summer

How to Make the Most of Your Summer Without Breaking the Bank

Every time I think of summer, I think of the summer of 2013. For me, it was the best summer ever!

It truly was.

I felt as though we took each and every day of our summer and squeezed as much fun and adventure out of it as we possibly could.

But, I could not have pulled it off alone.

As someone who loves being (and staying) at home, I needed help finding ways to get out with the kids to enjoy this season of lazy days, rainy afternoons, and looser schedules.

I discovered that our community was filled with opportunities for us to make memories together and individually by keeping my ears (and eyes thru Facebook) open for announcements. Here are some of the things we found here in our county that have worked really well for us over the last few summers.

summer

Library classes- Our library system does a series of classes throughout the entire summer. They are educational, entertaining, and the kids really had fun. We have brought home meal worms, planted seeds, learned about our local wildlife and participated in fun science experiments through some of the activities the library provided.

Our library also has a Summer Reading Program that encourages children to spend at least 24 hours worth of time throughout the entire summer reading. At the end, our children can earn a ticket to see the Tampa Bay Rays play. Our sports loving family really enjoyed this in years past and will continue to participate for years to come.

Check your local library system’s event calendar to find out the activities they have lined up for the summer.

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Arts and Crafts- We discovered that Michael’s Crafts Store has a program called Passport to Imagination which runs all summer long, three days a week. The cost of the 2 hour class is $4 per  child per day. It’s a great way for kids to explore their artistic side… without giving Mom a mess to clean up. That’s a win/win in my book!

Movies- Check into your local movie theater’s schedule to see what they are offering for children during the summer. We have a couple of theaters in our area that offer $1-$1.50 movies once or twice a week. We have taken advantage of these. It is a great way to get out of the house but still be in the air conditioning.

Season Passes- Do you have season passes to a local theme park? Summer is a great time to use them and get the most out of that pass. On evenings when you find yourself wondering what you could do, pull out that pass and enjoy your theme park for a couple of hours.

July 11th- Don’t forget that on 7/11 each year, 7 Eleven offers free Slurpees!

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Fruit Picking- Here in Florida we kick off our summer break with blueberry picking. It is always a great way to get us outside, and we bring home pounds of blueberries for a fraction of the cost of buying them in the stores. What fruit comes into season in the summer in your area? Look into where there may be a U-pick farm near you and have some fun!

VBS- Vacation Bible School is a free week long program that churches offer to their communities. Many times, the churches in an area or community stagger their VBS weeks so parents can utilize as many of these programs as possible.

Beaches and/or pools- Are you located near a beach? Are you a part of a community that gives you access to a pool? Do you have friends who invite you over to use their pool? Does your area have a sprayground? These are all great ways to get out into the summer sunshine, keep cool, and get that summer glow. Just be sure to keep the sunblock generously applied, hats on small heads, and lots of liquids on hand.

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Sporting Events- Baseball season is under way and football season is gearing up. Summer ballgames are almost an all-American must! Some ball fields will allow you to bring in your own food which helps to keep costs down to a minimum.

Football season is also gearing up. Our local team (the Tampa Bay Buccaneers) has a Fan Appreciation Day and open the gates (free of charge) for the fans to watch a practice. Check your local team to see if there are any free fan events happening in the summer.

Cow Appreciation Day- One day our children look forward to each summer is Chick-Fil-A’s Cow Appreciation Day. The idea is to dress like a cow (as much or as little as you want). For minimal participation you get a free chicken sandwich. For maximum participation you get a free meal! Each year, we haven’t paid a dime for our dinner.

American Girl Movie Premier- I don’t know how it is in your house, but in our house the summer television premiere of the American Girl Doll of the Year movie is a big event. It is a free night, we don’t have to leave the house, Addie gets to pick out her own fashionable outfit, and I give her a special hair style using my hair supplies. It’s a tradition.

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Make the Most of the Holidays- Memorial Day, the 4th of July, and Labor Day are all considered summer holidays. Why not make the most of these with crafts, special snacks, and activities? My 4th of July Pinterest board was a huge help to me last year in coming up with a week’s worth of stay-at-home activities and fun.

Kids Bowl Free- Although the Kids Bowl Free program has been around for a while, we plan on taking advantage of it for the first time this year. Through this program, children receive two free games per day throughout the summer (cost of shoes is not included). There are also discounted rates for parents to play throughout the summer, too. It’s a great way to get out as a family for some fun. (Check your local bowling alley for restrictions)

I hope I have given you some ideas on how to make this summer your best one yet. I think the most important lesson I learned during the summer of 2013 was to make a big deal of the little moments.

