Important news for cash-strapped parents

I received a news release today I wanted to share. The North Dakota Department of Human Services announced an expansion of its child care assistance program.

Two major changes to note: 1) Qualifying income levels have been increased. 2) Family co-payments have been reduced.

“A family of three now can have a gross income up to $4,915 per month to qualify for the program. Families will also see a reduction in their monthly co-payment, which is the amount they are required to pay towards the cost of care.  A co-payment is determined on a sliding scale based on income and family size,” the news release says.

A monthly gross income of $4,915 for a family of three translates to nearly $59,000 a year. It’s worth noting that, according to this census data, 35 percent of North Dakota families earn less than $50,000 per year.

The maximum income limits for the child care assistance program increase with family size (see the eligibility chart here).

For low- or moderate-income parents having trouble making ends meet, this could mean the difference between swimming or sinking financially.

According to the news release, the program currently serves about 2,420 children per month, with an average family monthly payment of $407. Those with the lowest incomes receive the most help. It’s funded by a federal block grant and state funds.

North Dakota families can apply online by clicking here or contacting a county social service office. Be prepared to show ID, children’s birth certificates, pay stubs and a work or class schedule.

For more information, call (701) 328-2332 or (800) 755-2716, e-mail or visit


College Save Zoo Day today

Today is one of Money-Savin’ Mama’s favorite days of the summer: College Save Zoo Day!

That means free admission to the Red River Zoo in Fargo and the chance to win prizes like an iPad, iPod, Kindle and $529 college scholarships.

The event runs from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. today, with animal shows at 11:30 a.m. and 1:30, 3:30 and 5:30 p.m. Prize drawings begin at 4 p.m.

College Save is the administrator of North Dakota’s 529 plan, which is a great way for parents to save for college. You can open a plan with as little as $25, and make subsequent contributions as small as $25. There are tax advantages and matching grants and other incentive dollars.

We opened 529 accounts for both Eve and Owen shortly after they were born, and have been really pleased with the plan (and their investment growth). Zoo Day is a great way to celebrate that, and spread the word.

Make the most of your charitable giving

Today, Money Savin’ Mama is encouraging you to save money by giving money.

That’s because it’s Giving Hearts Day, a wonderful opportunity for everyone, especially the frugally minded, to donate to their favorite charities.

Sponsored by Dakota Medical Foundation, Giving Hearts Day is a 24-hour online fundraising event hosted by Impact Foundation. Contributions of $10 or more made via the Impact GiveBack website are matched by DMF (up to $4,000). This is the 5th annual event, and 140 nonprofits have been invited to participate. Last year, more than 7,000 online donations totaling more than $1.16 million were made on Giving Hearts Day. DMF and other community donors provided $390,000 in match and incentive funding for a total of $1,555,000 going to nonprofits.

Charitable giving should be part of any balanced budget. By timing your contributions to Giving Hearts Day, it’s like an automatic 100 percent return on your investment.

Considering what good that money can do in our community, it’s one of the best investments you can make.

To donate, go to

Changes in The Forum, changes for Forum Mom

Today’s issue of The Forum revealed some exciting changes for Fargo-Moorhead’s daily newspaper. Be sure to check out the new SheSays section — six full-color pages created by women, for women, seven days a week — as well as the five-day-a-week Variety section.

The first SheSays front cover

I’m excited to be part of the SheSays staff as a part-time reporter and columnist. My Parenting Perspectives column will continue to appear there about once a month, as well as a new column.

I’m now also the “Money-Savin’ Mama.”

This column, appearing the first Friday of each month, will share my family’s efforts to save money, shop smart, pay off our house early and build a retirement nest egg as we raise two kids and live on less than two incomes.

This new role means exciting changes to this blog, as well. I’ll re-post the column on this blog, just as I do with my Parenting Perspective pieces. And along with regular blog entries about my motherhood, I’ll share more Money-Savin’ Mama stories and ideas here.

Look for the first column soon, followed by a blog sharing my kids’ thrifty Halloween costumes.

Returning to the ballpark and summer fun

A couple years ago, I wrote a column about attending a baseball game with our then 14-month-old daughter. I feared we’d never be able to enjoy America’s favorite pastime again.

It’s a fear that hasn’t come to pass, thankfully, as we attended several baseball games last summer in Fargo and Minneapolis and even one this spring in Baltimore, Md. But I’ve realized the reason we enjoy the games has changed tremendously (which is good, considering the Twins haven’t given us much to cheer about this year).

Last night, my family of three returned to Newman Outdoor Field for the Redhawks home opener, with our now 3-year-old. The Redhawks put on a fine performance, but for us, last night wasn’t about the play on the field. It was about spending time together as a family. That’s why we got to the ballpark an hour before first pitch, to enjoy the free kid-friendly activities. Including the playground and sandbox and …

Face painting ...

and …

Caricatures ...

and, of course,


 (There was also an inflatable game, but this particular “bouncy thing” was a bit too big for Eve.)

