We Are Finally Getting A Home Cinema

Yes, after years of temptation and refusals our family home is finally getting a home cinema. The kids are getting older and us parents really enjoy watching good movies. But we simply think that going to the cinema on a regular basis is getting very expensive. For a family of 4 we get little change out of $50 which quickly adds up if you go once a month.

So we have decided to tidy up the garage, get rid of tons of trash that has accumulated over the years and to kit it out with a home cinema. There are few things top of our list that we have now ordered and it should be arriving within about 5 days; so we are quite excited!

Amazing-Wooden-Wall-Unit-Combination-From-Hulsta-with-MultimediaThe first thing we ordered was a Samsung 50 inch 3D TV. This is something that we have been contemplating for a while, and prices have just plummeted so much in the past year that we couldn’t turn down a sale price of $800. I can remember paying more than that for a 28 inch tube TV about 15 years ago!. We got a demonstration of it at our local electronic store and it is really awesome. The 3D is pretty amazing and the HD quality video is amazing!

The TV came with a 3D Bluray player so that was one less thing for us to have to put on our list. The player will also play regular BDs and DVDs so we can still watch all our older movies that we have accumulated. And now we can enjoy them all over again in our home cinema. What we did need to get was a surround sound system. Rather than go for a standard one we decided to spend a bit extra to get a surround sound receiver which we can plug the 3d player, TV receiver and Apple TV directly into. At $400 it was a bit more than we had budgeted for, but then we have saved considerably on the furniture.

The furniture is the next thing we had to look at and we found a really cool entertainment wall unit. Basically it will neatly house the TV, all the set top boxes, 3D player, Apple TV, surround sound and speaker. So there will not be cables hanging all over the place causing an eye sore.

We also got a nice new couch and some recliners and bean bags so that there is no shortage of seating space, especially when we all get together for a movie night or when the kids have friends over. In total we have spent about $2,500, which is a lot for just some entertainment equipment. But as a family we really enjoy movie nights, but with the cinema being so expensive we just didn’t like going more than once a month. Now we can have movie nights once a week and the whole entertainment system will have paid for itself in less than 2 years.

Let us know if you have a nice home cinema and also if you have some good movie recommendations!

Bring Your Baby For A Run!

Sounds like a crazy title right? But wait until you have read to the end!

familyAs a mother of four I don’t get a lot of time to go for a run. Before I started a family I used to go running several times a week and regularly took part in races up to 15K. I never did get to the stage where I could run a marathon, but running was a great way for me to stay fit and I really enjoyed it. Then came my kids and it all fell to the wayside.

For the past 14 years I have still stayed fit by walking and going for a run on far less regular basis. The reason for this is obviously the kids. It’s relatively easy to go for a walk with a baby in the stroller. Running is much more difficult, especially since my husband usually doesn’t get home until after 6pm and at that stage it is feeding time.

By the time everyone is fed and in bed I’m usually too tired to go for a run. But there is a very simple solution for parents who to go for a run, but do not have the flexibility of someone else to watch over a baby. The simple answer is to buy a jogging stroller that will give you so much flexibility.

Choosing the right jogging stroller is not that complicated and BabyWheels have some really great advice to help you find one that will suit your needs, check out this link. They are not the cheapest things to buy, but if you do get one you will probably not need any other stroller.

The great thing is that they are very sleek and really easy to maneuver even when you are running. I ended up buying a Baby Jogger model and it has the ability to set the single front wheel to swivel or fixed. When I go for a run I usually fix it as it keeps the stroller in a straight line. But for everyday use, the swivel wheel allows you to turn on a dime.

It took me a little while to get used to running with a stroller as you will need to slightly adjust your stride. It also takes some getting used to having one hand on the stroller, but once I had gone for a couple of runs I had almost automatically adjusted.

For this provided huge flexibility as I would no longer have to wait for my husband to come home from work. Whenever my day and the weather allowed for half an hour of jogging I would head out. And suddenly the pounds started falling off!!!

If you are trying to find better ways to be able to exercise, but are restrained by your baby, then I would strongly suggest you invest in a jogging stroller. They are well worth the money and it is going to be one of those purchases you simply will not regret.

