Works-For-Me Wednesday

Works For Me: Birthday Tips

WfmwheaderI have birthdays on the brain this week--we're celebrating Joseph's 6th birthday at a rockin' Spiderman shin-dig on Sunday afternoon.  One very simple little trick has helped me streamline the kid birthday party business over the years:

A laundry basket.

Yep, a laundry basket.  In the days leading up to the party, I get my biggest, sturdiest laundry basket and begin loading it with every imaginable accessory I'll need for the party: candles, a lighter, plates, cups, party favors.  And include lots of incidentals, like paper, a pen, and bandaids (because we all know that wherever two or more little boys are gathered, there also shall be the letting of blood).

When party day arrives, we tote the full basket to the party.  Most of the items are used up and emptied out at the party, so we use the empty basket to bring home all the gifts and empty gift sacks which, yes ma'am, I'm maniacally stingy cleverly frugal enough to save.

It's very simple, but it's very helpful.  Works for me!

Have a tip you'd like to share with all of Bloggityville? Please, share the links to your tips below.  (WFMW guidelines can be found here.) 

Oh, and while you're out strolling around the Blogosphere today, please remember the important business going on at BooMama's place today.  Go spread a little love.

Works For Me: The Car Edition

Wfmwheader_2 Today is Works-For-Me Wednesday: The Car Edition, a chance for everyone to share ideas on how to make life-on-the-go a little easier.  I hope y'all have a slew of clever tips ready, because this is one area of my life where I'm sadly at a loss.  The floor of my car generally looks like an explosion at a french fry factory.

There are, however, a few tricks I've discovered over the years (all of which I think I've shared in previous WFMWs, but here we go again):

  • I keep a bottle of Febreeze in the car, to squirt down the carpets to cover the stench of rotting apple juice for a quick refresher.
  • I keep an "emergency box" in the back, with a couple of bottles of water, a couple of juice boxes, a few packages of crackers, bug spray, sunscreen, diapers, and Scotch tape.  Yes, Scotch tape.  Never underestimate the importance of having access to Scotch tape at any given moment.
  • Anytime I print out a Google map for a soccer camp or birthday party or dentist, etc., I slip it in a folder in my glove compartment for future reference.  I affectionately call this my "Poor Man's OnStar". 

Aaaand...that's it.  I'm ready to be wowed by your automobile cleverness.  Have you found a smart way to stock an auto first-aid kit?  Know some easy games to entertain the kids in the car?  Stumbled across a brilliant way to end backseat bickering?  Please, share the links to your tips below.  (WFMW guidelines can be found here.)  Thanks, as always, for playing!

Don't Forget...

This Wednesday is WFMW: The Car Edition. Give us your best tips for handling life on the go. How to entertain the kids in the car, or keep up with your little league gear, or how to stock an auto first aid kit...let us know what works for you.

Works For Me: A Little Manipulation Never Hurt Anyone

Wfmwheader We mommas use whatever tools we have at our disposal, right?  And if the testosterone coursing through the veins of our little boys can be harnessed for our convenience, we should go for it, right?

I sure do.

Recently I stumbled across a really easy (and oh-so-funny) tip to get my boys to help me with things like carrying laundry baskets, moving furniture, bringing in groceries, etc....without a moment of arguing.  Here's an example of how it works:

Me:  Stephen, I need some help moving these boxes to the garage. [Long pause here while I appear to be re-assessing.]  You know, never mind, I think these might be a little too heavy for you.

Stephen: [Popping up eagerly from the couch.]  Too heavy?  Those aren't too heavy!  Let me try!

Me:  [Insert overly dramatic skepticism here.]  Are you sure?  There are a lot of them.

Stephen:  Aw, that's easy, Mom, I can do them all...

Presto.  I get eager help from the boys, and they get an ego boost.  Works for me--every time!

Have an idea you'd like to share with all of Bloggityville?  Leave your link below.  WFMW guidelines can be found here.  If you don't have a blog, you're welcome to leave your WFMW tip in my comments section.

Remember that next Wednesday is WFMW: The Car Edition. Give us your best tips for handling life on the go. How to entertain the kids in the car, or keep up with your little league gear, or how to stock an auto first aid kid...let us know what works for you.

Works For Me: Closing Comments

Remember, in two weeks we'll be having Works-For-Me Wednesday: The Car Edition. Give us your best tips for handling life on the go. How to entertain the kids, or keep up with your little league gear, or how to stock an auto first aid kit...let us know what works for you.

Wfmwheader I really hesitate to share this tip with you, because I'm so afraid the Internet Trolls (you know, the ones who sell Via*gra! Cheap! and Legal!) will figure me out and ruin my nice little shortcut.  So I'm crossing my fingers and, in my mind, shooing away all the trolls. 

My blogging platform, Typepad, does offer spam protection on its comments.  But it's clunky, requiring readers to go to another screen altogether to enter a word-verification.  PLUS, it wasn't protecting me entirely from spam; I was still having to go through and delete a good bit with regularity.

A few months ago, it dawned on me that spam comments generally appear on older posts only (not sure why).  Add to this that it's very rare that a legitimate commenter posts a comment on an older post, and the obvious solution became clear:  I turned off comments on anything posted more than two weeks ago.  I took the clunky word verification feature off (for which many readers were thankful!) and I have not had a single spam comment since.  I just have to remember, every few days, to click through and turn off the comments on the older posts.  Easy.

If you're a Typepad user, you know that turning off comments is easy.  At your "list posts" page, you select the posts for which you want to turn off comments (and note, this doesn't delete the comments already there, it just won't let any new ones appear), and then choose "close comments" in the action bar at the bottom of the page. 

As for you folks on Blogger and other platforms, I'm afraid I'm not much help.  I vaguely recall, from my Blogger days, that this was possible, but if anyone wants to post instructions in my comments section below, I would be oh-so-grateful.

Works for me!

Have an idea you'd like to share with all of Bloggityville?  Leave your link below.  WFMW guidelines can be found here.

Works For Me: Karate

WfmwheaderThere is not an athletic bone in my body.  Not a one.  I'm a huge klutz, and I have the bruises on my legs to prove it.  I have actually managed to twist my ankle while standing perfectly still, which is so bizarre it's almost impressive. 

My poor dad tried to instill some basic athletic ability in me when I was younger.  There were the swimming lessons, in which the teacher had to PRY MY FINGERS OFF THE CHAIN-LINK FENCE to get me into the pool.  There was the basketball team in the 6th grade in which I understood NOTHING that was going on, so I simply sprinted up and down the court as fast as I could and tried to look busy.  (I still remember after the game, my sweet daddy saying, "Well, Shannon, you're, um, fast...").  There were tennis lessons in high school which my parents (unwisely) let me take with my best friend, and we spent much more time giggling and trying not to break our nails.  That poor teacher.

Two of my sons inherited their father's agility and athletic skill.  But A Son Of Mine Who Shall Not Be Named, God bless his sweet heart, got mine

He's had some real struggles with lack of muscle strength and coordination--he's even had some leg pain directly related to this.  We took him to a physical therapist some time ago, and her number-one recommendation for him was to enroll him in martial arts.

I was hesitant.  Would he be in over his head?  Would a contact sport like this one cause him anxiety?

About nine months ago, we took the plunge and signed him up for karate.  And my boy--I'm so proud of him--has blossomed.  The muscle strength he has gained is remarkable.  (On the first day of class he could barely do one push-up.  Now he can do 60.)  He is more confident, more coordinated and more fit.  In the course of our martial-arts experience, I've talked to many other parents with similar positive experiences.  If you have a child with coordination and strength issues, this is an avenue worth serious investigation.

Additionally, martial arts teach tremendous life skills as well, such as self-discipline and respect.  A good teacher will teach a child to defend himself but never to initiate any aggression.  (In my son's program, doing karate outside class is a major infraction.)

Here are some things to consider:

  • There are many types of martial arts from which to choose; a trained teacher can give you more thorough information than I could.  Ask around, and find the style that best suits your child.
  • Some programs are more intense than others.  We specifically looked for one that was laid back, with a greater emphasis on building confidence than competition.  Again, you'll get a solid feel for this by talking to the teacher.
  • Martial arts can be expensive, but do your homework.  Especially if you're a first-timer, look around at community centers, YMCAs, park services, schools, etc.  Such programs often aren't as pricey as the classes held at a dojo.
  • Be assured that the kids don't start sparring with another person on the first day of class (this was what worried me)!  Sparring is only done after very specific training, under very close supervision, with the proper safety gear.
  • Any other words of wisdom from you martial arts parents?

Karate has been a God-send to our family, and it most definitely works for my green-belted boy.  I couldn't be prouder of him, for trying so hard, stepping outside his comfort zone, and making it work.

Have an idea you'd like to share with all of Bloggityville?  Leave your link below.  WFMW guidelines can be found here. 