Those are the moments that our children will always remember.

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purge

Purging the Clutter

When we were first married, I didn’t know what my home style was. I relied on others to tell me what I “needed” to have. After a while, I found that I had enough in our home that I didn’t use, didn’t like, and was taking away from the sense of peace and calm I craved.

The summer we celebrated our one year anniversary, I decided to make a change. I purged each and every room in our home and had a series of garage sales to eliminate the excess. The sense of relief I experienced led to a change in how I approached our stuff, and I began a constant cycle of purging.

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Why Purging Is Important?

Let’s look at purging from a realistic viewpoint as opposed to a sentimental viewpoint.

  1. Our homes are only so big- When you consider the size of your home, the people living within the walls, your four-legged family members, basic furniture, and necessities, you have already given up a chunk of space within your home. Add to that the years of mementos you have collected from your past, each child, and other family members, and pretty soon, there isn’t any room left for new memories, hobbies, or mementos.
  2. Interests change- I used to be an avid scrapbooker. My kids used to like Elmo. Brian used to scuba dive. “Used to” being the operative words. Since these are all things we have left behind, why would we hold onto the “stuff” that went along with them? By removing these items from our space, we have created more space for our current interests.
  3. Our children outgrow their “stuff”- Have you noticed how quickly children grow? With each new size they grow into, there is a size they grow out of. Keeping all of their clothes because of some sentimental value it may hold will fill your space with unusable items.

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What About the Sentimental Stuff?

Granted, we all have a few items that we hold dear. My mother’s last Christmas, she returned some of the gifts we had given her (she must have sensed she would not be around much longer) and used the money to buy the shoes that my daughter would wear at her baby dedication. Those shoes have been put aside for safe keeping, but the outfits my little one wore as an infant (even the ones my mother gave us for her) have been given away or sold at garage sales and consignment shops.

  1. Be ruthless about what stays and what goes- If your items are serving a useful purpose or have an actual monetary value, consider keeping them long term. If it is a piece of furniture that a family member handmade for you, definitely keep it and be sure to make good use of it. But seriously consider the necessity of holding onto every craft your child made in class.
  2. Take photos- For my baby shower, my mother made a diaper cake using size 4 diapers. It was beautiful, and after she passed away I held onto it as it was the day of the shower. Eventually, however, my daughter reached size 4 diapers, and I had a decision to make- was I going to go out and buy a package of diapers or use the ones my mother had put into the diaper cake? I pulled out my camera, and snapped a few pictures of the cake, and promptly used the diapers. If certain items are sentimental but you do not feel compelled to keep the items, snap a photo and make a choice that works for you and your home.

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How Should I Purge?

Each and everyone of us has a different situation we are working with. You may be a working woman or you could be a stay-at-home mom. You might be a work-from-home gal with some flexibility in your schedule or you may have a tight schedule because in addition to being Mom you are also a taxi service and your car is your second home.

Whatever the case, here are three ways to purge the clutter from your home and hopefully bring some calm to your space and life.

  1. The Cycle Purge- With the Cycle Purge, start at one end of the house and begin the organizing/purging process one room at a time. By the time you make it all the way around the house, it has been about 4-5 months and it is time to begin the process all over again. This method keeps things from having a chance to build up around you. It also makes the next cycle of organizing and cleaning out easier because fewer things have had a chance to accumulate.
  2. The Seasonal Purge- There are certain times of the year when purging specific areas is easier than others. At Christmas time, I use what I am going to use, and the rest of it goes into a tub for a future garage sale. While the items for a particular season are out and available, go through them and decide what has served it’s purpose and is ready for retirement and what is still useful and has some years left in it. Purging our clothes with each season (what doesn’t fit anymore, what has holes, what didn’t we wear) is also a good idea.
  3. The Twice a Year Purge- When I was teaching, I would go through our house twice a year. The first purge happened during Christmas break, and the second purge happened during the summer (my two big breaks). I would go through my closets, drawers, cabinets, and garage, toss what was unusable, give away or sell items that were in good condition but would not be used again, and keep only what I needed. What are the two times a year that make sense in your world?

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When It’s All Said and Done, Then What?

Once you have purged the unnecessary, don’t keep it around. Use one or more of these ways to eliminate the excess.