As we soaked in the evening sun, I thought about not just the baseball games we’ll attend this summer (now remembering to always buy AISLE seats for potty trips and concession runs), but the other family fun the summer months bring. I’ve already added these FREE local events to our family calendar:

Share a Story, 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. June 4, Rheault Farm
Safety Safari, 3 to 7 p.m. June 9, Red River Zoo (Also, there’s free admission to the zoo June 3!)
Midwest Kid Fest, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. June 17, Island Park (Teddy Bear Parade at 10:30)
Community Block Parties, 5:30 to 8 p.m. Wednesdays May 18 through June 29, various Fargo city parks/locations
Red River Valley Fair, July 8-16, West Fargo (Free gate admission 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays. Great free exhibits for the little kids, like the petting zoo)

Welcome, summer. We’ve been waiting for you.

What events are your family looking forward to this year?

‘Bright Beginnings’ class offered to parents

Parents of young children wanting more information about their child’s growth development may be interested in this class. “Bright Beginnings” is a five-session class that explores early brain development and attachment, social and emotional development, physical development and the importance of reading and play. It is sponsored by the North Dakota State University Extension Service and the Region V Parenting Resource Center, both great resources for parents.

The class will be held 6 to 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays at Head Start, 3233 University Drive S., Fargo.  It is focused on parenting children ages 0 to 8. Participants should plan to attend all sessions: March 29, April 5, 12, 19 and 26. There is a $15 fee, which includes materials. Childcare is provided, but should be requested when registering.

For more information, call (701) 241-5700 or e-mail To see a list of more parent education classes, read the Spring Parenting News newsletter.

More about money and kids

If any other parents out there are thinking about money and your kids, like I’ve been, an upcoming seminar may be helpful.  Nancy Kvamme, who blogs at In the Black, will be holding a workshop all about Kids and Money. Read on …

Nancy Kvamme of In the Black Money Coaching will host a Kids and Money workshop from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Feb. 19 at the Wingate Inn, 4429 19th Ave. S., Fargo. Children will learn about financial issues such as budgeting, banking, credit and debit cards and taxes through a series of activity stations. Families may attend as their schedule allows. The cost is $10 per child and includes a workbook. The workshop is geared for ages 10 and up, though younger children can participate with parental help. For more information, call Kvamme at (701) 293-8808 or e-mail

Free Parenting Workshop April 29

I wanted to make sure to let parents know about an event that’s coming up in our community.

Howard Glasser, creator of the Nurtured Heart Approach, will be presenting a free workshop for parents called “All Children Flourishing.” The workshop will be from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. April 29 (that’s a Thursday) at the Ramada Plaza Suites, 1635 42nd St. S., Fargo.  It is free, but registration is required. Call (701) 241-5700 or e-mail

I’ve been hearing rave reviews about Glasser’s work from early childhood education specialists. One teacher summed it up in language all parents understand: This workshop is worth getting a sitter.

Glasser is author of “Transforming the Difficult Child.” He’s leading a workshop on this topic for professionals and community leaders April 30, as well as Child Care Resource and Referral’s spring conference May 1.

Here’s a snippet from the brochure promoting Glasser’s parent workshop:

A child’s intensity is a gift that needs to be nurtured. How do we accomplish this and help our children to fully flourish and thrive – even be GREAT – in an everchallenging world?
Traditional approaches to dealing with a child’s intensity can easily make situations worse and damage our very precious relationships with the children in our lives.
The Nurtured Heart Approach has been proven to create GREATNESS in even the most intense children – very quickly and in inspiring and lasting ways. Children learn to believe in themselves and have confidence in successes that flow from investing intensity, intelligence and life force into positive action.
Attend and you will leave with a powerful set of skills you can use immediately to help children live life in positive ways – and flourish!

Book suggestions

About a year ago, we formed the InForum Moms Book Club group at As the year came to a close, I thought I’d recap the nine recommended books (we took it easy this summer), just in case someone is searching for a winter read.

“Revolutionary Road” by Richard Yates
“The Shack” by William Paul Young
“Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West” by Gregory Maguire
“Change of Heart” by Jodi Picoult
“The Shipping News” by Annie Proulx
“Under the Tuscan Sun” by Frances Mayes
“Rise and Shine” by Anna Quindlen
“The Friday Night Knitting Club” by Kate Jacobs
“The Blood of Flowers,” by Anita Amirrezvani

If you’ve read any of these, I’d love to hear what you thought. AND, if you have any suggestions for 2010 book club picks, please share!