Works For Me: The Kitchen Edition

Wfmwheader_17I sure hope y'all are ready to flood us with clever kitchen ideas, because I have to admit, this isn't my strength.  I told you yesterday that cooking isn't my favorite thing; as a result, my kitchen is probably the least organized room in my house.  I already shared my best kitchen tip in one of my very first WFMWs, so I'm re-posting it today:

A couple of years ago I went to my grocery store with a pen and paper and walked the "route" I always take whenever I'm there.  I wrote which aisles I come to, in order (that part is important).  Then I transferred my written list to a Word document, with blank lines below each aisle.  You can click here to see the finished product:

Download grocery.pdf 

Each week I keep one of these lists on my fridge.  As I run out of something, I write it down directly on the list.  That way when I'm ready to go to the store, I have a complete list already in order, and I can sail through the store at lightning speed--no more back-tracking!  (While you are welcome to use my list, chances are that your grocery store won't be in the same order as mine.  The real key to this shortcut is having your items written down in the order you come to them.  It will take you only 5-10 minutes to walk through your own grocery store and make one of these lists.)

I can't tell you how much time this has saved me--and money, too, because being more organized at the outset of my trip causes me to make fewer impulse purchases.

So, what about you?  Any flashes of kitchen brilliance you want to share with us?  Appliance cleaning, pantry organization, ANYthing that makes your life smoother in the kitchen is welcome today.  Please post your link below, and see the guidelines here if you have any questions. 

Last Minute Reminder!

Tomorrow, March 7th, is Works-For-Me Wednesday: The Kitchen Edition!  Have a clever way you store recipes?  Stock a pantry?  Clean appliances?  Share your ideas with us!

Bloggy Reminder

This Wednesday, March 7th, is Works-For-Me Wednesday: The Kitchen Edition!  Have a clever way you store recipes?  Stock a pantry?  Clean appliances?  Share your ideas with us!

Works For Me: Celebrating Spring

Wfmwheader_15I think I've made it pretty clear how I feel about winter.  As far as I'm concerned, it's the necessary evil we must all trudge through to pass the time between college football season and St. Patrick's Day.  When winter does finally shed its sorry self, I feel like celebrating--don't you?

Add to this my inability to stomach the over-commercialization of Easter (I can't quite fathom what this has to do with this.)  So we do things a little differently around here.

Instead of doing the bunny and egg dealie on Easter, we have a celebration-to-end-all-celebrations on the first day of spring (March 21st, this year).  We color eggs, we hunt for them, we do silly little gifts and (the highlight of the day!) we bake a bunny-shaped cake that the kids get to decorate (instructions here).  Basically, we do all the more secular Easter traditions on the first day of spring. 

This little family tradition serves several purposes.  First, it frees up Easter to focus on the real reason we celebrate.  Secondly, the kids still get all the fun of egg hunts and the like, albeit at a slightly different time.  Thirdly, it just feels right to celebrate spring, that old friend who faithfully returns to make me feel a little lighter each year.  My kids love this tradition and start talking about it weeks ahead of time.  And I already have a humdinger of a celebration in the planning stages (this year the first day of spring falls during spring break, which will make for an even bigger event in years past).

Have a clever idea you'd like to share with all of Bloggityville?  Post a link to your post below.  Guidelines for participation in Works-For-Me Wednesday can be found here.

IMPORTANT REMINDER:  Next Wednesday, March 7th, is WFMW: The Kitchen Edition!  Have a clever way you organize your recipes?  Plan your meals?  Stock your pantry?  Clean your appliances?  Please share your clever kitchen ideas with us.

Works For Me: Baby Oil *UPDATED*


We're home-again-home-again-jiggety-jig after a very refreshing and blog-fodder filled mini-vacation (have you ever seen so many hypens in one sentence?)  I'll post about it in a day or two, when I can find my way out from under my backed-up to-do list.  Anyone want to guess where we went?  Hints: our particular destination is within a three-hour driving distance of Oklahoma, and it has a lot, personality

Okay, on to WFMW...

You handful of male readers might want to skip this one, unless you shave your legs, in which case may I tell you that you have seriously stumbled onto the wrong blog?


You know what I really, really loathe?  When you shave your legs in the winter time and they get all chill-bumpy the minute you step out of the shower.  And then, when you go to apply your moisturizer, it's like applying lotion to sandpaper.  Miserable

BUT, if you keep baby oil in your shower and apply it to your legs immediately after you shave (while still in the shower), you step out already moisturized.  AND, strangely enough, I don't get the chill bumps when I've done this.  AND even better, I'm saving a fortune by not buying expensive moisturizers.  The baby oil works better than anything I've used.

*UPDATED TO ADD* To answer your questions you left in the comment section, no, the oil doesn't make me too "greasy".  I apply it in the shower immediately after shaving, rinse it off, and I've never had any trouble with it getting on clothes or furniture.  Just try not to spill any on the shower floor, or you could slip!  ;) 

Have a tip you'd like to share with all of bloggityville?  Leave your link below.  Guidelines can be found here.

Works For Me: Green Beans

Wfmwheader_13Over the weekend, we went to a Valentine's Day party with a big group of friends.  Instead of having it catered, several of us got together, planned the meal, and then each of us were responsible for 40 servings of one item. 

Because my friends know me, they knew it was best to assign me something that involved OPENING UP BAGS OF FROZEN FOOD.  So, I was assigned green beans. 

Although, if I do say so myself, I make really good green beans--even if they're so simple it's almost embarrassing to tell you.  But it's short and sweet, which is what I need today, since I'm much too busy pulling together the details for a 2nd grade Valentine class party.  Let's hear it for the homeroom moms, no?'s my green bean trick:  I cook either the frozen variety (Hubs' favorite) or the canned variety (my favorite) in butter, sugar, chicken broth, and garlic.  And now you're going to want to know amounts, and I'm horrible at guessing--but for two cans of green beans I'd estimate 3-4 tbsp of butter, 2-3 tbsp of sugar, two chicken bouillon cubes, and 1/2 tsp of garlic.  Plus salt and pepper to taste, of course.  If that doesn't taste right, it means I've guessed wrong, so tweak it until it's delish.  This is the only green thing my two year old will put in her stubborn little mouth, so these beans make a regular appearance at the Dryer family table. 

Have a tip you'd like to share with all of Bloggityville?  Leave your link below.  Guidelines can be found here.

Works For Me: Love, Sweet Love

Wfmwheader_12 In honor of Valentine's Day, today is the Love, Sweet Love Edition of Works-For-Me Wednesday.  Have a romantic tip to share with Bloggityville?  This is your chance!  Ideas could include a way to woo your sweetie, a helpful piece of relationship advice, etc.  (Just keep it PG-rated if you're going to link back here.  Ahem.)

My Hubs loves order more than anyone I've ever known.  I'm sure if you charted his brain waves, they would be perfectly symmetrical, evenly-spaced and color-coded.  My brain waves, on the other hand, would be banging into each other, starting projects they couldn't finish, and spending too much on purses.

Years ago, on a whim, when he was particularly busy at work and didn't have the time to "order" his life the way he wanted, I organized his closet.  I threw out all the extra plastic bags from the cleaners, packaged up the old hangers for recycling, sorted his dress shirts by color, evenly spaced the get the idea.  It was quite a challenge for this right-brain girl. 

That night, when he came home and saw his spic-and-span closet, he grinned like an eight-year-old boy.  Not only was he tickled at his shiny new closet, he was deeply touched that his messy wife (whose own closet looks like an explosion at TJMaxx) would think of something so out-of-character.

To this day, when life gets a little stressful for him, I organize his closet within an inch of its life.  I don't like doing it, but I know that this simple little thing makes him feel more loved than anything else I do.

Okay, almost anything else.


For more straight talk, visit any of the links below.  Be sure you don't miss Carol's excellent post! 

Works For Me: Organizing Bedroom Clutter

Wfmwheader_11 As I mentioned before, the last week has been The Week Of Bedroom Reorganization in the Dryer household.  Corrie's nursery was turned into a big-girl room (and it's adorable, truly; pictures to follow, at some point).  And my three boys decided they wanted to sleep in the same room.  Before, Adam (9) had his own room, while Stephen (8) and Joseph (5) shared.  But they have begged and pleaded and played the Mom-I-Want-To-Spend-More-Time-With-My-Brother card, which gets me every time.  It's not true, of course; they really just think if I reshuffle bedrooms they'll have a shot at new SpongeBob bedding.  But a mother can dream. 

So, all of this to say, we now have three boys sharing one room (the extra room is now the playroom).  I explained to them that we can only manage all this togetherness under very specific conditions.  I've always tried to keep a handle on all the "stuff" that my kids accumulate, with little success.  But I told them that the Days Of Packrat-ed-ness were over.  Beginning now.  So we implemented a rule that we previously only had in place for Stephen (Packrat King of the Family).  It's worked so well for him, I'm hopeful it will help everyone.