Umbrella Strollers – The Must Have Travel Equipment

I have posted on this blog about some of our vacation trips and I want to write here today about one of the must have items if you plan to travel with young children. Whether you are going by air or car, you will be somewhat restricted with the volume of stuff you can bring. One area where you can save a huge amount of space is by getting a compact stroller.

Even during our trip to Florida in a Mini Van we ended up being short of space. We have 4 kids so that means a lot of bags and suitcases full of clothes. We were absolutely delighted that we had planned far enough ahead and had bought an umbrella style stroller that folds down into a very small package. This allows you to squeeze it into even a small trunk or an overloaded minivan.

When it comes to choosing an umbrella stroller, you really are spoiled for choice. There are cheap ones and expensive ones, and as with everything, there are good ones and bad ones. You need to do some homework, but I would generally say that you should not overspend on this if you plan to mainly use it for vacations. The BabyWheels site I link to has some really good advice.

Especially if you tend to fly places you can pretty much count on the fact that at some stage your stroller will be mishandled and something will break. When you have spent less than $70 you will not be too upset about it, and you will avoid long battles with the airline to get it repaired or replaced.

The advantages of umbrella strollers also come into play when you are at a vacation destination and you want to get in and out of restaurants or theme parks. When space is tight you simply fold it down and it is not a problem to carry or store it somewhere convenient.

When it came to us choosing a stroller, my husband took over. He grew up on a farm in Iowa and one of his life dreams came true when he started working for John Deere after completing his mechanical engineering degree. Heavy machinery and tractors were always John Deere on his home farm, and I think that his family’s motto has become “Nothing runs like a Deere”.

The-First-Years-DX-501You will not believe the excitement of my husband when he found out that there was a John Deere umbrella stroller. Believe it or not, it actually looks quite nice, it has the company logo, and it functions really well. So, our final decision was made and we bought when we had our fourth child and it has really done a great job.

To this day we have not regretted it and in our family it has simply become known as the tractor or the Deere. If you have had some good or bad experiences with strollers why not share them here in the comments for others to read. I always like hearing from my readers.

Big Improvements To Our Family Home

It’s been a good few weeks since I last posted here and that is mainly because we have been very busy with my husband traveling for work and some home improvements we have finally got around to. We bought our current home about 4 years ago, not long after our first baby was born and we knew from the start that there were quite a few things to fix up. We had done all the important stuff around wiring and plumbing and a full remodel, but there were a few hidden things that we really wanted to get to.

The first thing we worked on was to make the house more energy efficient. With heating costs rising every year we wanted to try and save some money and do our part for the environment as well. There was also the comfort factor as it is much nicer to live in a house where the heat is not lost as soon as you turn off the heating.

The first thing we had to do is use an insulation calculator to figure what our different options were from a material point of view and then figure out how much it would cost. I don’t want to go into all the details of the different options, but we decided that we would be able to save money by doing it as a DIY job. Blown in attic insulation cost was by far the most effective way we could find.

We had worked out how much material we would need, then rented an insulation blower and within about 5 hours we had massively upgraded our insulation. The kids went to my sister’s house so that we could have a full run at it. Basically my husband was in the attic pointing the blower hose and I kept feeding the material into the machine. It really was quite a simple job, just time consuming and a bit noisy.

For our average size house it cost about $1300 to buy the materials (fiber glass) and rent the blower. The great thing is that we will be able to deduct this for tax purposes, but I’m not sure how much that will work out at yet.

It will be very interesting to see how big the difference will be once the weather starts to get colder. But we have almost tripled the level of attic insulation. Especially last winter with the very cold weather we found that the upstairs rooms would get a lot cooler quite quickly quite soon after we went to bed. That should really be rectified now, which will make it a lot more comfortable for us and especially the kids.

The next thing we are thinking about is to get more insulation into the walls, but this is not really something we could do as a DIY job as it would involve drilling holes and very specialized equipment. It is also quite a bit more expensive so we will wait until after this winter to see how our current project has paid off. I’m actually quite excited.

Easter In Florida

As a family of 6 we have always found it difficult to travel, and going somewhere by air is simply too expensive. But this often restricts us as we do not fancy spending 2 days in a car to get to spend 5 days at our destination. So, this last Easter we decided it was time to go to Florida for a two week holiday and we braved 12 hours in the car with 4 kids. This post is about our experience.