  1. Donate- Goodwill, the Salvation Army, and your local church can use some of what you have.
  2. Garage Sale- If you are one income, finding ways to make a little extra cash for your family can come through selling what you already own.
  3. Consignment Shops- I love taking items to our local consignment shop. I provide the clothes and toys (must be quality items to be accepted), they provide the store and access to customers. I make a percentage of the sale and use my earnings to purchase clothing for our kids. Another great option for one income families.
  4. Online sales groups- (use at your own risk) There are so many online options for selling items  (especially great for larger items). Always choose to make your purchase exchanges in a public area and not at your home, if at all possible.

Sometimes having a friend over while you purge can be helpful. She can help you look past the sentiment of an item to the actual value (or lack of) it gives to your home. Having a buddy to talk to also makes the process more enjoyable.

As we enter the season of Spring Cleaning and organizing ourselves for the summer, add a little purge into your plans. You will be glad you did.

evening-routine

Year of the Purposeful Woman: The Evening Routine

Do you ever wake up in the morning wishing you had gotten some of your tasks done the night before?

It is so easy to have that hindsight regret. But by establishing an evening routine, you can easily avoid having rough mornings and instead set sail into your day smoothly.

Establishing an evening routine is not as easy as it sounds. You’re tired. You’ve just completed a long day. You want to put your feet up and just rest.

But by disciplining yourself to establish and stick with your evening routine, in time, your evenings will be something you look forward to and not dread.

My evening consists of two things that help set the stage for my day- planning and setting up.

Planning entails looking over the calendar/planner and seeing what my day will consist of and having a mental idea of what dinner will be and how early I will need to prepare or start it.

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A good day starts the night before

There are several reasons why planning the night before is key to having a good day.

  1. You are too tired to be unrealistic– You have just completed your day. You are too tired to make unrealistic demands of yourself. Keep your “must do’s” limited to three items that can realistically be done with the amount of time your day will afford you.
  2. When you wake up you know what to expect… for the most part. Do you have a dentist appointment scheduled for your kids? Is there an important meeting you need to be at? Is tomorrow a day you can just relax and stay home? Having looked at your calendar the night before gives you a heads up on what to expect the next day. But keep in mind that the best laid plans are subject to change at a moment’s notice. A call from school. An emergency doctor’s appointment. You son jumping on the bed… (true story…)

Going over your plan for tomorrow is not enough to make your day run smoothly, though. By doing some of the leg work in the evening, you will save yourself some steps in the morning.

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Some ideas for setting up your day can be some or all of the following:

  1. Lay out clothes for you and the kids- By laying out the clothes down to the socks and shoes, I know that we have everything we need in the morning. Have you ever spent ten minutes looking for that one lost shoe in the back of your daughter’s closet? So have I, which is why I began laying every item out. The time and sanity it saved us on busy mornings was priceless.
  2. Quick clean (make sure the main part of your home is in order/ not a time for deep cleaning)– Taking a few minutes to pick up your main living area will go far in your attitude in the morning.
  3. Clean the kitchen (dishes in dishwasher, counters wiped down)– I love waking up to a cleaned up kitchen. Admittedly there is usually a coffee mug or two in the sink and a pot from my husband making popcorn as a snack, but otherwise, clear counters and a dishwasher filled with clean dishes greet me in the morning. Waking up to clean yesterday’s mess is no fun for anyone, so take a few minutes before putting your feet up to make your kitchen greet you with a smile.
  4. Prep the coffee pot- The sound of a nice, hot pot of coffee percolating in the morning is enough to make anyone smile before they even open their eyes. For me, a mom who has learned to hear every sound in the house while asleep, waking up to the sound of my coffee pot is so much nicer than hearing the annoying BEEP BEEP of the alarm. And because it has such a soft sound, it doesn’t wake my husband at all. It is also helpful on those busy mornings when we all need to be out of the house by 8 o’clock to not have to remember to do one more thing and make the coffee.
  5. Prep all lunches- Are you making sandwiches for lunch? Is it something that won’t leave the bread soggy? Can you set all lunch box snacks on the counter or in the boxes for easy packing in the morning?

evening-routine

Mornings are hard. Having an evening routine can make your morning easier. Be sure to give yourself time and extra grace as you work on establishing a routine that works for you and yours. You will be glad you did.

To read more in this series:

evening-routine

what to do with kids Christmas break

Things to Do with Your Kids This Christmas Break

It will be here before you know it…

Christmas break!

And I just heard it…. the cheer of little ones embracing their upcoming freedom, and the gasp from moms who are looking for ways to fill their children’s time for the duration of the break.