Each boy now has his own treasure box, about twice the size of a shoe box.  All of their treasures (rocks from the playground, a letter from their beloved uncle, unused Chuck E. Cheese tickets and anything else they CAN'T POSSIBLY throw away) belong in the box.  When the box gets so full that the lid won't close, it means it's time to go through and throw some things away.

I love this, because it teaches them to prioritize and to understand that some things (a postcard from Yosemite) are treasures, while other things (an empty wrapper from their favorite candy bar) are really not.  It helps keep loose pieces of clutter contained.  And the best part?  With their permission, I like to poke through their treasure box.  Seeing what they hold dear helps me know them a little better.

And no, the little dears didn't get their SpongeBob bedding.  They mercifully agreed to this instead.  Oh, the cuteness!  And the bargain-ness! 

Have an idea you'd like to share with all of Bloggityville?  Leave your tip below (guidelines for participation can be found here, including instructions on how to delete your link if you mess up.)

OH!  LAST THING!  Don't forget that next Wednesday, February 7, is the Love, Sweet Love edition of WFMW.  Details here. 

Upcoming WFMW Themes

Thanks for such a good response suggesting WFMW themes!  Here's a few to get us started:

February 7: In honor of Valentine's Day, it's WFMW: Love, Sweet Love Edition.  Share with us the best relationship advice you can give.  Or, share with us some ideas for making Valentine's Day special for your sweetie or your kids.  If you're going to link back here, let's keep it PG-rated, folks. 

March 7:  Let's have WFMW: The Kitchen Edition!  Have a clever way you organize your recipes?  Plan your meals?  Stock your pantry?  Tell us!

April 4:  With summer vacations just around the corner, it's The Car Edition.  Give us your best tips for handling life on the go.  How to entertain the kids, or keep up with your little league gear, or how to stock an auto first aid kid...let us know what works for you.

All the other weeks will be business-as-usual; just share a tip with any topic of your choice.

Works For Me: DVD Case

Wfmwheader_9 I think there's a good chance that every mom in America is already doing what I'm about to tell you, and you're all going to look at me and wonder, "Does she really think that's innovative?," and in fact no, I do not, but I'm tired and temporarily running out of WFMW tips so I'll go ahead and tell you anyway.

DvdsWe keep all the kids' DVDs in a regular CD case.  This keeps them from scattering the plastic DVD jackets all over the living room when they're looking for a particular disc.  It's also quite handy when we're leaving on a long car trip.  We can grab the whole DVD collection and dash.

So, here's hoping that your tip is considerably more creative than mine--link away, below!  Guidelines for WFMW can be found here.

(Oh, and by the way, last week the overwhelming majority of you thought that we should have a mix of "themed" WFMWs mixed in with the "free-for-all" version.  So here's the plan: from now on the FIRST WEDNESDAY OF THE MONTH will be a themed variety.  I'll give you plenty of notice what the theme is, don't worry.  Speaking of which, if you have any brilliant theme ideas, e-mail me at the address on my sidebar.  Remember, we need to keep the theme fairly broad and appealing to a large group of people.  For example, something relating only to parents of preschoolers, or vegetarians, or lactose-intolerant astronauts, or claustrophobic Swedes might be a tad too specific.)

Works For Me: Cloth Napkins


Before I get started, let me point you in this direction if you missed it earlier. 

Moving right along....

Here's a fun little thing I've done for years.  Instead of barreling through paper napkins (since goodness knows this family generates enough trash already), I made these simple little cloth napkins out of gingham.  There's no sewing involved--just cut 11x11 squares of gingham (available anywhere you can buy fabric, and it's usually very inexpensive).  Fringe the edges by Napkinunfolded_1pulling out horizontal strands starting at the top of the cloth; you only need to pull out 5-6 strands.  That's it! 

I was even able to find a cheap little basket at Hobby Lobby to store them in on our table's center.  We use them for regular, everyday napkin needs--when they become stained with spaghetti saNapkinsinbasketuce they are cheap and easy to replace.  It saves a few trees and makes regular meals seem a little more special.

If you have a tip you'd like to share with all of Bloggityville, please leave your tip below.  Instructions for participation in WFMW can be found here.  Please remember to link back to this post so that your readers can find all the other tips. 

Oh, and one more thing--I've gotten quite a bit of feedback that the "themed" WFMWs (like last week's) are a real hit.  Would you like to see these more often?  Or do you prefer doing your own thing?  Please answer the poll below so I can get a feel for your preferences.


Works For Me: Eating Well

Wfmwheader_6 I've told you that I'm trying to shed a few pounds this year, as is my Hubs, and I confess that I don't know much about healthy cooking.  I'm from the South--we dip it in butter, roll it in white flour, and fry the heck out of it.  And then we cover it in cheese. 

So, I'm counting on you to share some healthy recipes with us all, in this themed edition of Works-For-Me Wednesday: Eating Well.

My tip?  It's not exactly a recipe, but it's working for me right now.  I take a whole-wheat pita, cut it in half, and cut it in strips.  I heat it in the microwave (or oven, if you want it crispy) until warm.  When it comes out, I spray with it with canola cooking spray and sprinkle dry ranch dressing mix on it.  It sort of feels like I'm eating chips, or bread.  Sort of.  If you're doing Weight Watchers, this is only 1 point (if you use half a pita). 

For more recipes, Christy at The Abundant Life has started an eating healthy carnival, which I will be checking often for good ideas--you should too!  You can read about her idea here.  Also, my good friend MomRN2 is launching a new site today called Motivation Moments--it's all about exercise and healthy living.  Go check it out!

Please, share your healthy recipes with all of Bloggityville below!  WFMW guidelines can be found here.  If you don't have a blog, please share your recipe in my comments section!

Works For Me: A Big Box of Kleenex and a Sudafed Cocktail

I'm down with a nasty cold today and am a little too Sudafed-drunk to think of a clever tip to share.  So I'll pass today, but please, share your own WFMW tips below.  Any tips on how to kick a cold to the curb would be much appreciated.

WFMW guidelines can be found here.

Note:  I've been told that some of you are having trouble viewing the Mr. Linky columns properly.  If you're having this problem, just leave a comment and let me know.  I'll try to get it figured out.  Thanks.

Works For Me: Spaghetti Sauce

Wfmwheader_4 This week's tip is a bit on the wimpy side, but I'm too busy for anything big and creative!  MUST. FINISH. CHRISTMAS. EVE. PAJAMAS.

If you have a big family and one jar of spaghetti sauce isn't quite enough, add some tomato soup to it.  Stretches it out nicely (and cheaply), and adds a good flavor to boot! 

(And if you're shaking your head saying, "one jar of spaghetti sauce?  I would never feed my family spaghetti sauce from a jar!" then, um, I'm afraid you're reading the wrong blog...)

Want to share your helpful tip with Bloggityville?  Leave a link below.  First-timers, please read through the guidelines here before posting.

*UPDATED* Works For Me: Smoke Alarms


*UPDATED TO ADD*  Um, sorry about that...forgot the links.  They're up now. 

I don't have a particularly cheerful tip this week, but it's an important one.

A dear friend of mine had a serious house fire last week; the fire started in the attic and, they've been told, may have burned for two hours before the family was aware of it. As a result, I've been thinking much about my own family's fire safety situation. 

We've always followed recommended guidelines.  We have two smoke alarms on each level of our home; upstairs, the smoke alarms are at either end of the hall.  As I've thought about it, though, it has dawned on me that my children sleep with their doors closed.  If there were an attic fire that began over their rooms, or if an electrical appliance in their room were to catch fire, it might take a very long time for the smoke to reach the alarm in the hallway outside.  Quite possibly, by the time the hallway alarm sounded, it would be too late. 

As a result, in addition to the recommended hallway smoke alarms, we have added smoke alarms in each of the kids' rooms.  They are not expensive--but even if they were, the additional peace of mind would be worth it. 

Want to share your helpful tip with Bloggityville?  Leave a link below.  First-timers, please read through the guidelines here before posting.

Works For Me: Easy Garlic Bread

Wfmwheader_5 Here's a cheap and easy way to do garlic bread ("red-neck garlic bread", as Hubs so lovingly calls it).  I serve this nearly every time we do Italian, and my family loves it!

First, take hot dog buns and cut them in half like this:


Open them up and spread them out on a baking sheet, like this:


Put them in the oven (I use my toaster oven) and get them nice and toasted.  While they're toasting, melt some butter or margarine and stir in either garlic powder or (our favorite) dry ranch dressing mix.  When the bread comes out of the oven, spread the butter mixture over it.  Voila!  Garlic bread!


Want to share your helpful tip with Bloggityville?  Leave a link below.  First-timers, please read through the guidelines here before posting.

Works For Me: One More Christmas Idea

Wfmwheader I'm re-running an idea I shared over a year ago, but it's such a good one it warrants dusting off out of the archives.

