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  • Morning Coffee: Free phone call from Santa for Ralphs & Kroger card holders


    You can sign in at Ralphs or Kroger to set up a free phone call from Santa, Sammy the Snowman, or NASCAR driver Tony Stewart.

    Mommy Snacks has the details on changes to the Pampers Gifts to Grow program. Since Tyler’s been out of diapers for a while now, and I prefer Huggies training pants, I no longer accumulate many points. But occasionally, there are free codes available and since points don’t expire (so long as the program continues), I plan on keeping my account active.

    I don’t know what it’s like in other areas of the country, but our local AYSO region is already registering players for next summer so you may want to check if you plan on registering your child for the next season.

    Money Saving Mom reports that you can get a free $5 Target gift card when you write 10 reviews for LilaGuide.com.

    Dave Ramsey is holding a daily giveaway through Christmas Eve. (Via Fabulessly Frugal.)

    You can make a free personalized Santa video using your child’s photo at Disney Family. (Via A Thrifty Mom.)

    Become a Facebook fan of Safeway, and then go back tomorrow to get a free box of clementines. You’ll need to register your Club Card number and then load the coupon to your card. (Note that a minimum purchase of $25 is needed to get this offer.)

    Coupons Inc.
    Banner via Logical Media – Make Money!

    Swimming lessons for toddlers


    Out here in Southern California, almost everyone has a pool or easy access to one. And with that access and the arrival of children comes the inevitable question: What is the ideal age for starting swim lessons?

    I had intended for Alex to take lessons early on, but the articles stating that the lessons don’t really stick until after age 4 sounded right. Alex was always reluctant to participate in directed activities at birthday parties or school, so that didn’t seem likely to change in swim class.

    Besides, there was an ongoing debate: Do swim lessons for toddlers really help keep them safe? Or does it endanger them by making them unafraid of the water?

    This LA Times story reports that lessons for children ages one to four helps keep them safe. But the study doesn’t seem very comprehensive, and the conclusion that “children who drowned were less skilled swimmers” is pretty much useless.

    As always, this seems to be one of those, “consult your doctor and do what you think is best” situations. For us, I’m looking into getting Alex some lessons, and I’m thinking that I might as well get Tyler started too – they’re so close in age that it’s hard to keep Tyler from doing something that Alex is doing.

    How do you teach a child to ride a bike?


    Alex wants to learn how to ride a bicycle. It makes sense, since he’s had a blast motoring around on his tricycle. Marc never learned how to ride a bike, but I rode one for much of my childhood. We both agree that if Alex wants to ride a bike, he should be able to.

    We bought a 12-inch bicycle with training wheels.

    And then Marc tells me that since I’m the only one who knows how to ride a bike, it’s my job to teach Alex.

    Say what?!

    The actual teaching part isn’t so daunting. The boy’s got training wheels, after all. And he’s reasonably coordinated, with a decent sense of balance.

    But how do I keep up with him???

    It’s not as if I am going to get a bike of my own. I haven’t ridden one in over 20 years and even though you’re not supposed to forget how to ride a bike . . . I’m pretty sure I’ve forgotten. Thoroughly.

    Any suggestions?

    Enrolling in organized sports


    Around this time last year, I saw a notice at the park about soccer enrollment, and thought to myself that it was too bad Alex was too young to play, but that at least he’d be able to play next year. So earlier this week, I looked up our region on the AYSO web site, only to discover that “early registration” had ended on December 6, and that there would be only one day for “late registration.” Keep in mind that the season apparently starts in August!

    I’m sure it comes as no surprise that I like being the organized mom who’s on top of things, and I’m usually months early when it comes to preparing for things like this. So I was shocked that I’d missed the deadline by over a month! I even checked the region that’s to our west, a little farther away, and it had the exact same “early registration” deadline.

    We’ll definitely make the “late registration” deadline, which is later this month. And I’m looking forward to becoming a “soccer mom” for the first time. (Ha! I hear “soccer” at this age is a swarm of kids surrounding the ball and moving up and down the field as a single mob.)

    I have a question, though: Is this typical? Or is this one of those weird Los Angeles things?

    Works for Me: Playmobil toys


    This week, Works for Me Wednesday is all about The Toys Worth Buying.

    My boys are very typical when it comes to toys: they love trucks. Especially garbage trucks and forklifts. You wouldn’t believe the number of garbage trucks and forklifts that occupy my house right now (not to mention the number of other types of vehicles, but I’m going to focus on garbage trucks and forklifts).

    We’ve found that not all trucks are made equal. The forks on this Bruder forklift broke rather quickly. As did the forks on these Tonka front-loading garbage trucks.

    But this Playmobil forklift (pictured to the left) has withstood the boys’ rough play without a problem. The other Playmobil toys we’ve received have also held up well. In fact, the only one I don’t like is this pallet mover, simply because it and the crate both disassemble too easily for little hands that can’t put them back together without help. And I know I’m not the only parent familiar with the refrain, “Fix this, please!”

    What are your favorite toys for your kids?

    CFO Sponsor: Kindermusik


    You may have noticed in the last couple of weeks that there’s an ad for Kindermusik over in the left sidebar. Kindermusik bought the ad through BlogAds without any discussion with me first, so I don’t have any obligation to them other than to run the ad, but this is a great opportunity for me to promote them because I actually took a class with Alex a few years ago when he was a baby and liked it quite a bit.

    There’s a ton of research out there touting the benefits of music for young children. My favorite tidbit is that the music of Mozart – my favorite composer – is very mathematical, and there’s a strong correlation between music and math.

    If, like me, you believe music is good for a child’s development, then you might want to take a Kindermusik class. It’s been a while for me, but as I recall, the instructor was quite good about explaining the benefits of the various things we were doing. Keep in mind that this was a class for babies, so we were all holding our kids and moving their limbs for them, and fully participating. I’m sure the classes for older kids don’t require that degree of parent involvement.

    I would have liked to continue taking classes with Alex, or to take them with Tyler, but the location of the classes was about as bad as it could be – in a strip mall with zero parking. The stress of going simply wasn’t worth it. But that’s the sort of thing that’s probably specific just to the classes we were attending, and most, if not all, of you won’t have that problem.

    Like most children’s programs, Kindermusik offers a free trial class. You can click on the ad over to the left or on this link to learn more. (I seem to recall the cost being comparable to a Gymboree session, but as I said, it’s been a while so don’t hold me to it.)