If you are going away for some of the break, then half of your battle is already won, since leaving home is an adventure all its own and comes with its own entertainment for young ones. But if you are staying home during your break, then filling the hours of your days is a daunting challenge.

Because I homeschool my children, I am always looking for ways to keep my kids on their toes after our schoolwork is done with fun, meaningful activities that I can plan and prepare for the night before. They are not stress inducing activities or even complicated in their preparation, but my children feel as though they have been thought of and have even expressed their appreciation of these planned times.

what to do with kids Christmas break

Each activity comes with a time limit so the activity is ended before boredom sets in and leaves anticipation for the activity to be repeated in the future.

We do not do all of these activities each day. This is just a list that I use to choose from when planning our day.

At Home:

  • Silent reading (30 minutes)- My son who recently turned 5 has been doing this for a while now and can sit for the duration of the time. He cannot read a full book at this point, but he is a pro at looking at pictures and even doing some picture search books.
  • Read aloud (30 minutes)- This does require Mom’s involvement, but that’s okay! Choose books that are related to the season you are in (Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, etc.). Having a book basket helps with this. This would also be a great time to begin a classic or novel with them (we have read the Winnie the Pooh collection together).  You will be amazed at how their understanding and communication skills grow with this simple activity. During this time, I pull out the blocks and perler beads and my children quietly create while they listen.
  • Color/Draw (20-30 minutes)- Coloring and drawing is an important childhood skill that our kids need in order to develop fine motor skills among other things. [source]

what to do with kids Christmas break

  • Play-doh (20-30 minutes)- Kids love play-doh, and moms can easily use this time for some therapy. Squishing play-doh is relaxing and has the ability to keep kids entertained without any effort on our part.
  • Bake cookies (30 minutes)- This one requires a little bit of work, but there is no hard and fast rule that you have to make your cookies from scratch (we don’t always). Kids love the process of mixing and seeing their work turn into something they can actually eat.
  • Play games (30-45 minutes)- This is a fun one! Grab all of those you have hidden away in a closet and play a few. Depending on ability, the games may even get a bit competitive. A few of our favorites are Shopkins Uno, Candyland, Dominoes, Go Fish, Sorry, Guess Who, and Connect Four.
  • Watch a show (30-120 minutes)- This activity is great when Mom just needs to sit with a cup of coffee in a quiet room for a bit. Pull out a video (your children’s ages and attention spans will dictate the length of your movie), put your feet up, and enjoy the quiet. If your children know that movie time only comes at a specific time of the day, they will appreciate that time even more.
  • Play outside (30-60 minutes)- This is the stuff of childhood and the maker of good naps for little ones. Fresh air, sunshine, and the ability to run unrestricted are all great for a child’s well-being and also is important for Mom. Pull out the bicycles, roller skates, scooters, hula hoops, and sidewalk chalk or let them enjoy your personal jungle gym. No matter what they do, it will be a win for everyone. Need more ideas? 15 Minutes Outside by Rebecca Cohen is a great book with 365 outdoor ideas.

what to do with kids Christmas break

  • Video games (30-60 minutes)- Kids enjoy video games and technology is the wave of the future, but that doesn’t mean our kids should have unlimited access to it. Schedule time for your kiddos to play some of their video games. By scheduling time for this activity, your kids won’t spend too much time in front of a screen, they won’t tire of their games too quickly, and video game time will become a very special time for them.
  • Free play (1-2 hours)- Free play is so important for children.  Not only does it give them the ability to decide for themselves what they want to play, but it gives them a chance to pull out the toys and stretch their imaginations. And with Christmas just around the corner, it will give them a chance to really play with their new toys.

Quick trips

Sometimes, you just need to leave the house, but you don’t want to spend a lot or be out all day. Here are a few ideas for taking quick trips that don’t involve shopping or stores. Don’t forget to schedule in travel time.