Last Christmas, my sister-in-law L (who, by the way, took up all the thin, beautiful, artistic genes in our family, but I love her anyway) made the most incredible gifts for my children.  A month before Christmas, she asked them to draw and color a picture of a character--any character.  Adam drew Mario from Nintendo, Stephen drew SpongeBob, and Joseph made up something all his own.  We mailed them to her, and she used their drawings to create patterns...and then she re-created their little creatures in pillow form.  My kids went nuts for them and they still love them.  Here's a picture:Dscn2696_1 

I wish I could show you Joseph's original drawing (and I suppose I could, if I wanted to spend two hours digging through last year's keepsake box, which I do not.)  If you could see it, you would be amazed at how faithful L's sewn rendition was to Joseph's original. 

Have an idea you'd like to share with Bloggityville?  Leave a link below!  WFMW guidelines can be found here.  And yes, you're more than welcome to grab this new WFMW graphic off my site for use on your own.

(By the way, I've had several people e-mail me recently for the links to my Jesse Tree posts from a few weeks ago.  If you're looking for them, you can find them here and here.)

WFMW Is Back In Town

Works-For-Me Wednesday will be back in business this week.  Holiday-related ideas are welcome, but so are ideas that would knock our socks off any ol' day of the year.  Guidelines, should you need them, can be found here.

Just for fun, I'll be unveiling a new WFMW graphic you can use on your post, if you'd like (though it's fine if you like the old one better.)  Clearly, my being content with the current graphical state of my blog is an impossibility.  If you'd like me to send you a copy of it ahead of time, just send me an e-mail at the link to the left.

Works For Me: Christmas Edition!


Welcome to the first annual Christmas Edition of Works-For-Me Wednesday, in which we share ideas that will make your holidays so smooth that you're guaranteed to be speaking to your family members in January!  Wait, no guarantees...but they're still very good ideas.

Here's my simple little tip--

Is anyone else annoyed by the way toys are packaged these days?  When I was a kid, you could pull the toy right out of the box.  Nowadays you need a screwdriver, wire cutters and a degree in mechanical engineering to get the dang baby doll out of the package.  This is especially pleasant when you have a five year old jumping up and down next to you squealing, "Hurry! Hurry!"  This year I'm going to take all the toys OUT OF THE BOXES before I wrap the gifts.  That way the kids have access to their toys right away.  And I have less trash to clean up on Christmas morning.

I'd love to hear your clever holiday tip (or two or three or four...)  Just leave a link below!  Guidelines still apply, and they can be found here.

I know last week's WFMW got a bit gimped up in its display.  The real live Mr. Linky himself has helped me figure out a (fingers crossed!) solution.  If at any point you can't see both columns below, please send me an e-mail.  Thanks!

Works For Me: Car Cleaning


Does the floor of anyone else's car look an explosion at a french fry factory?  Mine is scary.

So here's my little WFMW tip for the day:  I keep a stash of empty grocery sacks in my car, so that when I'm in the car waiting for a child at the dentist, or karate, or soccer, etc., I can use the time to quickly gather up the trash and dump it in the nearest trash bin.  I also keep a bottle of fabric freshener (this stuff is my favorite) in the car, so I can hose down gently spray my otherwise rancid aromatic vehicle.


At the request of many of you, next week (November 15) we will be having a "themed" Works-For-Me Wednesday...the Christmas Edition!  Please be thinking ahead about some Christmas-related tips you can share.  Time savers?  Gift ideas?  Recipes?  Anything that makes the holidays easier would be great.

Want to share your helpful tip with Bloggityville?  Leave a link below.  First-timers, please read through the guidelines here before posting.

*REMEMBER:  Please keep your parenthetical description SHORT--no more than three words!  If not, it could mess up the way Mr. Linky displays it below and make it hard for us all to read.  Thanks!

Works For Me: Saving Candy


Candy2In the category of Excruciatingly Cheap Mom Tricks That Will Probably Have My Kids In Therapy Someday, here's my little suggestion for all that Halloween candy that is probably overtaking your house right now.  (On the right is a picture of my boys with the fruit of last night's labor, though I'm not sure "fruit" would be a very appropriate word choice.)

J0384753_1 Go through it, pick out some good ones that don't have Halloween-ish decorations on them, put them in a big ziploc bag and freeze and...VOILA!  Stocking stuffers in only two short months!  Ho, ho, ho!

Yes, I'm that cheap.  I do it every year, and (as far as I know) the kids haven't figured it out.  Works for me!

Feel free to share your WFMW link below.  Please read through the guidelines if you have any questions.

Works For Me: Make-Your-Eyes-Roll-Back-In-Your-Head Biscuits


Seriously.  These biscuits are THAT good.  And THAT easy, too. 

Take approximately 3 cups of Bisquik baking mix.  Add approximately 1/2 cup brown sugar.  Slowly add milk, stirring as you go until the mix is moistened just enough to stick together in dough-y little balls (sorry I'm not more exact; I wing it every time on this). 

Form the dough into balls into a size of your choosing and flatten slightly (the dough is very sticky; it's much easier if you moisten your hands with water first).  Bake at 425 for about 9 minutes.  Here's a picture of the finished product:

These are SO good your family might eat them all before they make it to the table!

Want to share your clever idea with all of Bloggityville?  Leave your link below!  First-timers, please read through the guidelines here

More About the Jesse Tree

I just realized that the link I gave you regarding the Jesse Tree was an old link, and not very helpful.  Anyway, I got so many private e-mails on the subject, I thought I'd spend a little more time telling you how we did this.

First, the name "Jesse Tree" comes from Isaiah 11:1-2

A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
       from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.

The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him—
       the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
       the Spirit of counsel and of power,
       the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD

The idea, of course, is that Christ came from the "stump of Jesse" (Jesse's "tree", get it?), and all of the Old Testament points toward the coming of Christ as Messiah. 

You will find on-line several different collections of devotionals; many have been written over the years.  Do an Amazon search on Jesse Tree for some ideas.  We used the devotions here; I simply printed them out and put them in a folder.  We tweaked this particular set of devotions every now and then--we really wanted to emphasize how the Old Testament pointed toward Christ.

It is NOT expensive (at least, it doesn't have to be).  You can buy Jesse Tree kits online if you're pressed for time, but gathering the ornaments myself was part of what made it so meaningful to me.  The website we use offers patterns (found here).  You could use these to cut out ornaments from felt, foam or paper.  I probably did four or five of my ornaments this way.  I also bought several at craft stores (many of them, such as Hobby Lobby, put their ornaments on sale for half off very often, and you can easily get pretty ornaments for a dollar or two each).  I tried to get really clever on a few--for example, for the story of the Fall, I found a little plastic apple and glued a plastic snake to it.  For Joseph's "coat of many colors", I found some striped fabric and cut it out in the shape of a coat.  For the devotional about how the prophets told of the coming Messiah, I bought a sparkly key (as in, "the prophets were unlocking the future").  See?  There's no end to how you can get creative on this.

My children loved this.  Every night before bedtime, beginning on about December 1, we'd snuggle up for our brief Jesse Tree devotional.  It was always a great honor as to who would get to place the day's ornament on the tree!  The devotions themselves are brief, but many interesting discussions were launched by our reading.  (If anyone can share the story of Abraham's willingness to sacrifice Isaac on the altar without scaring the be-jeebers out of kids, please share your methods.  That's a tough one).

When Christmas gets closer, I'll bring down my Jesse Tree box from the attic and show you some pictures of my favorite ornaments.  Maybe I'll even set up a Mr. Linky so you can share your Jesse Tree projects as well!  I encourage you to try this with your family, even if you don't consider yourself very religious.  It's a relatively easy way to teach your kids why we celebrate Christmas, and you'll learn a few things in the process as well (I certainly did!)

Works For Me: Jesse Tree


Yes, it's true--I'm one of those annoying people that starts thinking about and planning for Christmas in August.  And I shall now subject you to my madness.  (With good reason, though, because this little idea will actually take quite a while to pull together, if you're so inclined).

Last year I put together a Jesse Tree for our families.  If you aren't familiar with this well-loved holiday tradition, you can read more about it here.  To summarize, we put a two-foot tree on a table in our living room, and beginning on December 1, we get out an ornament each day.  The first ornament represents creation, and we read a little devotional on creation.  Then each devotional takes us through the Old Testament, showing how it all pointed to Christ, until Christmas Eve, when we finish by placing the star on the top of the tree.  Really, it's a lovely tradition that has taught us all a great deal.

If you'd like to share your clever ideas with all of Bloggityville, leave your link below.  Guidelines for WFMW can be found here--please read through them if you're a first-time participant or you have any questions. 

Getting LOST

Oh, and I forgot to tell you one more thing that really, really Works For Me:


Bring it on.

