I'm the editor of Smart, a magazine for women in southcentral Pennsylvania. I said "I do" to my wonderful husband in 2002. We have two adorable children who have taught me much about life and love. With the birth of my second child, I bid farewell to my dreams of having a clean house, folded laundry and family dinners on weeknights.

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Learning as I go

Smart Mama

As the hamburger browned in a pan on the stove, I rummaged through my cupboards, searching for the can of Manwich I knew was there.

Seven people were waiting to eat lunch, and I planned on serving Sloppy Joes.

I had the buns. I had the meat. And I was sure I had the all-important final ingredient. (As you might have guessed, I’m not exactly Rachael Ray in the kitchen.)

I could hear my mother’s voice in the back of my head: “Make sure you have all the ingredients before you start cooking. You don’t want to get halfway through a recipe and realize you don’t have an important ingredient.”

How right she was.

After triple checking each can in the house, it was clear I didn’t have Manwich. As I considered what else I could do with the hamburger, my friend, Jodi Micsky, stepped in.

“Do you have ketchup, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, some onion and a pepper?” she asked. She was one of the hungry people waiting to eat. Her daughters — Allyssa, 6, and Abigail, almost 2 — and her husband, Matt, also had grumbling bellies.

A quick check revealed that I had everything but the pepper. She said she could work with that.

I watched as she squeezed the ketchup into the hamburger, sprinkled the brown sugar on top, squirted in the Worcestershire sauce and mixed it all up. (She didn’t use a recipe; she just added ingredients to taste.) Before long, the concoction looked like Sloppy Joe.

I was impressed. It tasted better than Manwich. And when we fed it to our girls — including my oh-so-finicky 4-year-old Mara — they scarfed down the sandwiches.

A potential crisis was averted, and I learned something, too.

I’m always learning from other moms, and I love sharing their tricks and tips.

A mom I met through day care (thanks Jayme!) recently told me about www.kidsbowlfree.com, a site where, you guessed it, parents can sign up kids for a free summer of bowling at participating centers (several places in southcentral Pennsylvania are on the list).

Several people told me to check out the Hands-On House in Lancaster, and I wasn’t disappointed when Jodi and I took our girls to the children’s museum. It costs $7 per person, which is far cheaper than paying $30-plus to get into an amusement park. Plus, it was educational.

I’ve also stumbled onto these tricks during my nearly five years as a mom. Savvy mothers might already know about these, but in case you don’t:

* If your child is shorter than 40 inches tall, he or she can get a free baby cone at Bruster’s.

* Regal 13 at the West Manchester Mall holds a Free Family Film Festival each summer. It starts this year with “Adventures of Pippi Longstocking” and “Open Season” on June 15 and 16. Check www.flipsidepa.com for more movie listings.

* If you order a kids’ meal for lunch, you’ll eat less, and you’ll get a toy to stow away and use as a “surprise” for your kids later.

* Wendy’s will give you a free cup of hot water that you can use to warm up a bottle while on the road.

I continue to learn as my kids grow. I read tons of parenting websites, magazines and books. I ask other mothers lots questions. I try not to repeat my mistakes.

It’s all part of my ongoing education in motherhood.

Jodi and kids

Don't you just love how babies can sleep through anything? Check out this crew, clockwise from the top: Mara Eberle, 4; Jodi Micsky, Charlie Eberle, 3 months, and Jodi's daughters, Abigail, almost 2, and Allyssa, 6.

Kara Eberle is editor of Smart. Sign up for a free subscription to the magazine at www.smartmamapa.com/subscribe.

Do you have a smart tip?
What’s the product you can’t live without? What’s your favorite kid-friendly restaurant? What’s the easiest recipe you know? Where do you take your family for a cheap day out? How do you get your picky toddler to eat?

Share your tricks with me at keberle@ydr.com, and I’ll share them with the readers of Smart.

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Comments (3)

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  3. Kara 06/07/2010 at 5:05 pm

    A reader shares more tips for homemade Sloppy Joe. http://www.topix.net/forum/source/york-daily-re