410px-Map_of_Florida_Regions_with_CitiesSo, the weekend before Easter we packed up the Mini Van and left Charlotte, NC with high spirits, wondering how long it would take before arguing and dissent would start on the back seats. We left at 6 am to ensure that everyone was still sleepy and the great thing was that the baby fell asleep immediately and didn’t wake until 8:30 am, which meant we had cover about a quarter of our journey.

Our final destination was Miami, but we had planned an overnight stop in Port Orange where we have some friends. I was so pleasantly surprised how good the kids where and how the older ones helped keep our little 3 year old entertained. All kids got some surprises which ranged from books to video games, which meant that there really was not much boredom. And modern technology really helps there too.

We are a high-tech family with iPods, iPads and some video games that I don’t even know the names of. Generally we try to keep their use down and we do restrict access, but a long boring journey was going to be an exception.

We arrived in Miami by the Sunday lunchtime, and because of the stop over the night before, we were not tired when we arrived at the resort. The house we rented was amazing and it had its own pool as well, which ment that the kids would be spending practically all day outside.

Many of my friends kind of questioned our holiday destination, saying it was not the most child friendly place to go. But I must say our experience was totally positive. It is such a great location for so many day trips including the Everglades, Biscayne National Park and of course the Keys.

Because we went in April it meant that we were not going to suffer with all the heat of the summer months. The last time we went to Florida was 6 years ago to Disney Land and we made the mistake of going in August. It was still a great vacation, but the midday heat resulted in us not doing as much as we had planned.

Because we have children ranging from toddler to teenager we needed to make sure that there was stuff to do for all of them. That is why we let them have a lot of input into what they wanted to do and where they wanted to go. And to give them credit, they actually chose some really great attractions and not just endless days at the beach or pool. It just goes to show that kids often just rebel against decisions made by parents for the sake of it.

Overall we had a great time and the kids really enjoyed the freedom of planning that they got. If you have kids, then don’t shy away from long trips, just give yourself enough time and plan the drive time as well as possible.

Stroller Problems Are Almost History

With our youngest daughter growing fast and a recent 3rd birthday, we are getting closer to finally getting rid of strollers. When we started our family one of my biggest excitements was shopping for a stroller. Even before our first baby was born I would practice walk around the garden with the stroller and pram. It certainly is a highlight for any parent, as it is a way to show off that you have had a baby. But over the years, I just became sick and tired of them.

I cannot actually remember how many strollers we have gone through in the past 14 years, as some broke and some went out of fashion. We have owned regular prams and strollers, jogging strollers, double strollers, you name it and we have had an experience with them. But hopefully that will finally be over within the next few months.

Our 3 year old has been walking since she was about 14 months old and in fairness to her she does like walking. But there are also times when she is just plain lazy and having to carry her can be a big pain in the butt. So, a couple of weeks ago we made the conscious decision to stop bringing along the stroller for shorter trips. This means that there is no temptation for her to just jump in.

So, how are we avoiding the situation where we end up carrying her? BRIBARY!

Yes, that’s right, we bribe her. It is one of those rarely talked about parenting skills. Very few parents admit it, but I would say all parents utilize it. Our girl is very tuned in and she really gets the whole reward and punishment system that we have in place for all our kids.

It can be anything from a treat or a toy, or just sometimes a big hug and kiss still work too. The important thing is that it all has to be aimed at a specific goal. As the weeks have gone on she has been asking less for the stroller and rarely asks to be picked up. She has even got that clever that she will ask for treats in exchange for walking a little bit more ;-)

So, one of the banes of my life, the stroller, is close to becoming obsolete in our household. I cannot tell you how much I have come to hate folding and unfolding strollers and struggling to fit them in the trunk, even in an SUV. They are awkward and bulky, and yes they have become better and easier to fold. But ask yourself this, if you didn’t have to bring one when you leave the house, would you actually think twice about leaving it behind.

It also takes up space in the house, and they always seem to be in the way. Of all the strollers we had, the double jogging stroller was the only one that I really enjoyed, as it allowed me to get fit again after our first two were born. It was also very easy to steer and manoeuvre around shops, but it was one of the worst to get into the car.