Works For Me: Coke Roast


I read a recipe in Southern Living this spring that has been a huge hit with my family.  Actually, there are so few ingredients, I'm not sure it qualifies as a recipe.  More of an idea, really.  But anyway, here it is:

  • One big, honkin' boneless pork loin roast (and yes, big honkin' would be the technical term.)
  • A can of Coke
  • A full bottle of barbecue sauce

Dump it all in the crock pot for at least 6 hours.  Oh, your house will smell SO good, and your family will love it.  The Coke makes it all tender and runny.  I slice it up and pour some additional barbecue sauce on it before serving.  Then I serve it up with cole slaw and corn on the cob and why-thank-you-I-think-I-will iced tea. 

If you'd like to share your clever ideas with all of Bloggityville, leave your link below.  Guidelines for WFMW can be found here--please read through them if you're a first-time participant or you have any questions. 

Works For Me: CLASSICS Edition


So, did you get the memo?  We're going to try something different with Works-For-Me Wednesday this week.  Instead of sharing a new WFMW idea, go back in your archives and find your WFMW that you consider your best one.  Then re-publish it!  It's sort of a "Greatest Hits" edition.  Here's mine; it's actually the first WFMW I ever did, back on April 19, 2006--

Here's a little idea that has made packing easier when traveling with kids.  I buy those two-gallon Ziploc bags (they are MASSIVE) and label one for each day we are traveling.  Inside each bag is every kid's clothing for THAT DAY, all the way down to underwear and socks.  So, no more rummaging around in a crammed suitcase or having boy #1 use up all of boy #2's underwear.  I simply pull out that day's bag, dump it on the bed, and they can dress themselves.  An added bonus is that it keeps the clean clothes away from the dirty ones.  Here's a photo of the idea in action, from our recent Disney trip


Such a simple little thing, really, but it made the biggest difference in our trip!

Share your WFMW "classic" below.  If you've already prepared a new one, and you're itchin' to share it, go ahead.  (WFMW guidelines can be found here; please read through them if you have any questions.)

Just Making Sure You Heard...

We're going to try something a little different for Works-For-Me Wednesday this week.  You can see the details here

It's Classics Week!

Let's do something different for Works-For-Me Wednesday this week.  Instead of publishing a new idea this Wednesday, go back into your archives and re-print the best WFMW tip you've ever run.  We'll link up at my site like always, but this time, it will be everyone's best effort so far!  What do you think?

(If you're new to WFMW and want to publish a new one, that's fine too.)

By the way...if you came by here earlier and saw this week's WFMW up early, that was a goof on my part.  It's back down and will be put up again on Wednesday.  Sorry!

Works For Me: Bows, Bows and More Bows


Today I am happily and shamelessly plugging the website of a girlfriend!  She started out as a blog-friend, but we live in the same city.  So we mirled, and now I'm happy to count her as a real-life friend (as is my son, who swaps GameBoy games with her son Brother).  You may have read SuperMom's hilarious blog here, and I've written before about our bow-making frenzy here, but now [drumroll please]...she has launched a bow-making business called Punkinhead Hairwear.  Now, I dearly love making my own bows.  But finding just the right ribbon and hauling out all the supplies and (inevitably) scorching my finger on the hot-glue gun is sometimes not worth it.  So what "Works For Me" today is scooting over to SuperMom's site and buying one of her fantastic creations (by the way, her prices are excellent) .  Now, go!

If you have a tip you'd like to share with Blogland, leave your link below.  WFMW guidelines, if you need them, may be found here.  (Please read through them before e-mailing me any questions--thanks!)

Works For Me: Um, NOTHING, Actually...


You know what "works for me" today?  Taking a brain-breather from being all creative and problem-solvish.  Y'all go ahead and list your ideas below, and I'll be back next week with one of my own!

May I pretty-please ask that before you e-mail me any questions about WFMW you check the guidelines here?  It will probably answer your question.  If you still have questions, feel free to send me an e-mail.  Thanks!

Works For Me: After School


DCRmom at Musings of a Housewife wrote a few days ago about how hard it can be to balance a child's after-school schedule.  I could relate to her concerns. There is precious little time from when they arrive home until bedtime, and I want to make that time as seamless as possible for them.  Here are some few tips that work for me (my kids are elementary-aged):

  • I try to be "ready" for them when they get off the bus.  I'm not on the phone, I'm not in the middle of a project, I'm just ready for them.
  • They grab a snack first thing, and they really want to "veg" a while before talking.  I don't take this personally, and I don't pump them for info about their day.  Yet. 
  • I let them watch 1-2 TV shows (depending on how much time we have).
  • While they're watching TV, I go through their backpacks.  This gives me a better idea what went on during their day.
  • After the downtime we begin homework and discussions about what all happened that day.  One good conversation starter--"What was the best and worst part of your day?"
  • As much as possible, we schedule after-school activities on two days a week, maybe three in a pinch.  This way we're not always dashing off to something--two or three days a week we can have a slower pace. 
  • I don't let my kids have playdates with neighborhood kids during the week.  It's just one more thing to try to manage.  (This thankfully isn't a huge issue, since we don't have a lot of kids in our neighborhood!)

I'd love to hear your tips for managing after-school chaos loveliness, if you have any. 

If you're writing a Works-For-Me Wednesday post, please link below.  To be included, you do NOT have to use the banner, but you must make a reference to "Works-For-Me Wednesday" in your post and link back here (other guidelines can be found here).  Thanks!

Works For Me: The Notebook


If my house catches fire, I'm getting the kids first, and this little tool second:

Notebook1_copy There's no offical name for this--around here, we just call it The Notebook.  And we say it in a reverent whisper.  Basically, it's where I keep all the catch-all papers it takes to manage this family of six.

On the cover you see a photo of my little darlings (in real life I promise they DO have faces).

Inside the front cover I have taped an assortment of important Notebook2_copyinformation, like social security numbers, combination to the padlock gate in the backyard, and the right way to set a table (it's my dirty little secret:  no matter how many tables I set, I cannot, CANNOT remember where the napkin and spoon go without a cheat sheet.)

I keep a three-ring hole punch in my kitchen, and any important piece of paper that darkens our door gets punched right away.  Any papers that will be referred to regularly find their way into the The Notebook.  It is NOT for filing papers that I might use once or twice a year (like birth certificates).  And I don't use it for keeping track of documents to be filed, like paid bills or health insurance statements.  Those documents have a much less glamourous fate awaiting them in the garage filing cabinet. 

My notebook is divided into the following tabs:

  • Pending (for papers that I'll be working on in the next week or two)
  • Contacts (my phone list)
  • Groceries (where I keep blank forms for this little system)
  • Church
  • Adam--school (these next three tabs hold classroom information I refer to often, like snack schedules, phone lists, etc.  Keepsake-type school papers head out to the filing cabinet)
  • Stephen--school
  • Joseph--school
  • Computer (where I keep all my passwords and ideas for blog posts--a very short list at the moment, by the way)
  • Soccer (I have two boys who play;  this is where we store rosters, schedules, etc.)
  • Scouts (I have two boys in Scouts, too; this is where we keep up with the bazillions of little papers and projects it takes to participate)
  • Ideas (Just a random catch-all place to write down my great ideas that never come to fruition.  This is a LONG list.)
  • Notes (Because you have to keep blank paper somewhere, right?)

This has really helped me keep track of all the paper a busy family can accumulate! 

If you want to share your great idea, please include your Works-For-Me Wednesday Link below.  Guidelines, should you need them, can be found here.

Oh, and one last thing...Jeana and GreenGenes won my little grammar contest yesterday, with the prize being (oh-can-you-stand-the-excitement) an honorary featured position in today's WFMW post.  SO, you must go and visit them first, because it is a fine, fine thing when a woman knows how to hyphenate. 

Works For Me: Its vs. It's

I'm not a grammar snob, really.  Okay, so maybe I'm just a little bit of a grammar snob.  Teeny tiny.  Just on the big grammar doozies, like your vs. you're and I vs. me and OH-FOR-THE-LOVE-OF-PETE its vs. it's.  I'm sorry, y'all, but it's time for the bloggers of the world to unite and master it/it's.  I see it done incorrectly on blogs all the time, (including, ahem, my own, when I'm proofreading). 

Here's my little trick to help me remember the right way to do it:

Imagine that the little apostrophe is the letter i.  Therefore, when you write it's, you are writing it is.  When you are writing its, you are using the possessive form of the word (as in, "Shannon's blog has reached its highest level of control-freakishness now.") 

Works for me!

For more riveting grammar advice, check out Dr. Grammar. I love this stuff!

If you'd like to share your advice with Blogland, please link below! 

Works For Me: Bag Tags


I LOVE to label things.  I label my books the minute I bring them home.  I label boxes and containers and drawers.  I label things that don't need to be labeled.  Some husbands bring home home flowers or jewelry to woo their wives; mine came home a few weeks ago with a label maker.  I'm not kidding, my knees went weak.