  • Library (1 hour)- Libraries are so much more than warehouses for books. They are now being upgraded with play areas, puzzles, learning games, and story time. Take advantage of these amenities that your library has to offer and spend an hour in a quiet but fun atmosphere.
  • Local park (30-60 minutes)- If you don’t have a swing set, your local park is guaranteed to have a great jungle gym (take proper safety precautions). From playground equipment and open areas for unhindered running to walking paths and  bike trails, your park has much to offer that a backyard can’t. Pack a lunch and make your adventure last a little longer.

what to do with kids Christmas break

  • Donut/ice cream run (30 minutes)- Have the kids been really good for you on a particular day? Why not treat them to a donut shop or Ice cream shop run? Encourage their good behavior with a small treat and a quick adventure outside of the house.
  • Visit a friend (1-2 hours for littles 3-4 hours for bigs)- I am a firm believer that visits with friends need to fall into a reasonable time frame, especially if you are spending time in their home with little ones. Your visit has time to end on a good note before little ones begin to get too antsy.
  • Bounce house or kids gym (1-2 hours)- Do you live in an area that has a bounce house or kids gym? Take advantage of these. Purchase a membership if it is something that can be used quite often by your family. This is a great way to fill a couple of hours of your day, give your kids ample space to exert plenty of energy, and give you a fun place to escape to on rainy days when a park visit wold not be possible.

What are some other ways you can inexpensively provide meaningful activities for your children during a school break? Feel free to share them with us in the comments. We’d love to hear from you!

host-party-works

How to Host the Party that Works for You

1 Peter 4:9 says, “Use hospitality one to another without grudging.”

I love watching HGTV- the searching for the perfect home, the best location, and the creating of a place to grow your family. Two of the most common phrases that I hear regardless of the show I’m watching is, “This would be great for entertaining,” or “I can picture us entertaining our friends and family here.”

I think we have a deep desire to have others come to our home, host a dinner or party, and just be hospitable towards them. But how many times do we get frustrated just before our guests arrive? How many times have we thrown our hands in the air, along with our party decorations, and asked why we’re even hosting a gathering?

Party hosting is something that has been front and center for my sister and I in the last couple of weeks. As the holiday season approaches, hosting, with all of its joys and pressures, makes its way to the forefront of our minds.

Before the stress kicks in, here are some tips that can help you streamline your party plans. Not only do you want to host a party that your guests will love, but you want it to be one that you can enjoy as well.

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What is your party personality?

Are you an easy-going, laid back person, or do you enjoy going all out with decor and themes? Do you want your guests to feel at home and free to sit where they want to? Do you want a more formal feel with assigned seating and place cards?

Knowing your personality will keep you from planning a gathering that is out of your comfort zone and will leave you overwhelmed. It will keep you in the realm of realistic, no matter how strong the pull is to let Pinterest be your guide.

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Have your “person” there

We all have that close one or two people who will have our backs, do what needs to be done, handle what you can’t or may not know about, and in some ways just be an extension of you during the party. Make sure that person is there. Give them the green light ahead of time  to handle whatever needs to be handled if you are unable to during your event.

I grew up in a large extended family. At gatherings, everyone pitched in and just did what needed to be done to relieve stress from the hostess. I learned at an early age that having someone there for you, the hostess, during the party is so important.

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What’s your budget?

Although we all want to host a party that puts our best foot forward, being conscientious of our budget is important. The budget will decide how big your party can be, how elaborate the settings, or how much entertainment you can comfortably provide.

In your budget, be sure to include, food and beverages, any place settings, party favors, entertainment, and any clothing items that may be needed. All of these items can add up without notice. Setting a budget at the beginning helps in keeping costs in check.

How big/small do you want to make it?

Do you want a large gathering of family and friends? Or do you want your gathering to be more intimate with those you are closest to? How many people do you actually have room for? Are you willing to rent an off site venue for your party? Deciding this will help you determine the direction of your party. Set your guest list if you want a small gathering and don’t budge.

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To cook or not to cook…

Be realistic. Will you have enough time to cook and prepare the meal the week of your party? Or will ordering several pizza pies be enough for your guests? Are you comfortable enough with your guests to ask each person to bring a side dish? This would alleviate extra tasks off of your plate so you are free to handle other planning items.

These are all great options. Each one will will give you an edge to hosting a great party. At my sister’s party, she set a theme (peanut butter) and had each guest bring a dish that used peanut butter in some way. The excitement of discovering new peanut butter based dishes fit her party perfectly.

For my son’s recent birthday, I knew I would have no time to actually prepare a meal to serve. And when kids are your main guests, finding something everyone will like can be a challenge. Picking up several pizza pies was the perfect solution for our party.

host-party

Entertainment

Depending on your gathering, you will need to decide what type of entertainment will be needed.

At my baby shower, the women were entertained with games and the opening of gifts. Meanwhile, the men were in a theater room with a college football game.

For Ian’s birthday party, we rented a bounce house to keep the kids entertained. Once the gifts had been opened, the children went into his room to play with the new toys.

