As any mom will tell you, the strangest stains and spots can suddenly appear around your house. I've found one product that I use on almost anything: Bar Keeper's Friend. It's a powder that comes in a can and is labeled as a "cleanser and polish." I have a white porcelain sink and BKF immediately removes any food or pan stains. My mother-in-law uses it on her glass cooktop almost every day without a single scratch. I've found only one spot that it hasn't removed (a weird water spot where one of my faucets leaks).

The only local place to get it is Wal-Mart (sorry to all those Wal-Mart haters). However, there is a BKF website where you can order the original and several other varieties of BKF. I think I might try the Lime and Rust Remover on that water spot.

This product is toxic, so you'll want to keep it away from the kiddos. But you'll want to keep it close so you can use it often.
There are few things more frightening than awakening to the sound of your child's terror-filled shrieks and cries. Many parents of preschoolers experience this night after night as their children suffer with bouts of nightmares. According to, "2- to 4-year-olds are particularly prone (to nightmares) — this is an age when normal fears develop, imagination blossoms, and the ability to describe a bad dream kicks into high gear." Researchers divide sleep disturbances into two categories: night terrors and nightmares.

Night Terrors
Night terrors occur 3-5 hours after the child has fallen asleep, according to Yahoo Health, and cause
children to cry intensely and often lose their breath, which can frighten parents. Children never fully awaken and will have no recollection of the event the next morning.

Common knowledge suggests parents simply keep their child safe and allow the terror to run its course (usually 10-30 minutes). However, Dr. Alan Greene theorizes a connection exists between night terrors and a child's ability to recognize overnight bladder control. He suggests children experiencing a night terror should be taken to the restroom.

Parents may be able to limit the frequency of night terrors by making sure their child gets plenty of sleep and creating a calming bedtime routine.

Nightmares typically occur in the second half of sleep and are simply frightening dreams. In a classic sleep study conducted in 1966, researchers studied sleep waves in newborns, infants, toddlers, and preschoolers and proved that children at each age dream. This led them to conclude that children at every age also have nightmares. Nightmares seem more prevalent at the preschool age because children have developed the ability to fear, the experience to know normal from unnatural, and the language to describe what they experience. suggests treating nightmares with physical reassurance. Comfort the child and allow him to tell you about the nightmare if he wants. Make sure his favorite toy or blanket is snuggled in close. Then reassure him that you are right down the hall and will protect him. However, Yahoo Health warns to keep these visits consistent. "Sleep problems often become worse if the child is rewarded with attention."

Parents can help prevent nightmares by guarding what children watch on TV or the stories they hear. Also, allowing children to talk through the details of their day helps them process scary events or new emotions during waking hours. Guide children through stressful times like potty training, transitioning to a big bed, or starting school. provides the following creative preventative measures for consistent mightmares:

• Help your child make a Native American dreamcatcher out of pipe cleaners or draw one on construction paper, and hang it over the bed to snare bad dreams and let only the good ones through.

• Let him rub a little skin lotion or face cream — you might call it "good dream cream" — on his tummy or forehead before turning in for the night.

• Fill a spray bottle with water scented with a couple drops of vanilla extract ("monster spray" or "nightmare repellent") and let your child banish scary dreams by spritzing a little around his room before bed.

Parents can be reassured the night terrors and nightmares are a normal stage of childhood development.
I hate to go grocery shopping. I know all the parenting magazines describe grocery shopping as a perfect time to teach children math skills, finances, nutrition, and nuclear physics, but I think it's a miracle to get out of the grocery store without anyone crying (including me). Without apology I utilize every distraction available to me in the grocery store: I give the baby a toy off the shelf and return it when we're done shopping, I feed the kids blueberries directly out of the pint, I bribe with cookies, I rent the TV carts, whatever it takes.

However, I've developed a new appreciation for grocery shopping with my two little ones after reading this eBay listing. It is the funniest thing I've read in a long time.
We just returned from a family trip to North Myrtle Beach, SC. We went with my husband's family. Pictured below are Eddie (my father-in-law), Daniel (my brother-in-law) wearing Caedmon (my nephew), Ashley (my sister-in-law), me, Azlan, Matt, Patriot, and Sandy (my mother-in-law).

You may notice I said a "family trip" rather than a "vacation." The difference? A vacation is filled with sleeping late, lazy afternoons on the beach, and eating great food. A family trip involves waking whenever the kids do (in our case, just after dawn), folding laundry, disciplining kids, washing dishes, and eating in restaurants with balloons and clowns. Both trips have their place in the life cycle of a family, but they are very different experiences.