This time of year I'm in label-heaven as the Dryer kiddos head back to school.  Not-so-thankfully I have somehow managed to pass my label neurosis on to my children, so I have to sit ON MY HANDS as I watch, over their shoulder, as they happily label their own folders.  Sheesh, it nearly kills me.

But moving right along...we came up with a fun new excuse way to label this year.  I made the boys luggage tag labels for their school backpacks (this idea also works nicely for diaper bags).  It was simple--I went into Microsoft Word, used the label template selected to business-card sized, inserted clip art of their choice, and typed in their names in wacky colors/fonts.  We printed them out on card stock and took the finished product to Kinkos, where they have pre-cut laminated pockets for business-card sized items--only $1.50 each, including the fancy little loops that attach it to the backpack.  Be still my heart.

If you'd like to play along, post your Works-For-Me Wednesday link below!  Remember to include a 3-4 word summary of your tip in parentheses.

On a completely different note, please head over to Joy in the Journey today, if you have the chance.  Joy and her husband are missionaries in Indonesia.  She is pregnant with her fourth child and is hospitalized with very extreme morning sickness.  Please go by and offer her your encouragement.

Works For Me: Keeping Cool


It is hotter than the surface of the sun in Oklahoma right now, how about where you live?  Ugh.  When I need to keep cool, two words come to mind:  ICE CREAM.  A friend shared this homemade ice cream recipe with me, and it's too yummy not to pass along.

In your ice cream maker's canister, put in one can of sweetened condensed milk and one 2-liter bottle of soda, any flavor (I've tried orange and root beer--both were great). 

And....that's it.  Do the ice/rock salt thingy, turn it on, and get ready for some yummy ice cream.  You can use fat free sweetened condensed milk and diet soda to make it lower in fat and calories!

If you'd like to post a link to your WFMW tip, please do so!  Remember to read the guidelines here before posting.

Works For Me: Paper Bagging Walls


I wrote yesterday about my bathroom drama, and the journey we've made to bring the decor out of the 1980's.  I was, at first, skeptical that this "paper-bagging" technique would accomplish its purpose.  But I am, for the most part, pleased.

First, I'll show you the websites I looked at to get some guidance:  check here and here.  I also talked to a couple of friends who had tried it (including this one...thank you, AM!).  I piece-mealed all this advice and here's how I did it:

  1. Though this technique is called "paper-bagging" you don't actually use paper bags (or you might end up with something like this).  Instead, buy a roll of contractor paper.  It only took me about 3/4 of a roll to do this whole bathroom.  Rip paper into random-shaped pieces.  I used a dinner plate as the general size guide.
  2. Wad up pieces tightly and let them sit for a while, so the crinkles will "set in"
  3. Un-wad and coat one side with wallpaper glue (I used the kind that is NOT for pre-pasted paper).
  4. Apply to wall, and firmly smooth with a tool like this one.  No matter how much you smooth, wrinkles and bubbles will reappear.  This was the point in the project where I panicked.  But the wrinkles will smooth out as the glue dries (at least, mine did).  Some wrinkles are a good thing--it adds to the texture.
  5. Repeat, and repeat, and repeat, and repeat about a bazillion times until your entire wall is covered.
  6. The finished product in our bathroom can be seen here.

Really, that's it.  It wasn't hard, just time-consuming and messy.  Some people recommend covering the finished product with a glaze mixture or polyurethane.  We experimented with several different techniques, and none of it worked for us.  So we left it as it is, and if it falls down in three weeks you will hear hysterical screaming from the general direction of Oklahoma. 

(Special thanks to my faithful friend Chilihead who gave up an entire evening to apply a little additional elbow grease, and who talked me out of giving up!)

If you have a WFMW tip to share, please leave your link below.  Remember to read these guidelines before adding your link!

WFMW Update

I just upgraded my Mr. Linky account, so now all the links from previous weeks should be easily accessible.  Let me know if you have any trouble seeing the old links.

Works For Me: Map Collection

Remember, there are some new rules in town...please read through these guidelines before leaving your link!

No time for an overly brilliant tip today--I'm up to eyeballs in wallpaper glue.  It seems like I'm always printing out maps off the internet to the kids' friends' houses, or new stores, etc. etc.  I'm directionally-challenged, so from one trip to the next I will often forget exactly where these places are. And if Hubs has to pick up a child at a sleepover and relies on ME for directions?...well, Heaven help us.  So, I've started saving these printed out maps in a little folder, and I keep it in my mini-van, with each map labeled as to what it's for.  It's like my own little collection of Frequently Visited Places.  Very handy. 

If you have a Works-For-Me Wednesday tip, leave your link below.  Remember to add a 3-4 word summary after your name--as in, Shannon (keeping maps) or Jules (enchilada recipe), etc. 

Works For Me Wednesday Guidelines


May 2:  It's WFMW: The Birthday Edition!  Have any ideas for making birthdays extra special for your friends or families?  Any brilliant ideas for kids' parties?  An inexpensive gift idea? Please share your best birthday ideas!

June 6:  How about WFMW: The Mom-I'm-Bored Edition?  Summer is coming, and that means lots of family togetherness.  Please share your clever ideas for keeping the kids entertained, especially when it's a bit too hot to play outside.

July 4: I thought about trying to figure out a patriotic theme for this one, but I'm drawing a blank.  Instead, let's celebrate good ol' American capitalism with WFMW: The Brand-Loyal Edition.  What specific brands of specific products inspire deep loyalty in you?  What brands are you willing to pay more for? 

August 1: It's WFMW: Great Parenting Advice Edition.  What parenting lessons have you learned the hard way?  Save us all some headaches and share!

* * * * * * * *

Wfmwheader_16Alrighty, folks.  This Works-For-Me Wednesday has gotten way bigger than I ever imagined it would've, and I'm so excited about that.  I can't believe how much I've learned from you!  The good ol' Southern girl in me would like to let everyone do this her own way and not ruffle any feathers...but the reality is, with the current size of WFMW, it's time to make things easier and inject some rules.  SOME OF THIS WILL BE NEW TO YOU, so please read carefully.

1.  So what exactly IS Works-For-Me Wednesday (WFMW), anyway?

WFMW is a "blog carnival" (that concept is explained here).  Basically, the idea is that on Wednesday you post a little tip you've learned--whether on parenting, or cleaning, or computers...basically anything that has "worked for you" in making your life easier.  You post a link back here to my WFMW post, and enter your link in the "Mr. Linky" form at the bottom of my post.  

2.  You do not have to ask me first before you participate in WFMW.  Just jump right in. 

3.  You are not required to use the WFMW banner, though you are more than welcome to do so.

If you do, please be sure you're using the the current one, at the top of this post.  If you don't know how to add an image to your post, you can follow the instructions here

4.  Please only leave a link if you have written a WFMW post.  Please mention WFMW in your post, and link back to my master list here. 

From here on out, I'll just delete "empty" links.

5.  Link to your WFMW post, not to the front page of your blog.

This makes browsing so much easier for everyone, especially when people browse around in the archives.  For an explanation on how to do this, go here.

6.  Please DO NOT host your own WFMW "Mr. Linky" at your site.

I'd appreciate it if you'd keep Rocks In My Dryer as the only homepage for Works-For-Me Wednesday. 

7.  Please be patient with your e-mail questions.

In particular, if you have a question that could be answered by using the "Help" section in your blogging software ("How do I upload images?" or "How do I link back to you from my page?"), please check there for answers first.

8.  When you enter your link on Mr. Linky, you will most likely notice that it says "delete link" next to your name.  If you click on that, it will let you delete what you just posted.  No one else can see it, just like you can't see the "delete link" next to my name on my computer.  Make sense?

9.  Enter a 3-4 word description of your post, in parentheses, after you put your name.  Be descriptive, be specific, and BE BRIEF.

For example, where the box below says "Your Name", you might put:

Melissa (Uses for Bleach)


Julie (Kids' Crafts)


Mary (Organizing Toys)

Make sense?  This will make it a jillion times easier to browse through the tips.  PLEASE KEEP YOUR PARENTHETICAL TITLE TO A MAXIMUM OF 4 WORDS.  Mr. Linky freaks out sometimes when the "Your Name" portion gets too long, and it can mess up the alignment of the whole deal, making it harder to read.

10.  I'll put my WFMW post up no later than 12:01 am (central time) each Wednesday.  Frequently, I'll have it up an hour or two earlier.

I know this is a lot of information!  Please know that I'm just trying to find a way to make it easier for people to browse through all your wonderful ideas.  Thank you SO much for participating in this--YOU are the reason it is such a success!

11.  I reserve the right to delete any links that are inappropriate.

Coming Tomorrow...

Remember that tomorrow is Works-For-Me Wednesday!  I'll be posting some updated guidelines for participation, so be extra sure you read through tomorrow's post before adding your link.  See you then!

