Investing in Family

I don't know what there is about holidays, but sometimes they can have the uncanny knack to bring us copious amounts of stress. Maybe it's the travel hassle of getting to Aunt Margaret's house, or maybe it's three days of prep work followed by a nine hour marathon in the kitchen preparing the annual feast. Whatever it is, everyone seems to have their own brand of stress that comes on what could be a relaxing holiday filled with family togetherness. If you find your stress level rising as you gear up for this year's Turkey Day, here are some ideas that just might help calm you down.

About eight years ago, when my husband and I moved from a tiny shoebox of an apartment to our current home, my two sisters-in-law and I got together and divided the three main holidays between us. I got, and still have, Easter. Which I'm thankful for, because a ham, to me, is less stressful than a turkey. Anyway, even though we have "our" holidays, we each still contribute to the holiday meal. What I'm often asked to bring is a dessert and/or a side dish.

For many reasons – jobs, education, economy, etc. – many of us find ourselves needing or wanting to move from our native soil into areas where we might not know a lot of people. Going this route alone is hard, but what are parents to do when this move involves children?

I have to tell you, even though my girls are only in kindergarten, I am coming to love the school uniform. So far, it has been time-saving and even decision-saving to have that kind of a boundary on what my girls can put on before heading to class. Though school uniforms vary greatly from school to school, families can still outfit their kids in those nifty polos and khakis without feeling like they're paying another full tuition. Here are some tips to get you started on saving moolah on school uniforms.

A Uniform Exchange

If you would've asked the pre-kid me where my offspring would attend school, I wouldn't have hesitated to say, "Well, the public school. Where else?" Fast forward to five years later. My twins, having successfully completed two years of preschool, were ready to go to kindergarten, even if the hubby and I were not. After discussion and visiting some local schools near the tail-end of our daughters' pre-k career, we decided to send our girls to a private school. If you knew our budget and income, you'd probably be snickering by now and wondering how we could manage that.

Who out there doesn't like the fall? Personally, it's my favorite time of year – and not just because it means the kiddos are in school! There's just something about cool mornings, warm afternoons and watching the season's slow shift that makes the world feel right. These are the days that beg for a trip with the family to the local pumpkin patch. Not only are these great places to make memories and pick up some fall produce, they are things the whole family can enjoy without breaking the bank.

Remember the saying "It takes a village to raise a child"? It makes sense; raising children is a challenge that can benefit from the expertise of different voices bringing varied experience to the table. In this day and age, there seems to be a prevalent "to each their own" mentality where man (and woman) is an island in the sea of humanity. How does one get that "village" effect if their village is, say, halfway across the country? Moms and dads need support when kids enter into the family equation.

Ah, yes, these are the days of endless diaper changes, bottle feedings and becoming all-too-familiar with the local pizza delivery dude. It doesn't matter if one parent stays home with the rugrats or both work, getting out of the house together at this time could even be more essential than any other period in a marriage. Your bond as husband and wife needs to be strong and united as you work to present a stable and happy front for your children. Keeping connected by date nights is one such way to help you achieve this.

Sweet summertime. The long days of school-free fun beg you to ditch the house in favor of heading outdoors. Yet even as we strive to keep cool and stay entertained, we also endeavor to maintain a budget. So, fellow MomVesting reader, what do you do with your family in the summer to fill the days with maximum fun without completely draining your wallet? Give us your local hang outs that are perfect for your family of two, four or more.

It could be the recipe for disaster: climbing temps and the end of school. Suddenly, you have hot and cranky kids. Home. All day. I think it's fair to say that for some of us, summer could use an adjustment period while moms and kids get into the groove of being around each other more. Before the combo of soaring mercury and sweaty kids has you seeing red, take a few minutes now to put your I'm-staying-cool-no-matter-what plan into place.

Establish a Schedule