I learned this difference last summer. I thought it would be my first vacation with kids. At the time, Patriot was 1 1/2 years old and I was pregnant with Azlan. I remember telling Matt before the trip that I needed this trip because I needed a break. I did not get the break I was expecting. I expected a vacation like those of my BC days. I didn't realize that vacations, like all of the rest of life, change when you have kids.

So this year I began the trip with a different set of expectations and we had a nice family trip. Our trip was filled with activities and adventures we'd never have at home. Patriot played "little golf" for the first time. We built sand castles and colored them with food coloring. We threw seaweed. We took morning walks on the beach. Azlan ate at least a pound of sand. Azlan and Caedmon got to ride in the car together. We grown ups got to play cards almost every day. We tried new restaurants and discovered Patriot likes fish.

Was it the most relaxing week I've ever had? No. But it was a great family trip. Check out more pictures here.

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Just a quick note about the Mattel lead paint recalls. Go to their website to determine if any of your toys are included. There are a lot of Sesame Street, Dora, and Diego toys included. We actually had two toys from the list -- and they're both toys that Patriot puts in his mouth (a saxophone and a microphone)! Thankfully, they were produced prior to the affected dates, so we won't have to send them back. The peace of mind alone is worth the couple of minutes it takes to check.
What do roller coasters, iPhones, and Harry Potter all have in common? In the last few weeks I've been invited to stand in line and wait for each of these things.

Our local amusement park opened a new roller coaster this season called Firehawk. In those first weeks of the season, people waited up to 6 hours to ride this ride (according to reports, the ride was broken a lot, making waits longer). Although I was invited to wait for Firehawk, I couldn't imagine spending half the day standing in line for a roller coaster.

Many of you will remember the iPhone release a few weeks ago. It was scheduled to hit stores at 6 pm on its release date. That morning my husband seriously considered standing in line to be one of the first with the new phone (he's a bit of a techno-geek -- the plan was to sell it on eBay). Although it's always fun to be part of the excitement, and I usually enjoy a day at the mall, I couldn't imagine standing in line all day to buy the latest phone.

J.K. Rowlins released the latest and final installment of her Harry Potter series at the end of July. Our local Meijer advertised they would have it on sale at midnight on it's release date. According to the news, people started standing in line the afternoon prior to ensure they got one of the first copies. I found this wait to be the most tempting, as I'm a Harry Potter fan, but I still couldn't let myself spend hours waiting for a book.

Why can't I wait for such things? Am I just that impatient? Or am I just that boring? Could be a little of both, but mostly it's just that I don't have the room in my schedule. My life is generally scheduled down to the 1/2 hour because I keep the boys on a pretty tight schedule. We eat breakfast, lunch, and usually dinner at the same time every day. They nap and go to bed at the same time every day.

Here is a copy of our current schedule:

Living in a schedule has been helpful for so many reasons:
  • the kids have become used to our routine and know what to expect and when to expect it.
  • grandparents and babysitters know what the kids need and when they need it.
  • we know within a day when one of the kids is sick, because they suddenly stop acting within their schedule.
  • we have more flexibility. I know that sounds weird, but hear me out on this. With the kids being so young, if we waited until they told us they were hungry or sleepy, we'd never know when we could go out to eat or go see a movie. Because I have a schedule, I know that I can plan dinner with friends next Thursday at 6:30, and the kids will be ready to eat. I know that I can schedule a doctor's appointment for next month at 10:30 and Azlan will have just enough time before his next feeding. Having a schedule actually gives me more freedom.
The trick with a schedule is establishment -- deciding what needs to be in your schedule and what order things need to be done. For both boys, we used Gary Ezzo's "Let the Children Come Along the Infant Way" to determine our schedule. We started establishing the schedule the first day we came home from the hospital, feeding our little newborns on an appropriate schedule. It didn't always go great (there was some crying involved from both the children and the parents), but within 12 weeks they learned the schedule they'll follow for the next few years. Both boys are now great sleepers and eaters, and are generally pleasant to be around (Patriot is 2 1/2 . . .), greatly due to the consistency they enjoy daily.

As a side note, I rode Firehawk last week after waiting only 45 minutes. There were plenty of iPhone manufactured and the stores even had some left after the release-day rush. And, I've been enjoying my sister's copy of "Harry Potter," which she loaned me when she finished it. I believe it's true: Patience is a virtue.