Works for Me: Framing Postcards

Most people have a place that is important to them--maybe a hometown, or the place they attended college, or a favorite vacation spot, etc.  If you go to Ebay and do a search on "vintage postcards", plus the name of the location you have in mind, you might be surprised to see how large the selection is (and how cheap they are!).  The vintage postcards often have a beautiful look--they're perfect for framing!

For example, when my brother and his wife moved back to the midwest from Philadelphia this past spring, as a housewarming gift I bought some vintage Philly postcards and framed them...voila!  A very personal gift (and inexpensive too, but don't tell my brother!).  Here's the finished project:


We lived in downtown Chicago early in our marriage, and I've begun a collection of vintage postcards showing various Chicago landmarks.  When I have enough of them collected, I plan to frame them in matching frames and hang them in a large group.

Have a tip that works for you?  Please share it below.

COMING NEXT WEEK:  I'll introduce a simple new feature that will (hopefully) make it easier to browse through all these great ideas!

Works For Me: Dosage Calculator


It never fails that the children get sick when the doctor and pharmacy are closed, and the labels of the medicine are warped from being jumbled in a cough-syrup-leaking medicine container.  So I keep handy these on-line reference guides for how much medicine to give to your child:




Now, of course, check with your doctor first, yada, yada, yada, but I have to say this in case you overdose your child and say it's my fault and sue me for everything I own but if you do so help me I'm sending Toilet Boy to your house for a kiss.

Want to play along with Works-For-Me Wednesday?  Please leave your link below.  Please remember to link to your WFMW post, NOT to the front page of your blog.  WFMW guidelines can be found here.

Thursday Thirteen


(And if you're reading this wondering what in the heck a "meme" is, here is a definition for you.  It's quite the bloggy word; throw it around and impress your friends!)

  1. Yesterday my mom participated in WFMW for the first time (yay, Mom!), so if you missed her tip, you can see it here.  (And will you please leave her a comment and help me try and get her addicted to this blogging thing?)
  2. Katherine posted a thorough and realistic look at potty training.
  3. Amy at the Motherload suggested a smart method for creating kid snacks.   Tina had a clever idea on the same subject.
  4. Chilihead and Gabriela came up with some activity ideas that are truly inspired bits of parenting.
  5. KimC offered some fun ideas for kids' summer lunches. 
  6. Jane's paper idea is going to revolutionize my art cabinet.
  7. Traci thought of way to help us save all of these good ideas we run across, whether they're from a magazine, or from WFMW!
  8. Then there's this one, from Minnie, which made me laugh OUT LOUD.
  9. Lolly's idea will help you keep track of your ever-growing list of birthdays and anniversaries.
  10. Joy's idea for prayer time with children is precious.
  11. Amy has a great idea for teaching your kids your phone numbers.
  12. If anyone's kids are bickering as much as mine are this summer, try this idea idea from Barb.
  13. Stephanie shares a wonderful method of managing her (and my!) addiction to little girls' hair supplies.

If you're doing Thursday Thirteen today, feel free to enter your link below.

Works For Me: I Dare You To Read This Without Scratching Your Head


First things first...what REALLY works for me is a long and happy marriage like the one my parents have--happy 36th wedding anniversary, Mom and Dad

Back to regularly scheduled programming....

Susie pointed me toward this creepy, but informative, article.  Evidently the head lice of the world are uniting in revolt against over-the-counter cures. 

Now let's just come clean for a moment, shall we?  Have your kids ever had head lice?  Mine have.  I confess that, before they did, I thought it only happened to families who lived in total squalor.  I am by no means a great housekeeper--but head lice?  Nope, couldn't happen here.

UNTIL a couple of years ago, when my oldest son shared a community batting helmet at a t-ball game.  Yep, he came home with head lice.  And he passed it to both his brothers.  I was mortified.  I completely freaked out and called the nurse (who was, I'm sure, chuckling to herself--"Isn't this lady supposed to be an experienced mother?") 

So I'm writing this to tell you that if it hasn't happened to you, get ready, because it likely will.  It doesn't mean you're a slob, or that your home is about to be condemned by the health department.  You're not a bad mom, or a dirty one.  To help you avoid a frantic call to the doctor, here's what worked for our family:

  1. Try the over-the-counter stuff.  Couldn't hurt. 
  2. If you have boys, go ahead and buzz their hair off.  It's not exactly necessary, but it is helpful. 
  3. Wash every single linen in your house in HOT water.  This part takes forever, but when you're done, your house smells all nice and Downy fresh.
  4. You can buy some over-the-counter lice spray that I used to coat all the non-washable surfaces (like sofa cushions).
  5. This next step really works, but it's messy.  Coat your kid's head with vaseline.  Yes, vaseline.  It smothers the lice.  Then cover their head with a shower cap, and have them sleep that way.  Seriously, it works.  But it takes 2-3 washings to get all that vaseline out.  No problem, though--everyone can have a few days with the John-Travolta-in-Grease look.
  6. If all else fails (and I didn't try this, but I read it on-line), get your kids lice-free and then just leave town.  Lice can only live 3-4 days without human contact.  If no one is in your house to serve as "host", then they will all die. 

See?  This isn't that bad.  Don't panic.  If it happens to you, let it be one of those humbling motherhood experiences that reminds you that NO ONE has her act perfectly together.

Leave your Works-For-Me Wednesday link below!  Remember to link directly to your WFMW post, NOT to the front page of your blog.  Guidelines can be found here.

Works For Me: Fried Biscuits


**PLEASE NOTE**  I made a big goof this morning with my Mr. Linky.  If you entered your link before 7:45 am Central time, you'll need to re-enter it, below.  I'm SO sorry about this mix-up.!  Thanks, as always, for playing along.

I don't share many recipes at my blog, mainly because I don't particularly enjoy cooking.  So if you see one, be assured that it is quite easy, and yummy, and that it, in fact, works for me!

A Saturday morning favorite around the dryer house is fried biscuits.  We start with Pillsbury layered biscuits:


I separate them, and cut them in half:


Then I roll each half circle into a ball:


Next step is to drop them in a skillet with about a half-inch of pre-heated oil:


As they brown, continually (or is continuously?) flip them over in the oil, until each ball is nice and golden brown:


When they finish cooking, transfer each little ball to a waiting bowl of sugar (for variations, try powdered sugar or cinnamon and sugar).  Coat it well:


And, voila!  Fried biscuits, and happy kids:


I realize this little recipe is way too simple to require all these pictures (I don't mean to insult your intelligence!), but what can I say--I was feeling generous! 

Post your link to your WFMW post below!  Guidlines can be found here.  Remember to link not the front page of your blog, but to your actual WFMW post.  Thanks!

Works For Me: Sheet Holders


Today's tip is a shameless product endorsement (though unfortunately, I'm not making a red cent from it).  It drives me nuts when a fitted sheet won't stay on the mattress--especially when it happens in the middle of the night.  I've tried the "suspender" style of fitted sheet holder with no success.  But this works:  The Sheet Holders.  They're hard to find in stores; the only place I found them was on, and then once in a mattress store.  But they're worth the search, and the $10 I paid for them.

Share the link to your WFMW idea below!  For more info on WFMW, click here.

Works For Me: Teaching a Toddler to Eat

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Teaching a toddler to use a spoon can drive a mother to put her head through a wall.  It is messy, and it is (for a long time) an exercise in futility.  But with my daughter, I'm having some success using peanut butter.  I put a teaspoon-size dollop on her high chair, give her a baby spoon, and let her go at it.  Because it isn't runny, she is able to have success much more quickly, and it's (slightly) less messy than practicing on, say, apple sauce.  Mmmmm, and she smells so good afterwards I could just eat her up! 

Of course, peanut allergies are nothing to mess around with, so be sure you talk to your pediatrician before trying out this little exercise. 

If you have a WFMW idea you'd like to contribute, just post your link below.  Guidelines can be found here.  Remember to post a link directly to your WFMW post, not to the front page of your blog.

Works For Me: Babysitter Instructions


**Please note that I tweaked the WFMW banner this week.  You are more than welcome to use this banner on your site, but will you please use this updated version?  If you have trouble pulling it off my site and want me to e-mail you a jpeg version of it, just let me know.**

I keep a typed (in bold colors), laminated list on my desk.  The paper is entitled Babysitter Information, and on it is every phone number imaginable for any sitters who come to our house.  It includes our home number, both our cell phone numbers and Hubs' office number.  It contains our home address (at the very top, to give to a 9-1-1 operator, *shudder*), and the phone numbers of all our neighbors and nearby friends, as well as grandparents (none of whom live in our city).   That way, when I'm leaving in a hurry (which I always am whenever I hire a sitter, for some reason), I don't have to write it all out each time.  I feel confident knowing our sitter has access to so many numbers, should she need them (which, incidentally, she never has). 

