not work.

New Year's resolutions will work if you do. Resolution setting is goal setting. The truth is many people have a fear of setting goals because they have a fear of failure or they fear meeting face-to-face with their shortcomings. Both fears are unjustified. How do you plan to make positive changes if you do not set realistic goals and then act upon them? You must act to achieve.

Myth #2: There is no sense in making them.

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Empower Your Child With Summer Fun Safety Tips!


Summer break is here, and as camps, outings, and summer parties get underway, we may not always be right there next to our kids as they venture out this season. That's why it's so important that we arm them with some effective and empowering safety skills as summer begins. Here is some basic safety advice for parents and children, whether you're at Disneyland, on vacation, camp, or even at the local supermarket.

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Indoor Game – The Perfect Low-Action Game for Families, Groups, or Children

Two Truths & a Lie... Remember this game? It's one of the many fun games you can play indoors with your family or friends, and the winter season is all about getting together for some indoor fun!  The players have to think of some facts and trivia about their lives (and also a lie). Of course, it's sometimes hard to play this with your own family because they know you so well, but it's a perfect game for the next game night, date night, party, or get-together. So, have fun … and enjoy LYING! Here's how to play:

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Fall Cleaning?

Absolutely! Fall cleaning your home is just as vital for health and comfort as the traditional spring cleaning. In fact, it makes good sense to take care of some of the cleaning tasks in the fall before homes are closed up tight for the winter, and it’s especially easier now that older kids are back in school. Getting some of these home cleaning jobs out of the way can also make for less stress when preparing your home for holiday gatherings, as big cleaning jobs that are done once or twice a year are now out of the way. Here’s a quick guide:

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