Real Families, Real Fun

Spouse Smarts

So, you think you know your spouse. Could you correctly answer 20 questions about his or her favorite things? Most people are surprised that after many years of marriage their answers are off target.

Test your knowledge about your spouse's favorite things by spending an evening together creating flash cards. Create two sets of index-sized cards on which to write questions and answers. One set should have your answers and on the other set, write what you think will be your spouse's answer. The cards are a gold mine of gift ideas for future thoughtful surprises.

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Blending Your Parenting Styles

Is your wife a strict disciplinarian, while you prefer to let things slide? Is your husband a screamer, and you're an "inside voice" kind of mom? When you have different parenting styles, it can often feel like you're at odds with your spouse. "My husband doesn't seem to see half of what our son does," laments Christine Richards, a mom in suburban New York. "I don't want him to grow up badly behaved, so I end up being the heavy."

Have a good cop/bad cop situation brewing in your home? Here are strategies from Harvey Karp, M.D., author of The Happiest Toddler on the Block (Bantam), for navigating this common parenting conundrum.

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De-Stress Your Mornings

For most moms, mornings are a mad dash to get everyone up, dressed and out the door -- if your kid's shoes match, all the better. However the a.m. hours don't always have to be so hectic (we promise). Try just one of these tips tomorrow and you'll start to feel (almost) serene.

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How to Prepare for a Natural Disaster

There's no need to just hope for the best when you can plan for the worst. Don't wait until disaster strikes to figure out how to respond. Here's how to prep today so your family will be ready for tomorrow.

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Indulge in an Overnight Delight

So you really need a getaway but you can't afford a vacation? Terrible week at work, but the kids have a birthday party on Sunday, and you can't take the whole weekend off? Consider a local escape -- one night at a nice hotel in town can be a great way to rejuvenate without excessive time or expense.

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Creative Childcare on a Budget

Parents need timeout from parental duties to keep the spark between husband and wife ablaze. Whether it's a table for two, a concert, movie, or even a sleep over (empty nest or at an inn), quality time as a couple is important to a marriage and family.

If you don't think you can afford these dates without worrying about your kids' happiness and safety, and childcare costs, you're not alone. For this reason, consider a child-swapping network with other couples. It's a convenient, inexpensive, reliable and rewarding alternative to a babysitter.

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Romance on a Shoestring Budget

Don't despair if you're on a budget--"away" can be a state of mind. Remember when you first dated? It seemed like all kinds of places could be romantic just because you were together. Looking back now, you might agree that the setting or the cost didn't reflect the world's ideal of a romantic experience, but the memories were made and the romance was obvious.

When my husband and I were dating in college, one June night, we spent a wonderfully fun romantic evening at the semi-lit playground of a local elementary school. I remember how hard we laughed as we pushed each other on the swings and challenged each other to small-scale athletic feats. Believe it or not, we weren't the only adults there! When a couple from Omaha decided to try it, they left the oldest of their three children in charge and headed to a nearby playground that they enjoy as a family. They loved the peaceful rhythm of conversation that usually can't be theirs when the children are along.

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Ready...Set...Hunt!

It's a beautiful day and you want to get outside...Try planning a scavenger hunt. With a little bit of advance planning you can design an exquisite afternoon of family challenge and fun.

Start by dividing your gang into two teams. Each team receives a clue collection bag containing a Polaroid instant camera, film, hunt instructions, a challenge sheet, and various supplies.

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Throw a Grown-Up Birthday Bash

Considering how much fuss parents make over their kids birthdays (theme parties, special dinners, cupcakes at school, etc.), and how little fuss they make over their own ("oh, I don't want anything special this year, honey"), you'd think birthdays were something you outgrow. While turning 33 may not seem quite as momentous as turning 3, or 13, you never outgrow an excuse to celebrate.

Your birthday is the perfect opportunity for you and your spouse to plan a date, start a tradition and take a break from the grind to remember that you can still have fun. Here are some tips from parents on how to make the most of the grown-up birthdays in your life.

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Try a Soothing Video at Bedtime

Time for bed!" For kids and parents everywhere, these words signal the beginning of a nighttime routine -- preparing little ones for dreamland. From taking a bath to reading or telling stories, every family has its own way of making bedtime special. As our reviewing families discovered, the right video can make some TV before bed a good thing -- especially if you pick a bedtime-themed video before tuck-in. Here are some calming videos you just might want to add to your list of bedtime (or naptime/quiet time) rituals.

These three titles really fit the bill.

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Fine Art of Wining

For some people, finding a good wine is a lifetime's work. But if you're among the number of people who'd just like to find a wine they enjoy, maybe even two wines--a red and a white, have no fear. You can get to a point where you can handle some wine basics without too much trouble. And you can have fun getting there by setting up a wine-tasting evening. An Ohio couple who tried this said they'd enjoy such an evening again "whether it's just the two of us or several couples--as long as we keep it casual."

And right here I'm going to state emphatically that pregnant moms-to-be will have to wait until that baby is born--no ifs, ands, or buts.

Decide what it is you want to learn: To train your palate to distinguish between dry and sweet wine? To be able to tell expensive wines from mid-range ones? To be able to tell domestic wines from foreign ones? You might be surprised to discover that even so-called aficionados, when blindfolded, can't always distinguish a red from a white. So the first rule is not to be stuffy. We've all heard the rule of thumb, "Red wine goes with red meat and white wine with white meat," but adherence to this dictum does not a wine connoisseur make.

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Kid's Pumpkin Projects

DD got this from her great-aunt last year. It's for kids from 4 to 8 years old. It's got pumpkin lore, how to grow a weird shaped pumpkin, and other fun stuff. It's a great book for kids who get into planting seeds and watching them grow. It goes through the whole lifecycle of the plant and fruit. Cool stuff in there, like, did you know you can make soap from pumpkin seeds?

A Fantsay Family Vacation Would Be To

North America
8% (1 vote)
South America
8% (1 vote)
Europe
58% (7 votes)
Africa
8% (1 vote)
Asia
0% (0 votes)
Australia
17% (2 votes)
Antarctica
0% (0 votes)
Total votes: 12

Sorting It Out

New babies grow all too fast. In the first year of life they graduate from cradle to crib, bouncy seat to baby gym, and infant carrier to car seat. They whiz through several sizes of infant clothes and diapers, and cast aside bottles for sippy cups.

And while your baby is moving up the growth charts, you, the new mom, are moving down them. Maternity clothes will be replaced by "in-between" clothes, which will in turn be traded in for a wardrobe closer to your pre-pregnancy size.

Amidst all these physical changes, you are faced with quite an organizational challenge: What to do with all of the "outgrown" stuff?

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