I will post again once I have actually been able to get rid of the last remaining stroller and tell you how really feel!!

Toddler Essentials

My youngest child recently turned 3 and with the potty training having gone really well, we are finally getting rid of a lot of the baby stuff around. It’s amazing how much space nappies and changing stations and all the other stuff that goes with it take up. Myself and my husband spent an afternoon taking a look at all the baby stuff that was still sitting around, some from our eldest who is 14.

So, in one fell sweep, we got rid of a huge amount of stuff. Some went to a charity store, while other things were gifted to friends and family that had young babies. But this did leave me thinking about all the things we would need for a toddler. Yes, you would think that with 3 older kids we would have everything, but the reality is that, ahem, our last one was a bit of an accident ;-)

We actually ended up buying an awful lot of things again when she was born, and now we are faced with the same situation for all the toddler stuff. Of course one of the main things is clothes, but there are so many other things.

While she is the baby, she often thinks that she is as grown up as the rest, so she insists on sitting at the table for dinner like the rest of us. The high chair is simply a no-no. We found that there were simple and inexpensive booster seats that can be attached to the chair, and so far she has not realised the difference. A great buy and very handy to bring along on vacation and to restaurants.

Another important purchase is a child safety seat. The one we had been using was starting to get a little bit small and this can be a safety issue. Luckily there are great resources available that will help you choose a car seat, and there really is not excuse to not ensure safety on the road.

While our little girl has started riding a bike, she is not yet able to go on longer trips. This meant that we needed to find a better solution than a child seat for my husband’s bike. What she ended up loving the most was a little trailer that hooks up like a trailer on a car. It is very comfortably padded, spacious and provides for good safety. There is also space for us to store a picnic basket, so we are still able to go on nice day trips with all the family.

One thing that hasn’t been so much of a problem is toys. With so many of us in the house there is always someone ready and willing to play with her, and there are many things that we got for our kids that were too good to throw in the trash over the years. From day one we invested in durable toys and lots of it was made of wood which doesn’t really age. Yes, some the electronic toys are outdated, but this doesn’t seem to bother her. And the older kids love reminiscing with all the toys, kind of like Toy Story 3 ;-)

Overall, the process was relatively pain free, but we could have planned it a bit better. There were quite a few expenses in one go, which could have been spread over a few months. But, you live and you learn, and hopefully this post will help you prepare.

First Aid Advice For Parents

No matter how hard we try as parents, we cannot always keep our kids safe; some things are just outside our powers. But there are a few things that you can do to be prepared for some of the eventualities. As a nurse I have the advantage that I am trained in first aid and I regularly have to fall back on that training. But the average non-medically trained parent will not have that advantage. This however, does not mean that you should remain ignorant of first aid.

The first thing you should have is a first aid kit specifically set up for children. There is a great one available from the American Red Cross and it is very inexpensive. But don’t just buy the kit and put it in a cupboard. Open it up and become familiar with the items contained in it. That way, you will know exactly what the different packages contain, saving you time and stress in the event that you need to open it for emergency purposes.

Another thing I would recommend all parents is to do a first aid and CPR course. These are often run at community colleges and various medical service providers and you will not believe how much you will learn. When I was pregnant with my first child I booked my husband into a course.

He was at first very apprehensive and thought it would be a waste of time. But he absolutely loved the course and even booked a follow up advanced course. So far, touch wood, we have not had to fall back on some of the more extreme emergency care like CPR, but we have had a broken leg and a cut that required a couple of stitches. Having the benefit of some training we were able to stay calm and make sure we gave our kids some adequate first aid before we went to our family physician or the hospital.

0b8cRed-CrossBut there is so much more that can prepare you than just a CPR and first aid course. There are countless books specifically on medical issues related to children that cover everything from allergic reactions to cuts and bruises. One that I enjoyed was First Aid For Families, as it was so well structured. It can be a bit tough reading if you are not used to all the types of injuries and illnesses, and you will want to wrap your kids in bubble wrap. But having read the book and knowing how to quickly look up advice in it could make a huge difference in a medical emergency.

I would really appreciate some comments on this topic as all parents have different types of experiences. Are there courses or books that you found particularly helpful? Have you encountered situations where you needed to provide emergency care?