If you'd like to share an idea for Works-For-Me Wednesday, enter your link below.  Please give the link directly to your WFMW post, not to the front page of your blog. 

Complete WFMW guidelines, if you need them, are here.

While you're out and about, don't miss the Carnival of Kid Comedy over at Life in a Shoe!

Works For Me: "Mom, I'm Bored"


Over the last few days, my kids and I have been working on what we call our "Mom, I'm Bored" List.  Now that summer is here, and our family rules require that no one is allowed to look at any screens (TV, computer, video games) between the hours of 9 am and 4 pm, I wanted to make sure the kids felt empowered to give me some peace and quiet entertain themselves. 

Basically, I had the kids list everything (non-screen-related) they could think of to do.  Now, when they're tempted to use the B-Word with me this summer (you know, the B-word..."bored"...what did you think I meant?) I can point them directly to the list.   And they have had so much fun coming up with ideas..  I told them to get as specific as possible, and they did!  They listed separately every board game we own, and items such as "play pirates", "play super-heroes" and "play cowboys" each got their own line-item on the list. 

Now, on to Mr. Linky...

Though it does my heart more good than you can imagine to get upwards of 75 comments on Wednesdays, I was starting to develop arm cramps from cutting and pasting all your great links.  So I'm going to try out Mr. Linky this week...instructions should be pretty self-explanatory when you look at it below.  (A giant thank-you to Carol for walking me through this--twice--over the phone).  Please, LINK DIRECTLY TO YOUR WFMW POST, NOT THE FRONT PAGE OF YOUR BLOG.  This way people will be able to find your idea more easily.  Let's give this a try...

Works For Me: Closet Curtains


I have a couple of rooms in my house that have awkwardly-placed closets.  In both rooms, opening the closet doors was tricky, causing us to bang into furniture or other doors.  So I took down the doors and made curtains for those closet openings--problem solved!  And it actually looks pretty cute.  Here are the examples:

In my daughter's bedroom (behind the curtain there is a gate up to keep her from destroying her closet!):


And in the kids' bathroom (the room was so small I couldn't even get a full-length shot of the curtain, but you get the idea):


Really, you don't have to be able to sew to do this--you could even do it by hand if you don't have a machine.  It's just a giant rectangle with a foldover at the top to slip in a spring-loaded cafe curtain rod.  Just make the width of it roughly 75% wider than the width of the doorway, and you're in business. 

Do you have an idea that works for you?  Let me know if you post one, and I'll link to you below.  Those of you without blogs are welcome to leave your own idea in my comment section!


List is updated every couple of hours, so keep checking back!  Also, if you noticed I've messed up (or left out) your link, please e- mail by clicking on my e-mail link (left).  Thanks!

Works For Me: Bunches of Bags


I LOVE bags.  I cannot have enough.  Tote bags, diaper bags, purses, duffel bags...really, it doesn't matter what kind, I just LOVE THEM.  Some time ago I decided to put my ridiculously large bag collection to good use and develop a little system. 

We keep a long row of hooks in our garage, with a label over each hook.  Of course, each child has his/her own hook, for backpack/lunchbox, etc., but I also have a hook and a bag for the following regular "outings":

  • soccer
  • library
  • church
  • gym
  • swimming
  • scouts

Each of these hooks has a corresponding bag that stays ON THAT HOOK, all the time.  If I have a note I need to send with the swim teacher (but lessons are still three days away), I just slip it in the swim bag.  Have library books I need to return next time I head that direction?  I take them out to their bag.  Then the bag goes with us on its particular errand.  Basically, it keeps the neverending flow of paperwork moving OUT of my kitchen into its corresponding bag, ready to be whisked out to its next outing.  Here's a picture of our little set up (and yes, the names have been smudged out to protect my kids' privacy, which stinks, because they have really great REAL names, if I do say so myself):


Alright, now that I go back and look at this picture, I realize this looks like a sloppy mess--but really, it "works for me".   (The ugly brown garage paneling--eh, not so much.)

If you'd like to play along with Works For Me Wednesday, leave me a comment that you're participating on your blog.  I'll link to you below.

**If you're reading this, and you don't have a blog of your own, feel free to leave your own clever idea in my comments section!**


Works For Me: Book Labels


You girls are making Works-For-Me Wednesday so much fun!  I've already picked up so many good tips from you.  I hope you'll consider playing along today; let me know, and I'll link to you below.

My idea today is a simple one, but it's fun.  With school almost out, we're gearing up for what will hopefully be a summer full of reading.  My boys (particularly the younger two) aren't naturally drawn to exploring books on their own.  I had a brainstorm recently, and I bought a big bunch of address labels at the office supply store.  I made each of the boys their own book labels (as in, "This book belongs to Adam X" etc.), using fun fonts and graphics.  They were so excited (what is it with kids and stickers?).  They couldn't wait to get their hands on all their books to label away.  In so doing, I saw some sparks in their little eyes.  Suddenly books that have been tucked away in bookshelves for months have made their way to their bedside tables, sporting their new labels.  Maybe the excitement will fade, but for now, their interest in books has gotten a big boost--I'm for anything that does that.

Some of the books couldn't be assigned to a particular boy.  For those I made special labels that said, "This book belongs to the X family."

So, any ideas you'd like to share today?


Works For Me: Grocery List

Thank you for your sweet comments yesterday about my son Joseph.  As I was sharing my post (and your birthday wishes) with him, he was disappointed to learn that I did NOT tell you that he knows how to suck the insides out of a grape without tearing the skin.  I told him I would remedy that grievous oversight right away.  So...Joseph is kind, smart, funny and loyal, but first and foremost, that boy is extremely talented with a grape.  I am beyond proud.



Thanks so much to those of you who participated in last week's first edition of Works-For-Me Wednesday!  I already have so many ideas from visiting your sites.   If you'd like to participate again today, remember to let me know and I'll link to you at the end of those post.

On to today's idea...

Because I do not enjoy grocery shopping, I will do anything to make it easier and faster.  A couple of years ago I went to my grocery store with a pen and paper and walked the "route" I always take whenever I'm there.  I wrote which aisles I come to, in order (that part is important).  Then I transferred my written list to a Word document, with blank lines below each aisle.   You can click here to see the finished product:

Download grocery.pdf 

Each week I keep one of these lists on my fridge.  As I run out of something, I write it down directly on the list.  That way when I'm ready to go to the store, I have a complete list already in order, and I can sail through the store at lightning speed--no more back-tracking!  (While you are welcome to use my list, chances are that your grocery store won't be in the same order as mine.  The real key to this shortcut is having your items written down in the order you come to them.  It will take you only 5-10 minutes to walk through your own grocery store and make one of these lists.)

I can't tell you how much time this has saved me--and money, too, because being more organized at the outset of my trip causes me to make fewer impulse purchases.

So, any ideas you'd like to share at your blog?  I'm all ears...


Introducing "Works-For-Me Wednesday"


Yes!  A column!  Following in the footsteps of brilliant blogging friends like Kathryn, Beth, Faith, and GiBee, I'm starting a new regular weekly feature called "Works-For-Me Wednesday".  Here's the scoop:

You know how it is--we all have come up with dozens of little shortcuts or ideas around our homes to make managing our lives easier.  Maybe you came up with such an idea yourself in a moment of desperation, or you learned it from your mom or another doesn't matter how it came about.  What matters it that your life runs the tiniest bit more smoothly because of your clever idea.

I'm not a brilliant homemaker or cook, but when it comes to finding shortcuts--THIS I can do (which probably doesn't speak much of my character, but that's another blog post....).  Each Wednesday I plan to publish one of my own little make-life-easier ideas.  They may not be spectacular (they may not even be original--I've learned so much from friends!)  But they "work for me"--hence the title! 

Now, here's where I hope you'll consider playing along.  I would LOVE to see some of my fellow Moms Of The Blog World join in and do your own "Works-For-Me Wednesday".  If you let me know you're participating, I'll link to you.  Think how much we could all learn from each other if we share our own little ideas!.  IT DOESN'T HAVE TO BE EARTH-SHATTERING.  Just simple, affordable and designed to make the tiniest difference in your day.

Moving right along....

For this week (and I'm sorry this is turning in such a marathon-length post) here's a little idea that has made packing easier when traveling with kids.  I buy those two-gallon Ziploc bags (they are MASSIVE) and label one for each day we are traveling.  Inside each bag is every kid's clothing for THAT DAY, all the way down to underwear and socks.  So, no more rummaging around in a crammed suitcase or having boy #1 use up all of boy #2's underwear.  I simply pull out that day's bag, dump it on the bed, and they can dress themselves.  An added bonus is that it keeps the clean clothes away from the dirty ones.  Here's a photo of the idea in action, from our recent Disney trip


Such a simple little thing, really, but it made the biggest difference in our trip!

Remember, if you have an idea to share, write your own "Works-For-Me Wednesday", and let me know--I'll link to you!