For my sister’s peanut butter party, a gathering of women at lunch time makes for its own entertainment. She provided a comfortable area for women to congregate and we entertained each other with conversation.

As we head into the holiday season, remember:

Do what you can. 

Don’t overwhelm yourself.

If you’re new to entertaining, start small.

Find your groove.

But more importantly, enjoy yourself and your guests and host a part that works for you.

Bins Are a Mama’s Best Friend: Helping Your Child Get Organized

(Affiliate links may be used in this post. You can view our full disclosure here.)

“A place for everything and everything in its place.” It’s a well known saying that seems to state the obvious regarding organization, but a mama- like me- can really avoid a lot of early gray hairs popping up by heeding this popular phrase.

And while it’s definitely a piece  of advice we as adults do well to obey, we might mutually agree that it isn’t always as easy for a two year old, like my son, to follow through and do…

Or is it? 

I’m the type of person who feels that my job isn’t done unless everything is pretty much back in its place. 

Messes make me restless.

confessions-ADD-mom

I’m the kind of person who, if I have a pile of dishes in the sink at night or if it’s bedtime and toys are left everywhere, I just don’t feel like my job is done. I personally don’t feel like I’ve officially earned the right to “flop”(our family’s word for just kicking back and relaxing).

If “what goes up must come down”, what comes out of place must go back in place too… at least before I feel I have the right to relax.  

And since that is just how I’m wired, I find that it’s  also important to teach my son to know where things belong, so that as he grows, he can follow through in being organized as well.

No, I’m not saying that he has to be just like me, but it certainly helps a mama out if I teach my son to do the things that will make life a little easier for everyone…while also teaching him personal responsibility.

Although each person is built differently and we may not all have that inner craving to be super organized (and I’m not saying I always am), if we do happen to be around someone who prefers organization, we do well to be a blessing on our end by arranging the environment to meet that desired expectation…

Which is one reason why… I….Love…..Bins.

Organization-Ideas-for-Children-Storage-Bins

While it didn’t just occur to me overnight, I’m learning that as long as I designate a place for something and continue to follow through in making that place the object’s “home”, it is much easier for my toddler to also identify that location as the designated place.

So what does this look like in my home? Well, upon walking into my son’s room, the first thing you’d probably notice is the large 16-cubby shelving unit that we purchased at IKEA. (Love that place! And I think every teacher I’m friends with does as well.)

It’s on this unit thatyou’ll find an assortment of things that range from blocks to trucks to a couple of stuffed toys…  (And this arrangement may change over time as we reorganize, rearrange, and weed out toys.)

But…..What I love the most about  this organization unit… are the bins that hide and store all of the little toys my son enjoys playing with. No, not everything has to be front and center in the room or have its own special place on the shelf. Some things can simply be categorized and tossed in a container with other similar objects.

If you notice in the picture, there are a total of eight bins on the unit. The four red bins were cheaply picked up at the local Dollar Tree (for $1 each) and the bottom blue bins were purchased at a slightly higher cost from the Container Store (for $14.99 each). This simply goes to show that it doesn’t have to cost a whole lot if you’re in the market to purchase a few items to help you organize your child’s room. Our Dollar Tree bins have worked just as well as our Container Store bins.

Organization-Ideas-for-Moms-Storage-Bins-Ikea

In the blue bins, you’ll find one holding books, another two containing Mega Blocks, and a fourth housing play food mixed with toy kitchen items.

In the red bins, you’ll find another kind of assortment, such as: small animals in one bin, cars and small vehicles in another, coloring books and sticker books in a third, and various kinds of sports balls in the fourth (This arrangement has actually changed since I first wrote this post, but my son has definitely come to recognize where certain toys belong. Over time you tweak things to make the organization process fit even more to your lifestyle. For example, I recently decided to have books lining the entire top shelf rather than storing them in bins below.)

Organization-Ideas-for-Moms-Purposeful-Moms

In having this kind of set-up, where everything basically has a categorized “home”, I’ve been finding that my son is more equipped to help me during clean up time…something that will at first take more intention to teach but which definitely gets easier over time.

Yes, it’s usually so much easier for us moms to quickly pick up the mess of toys, and in the past and on occasion at times I still may. But while it’s true that I can quickly get the job done….Always doing this for my son doesn’t serve in helping him learn personal responsibilty for himself, which is something we need to begin teaching our children now while they are young so that it doesn’t become more of a challenge later. 

Now that my son is two and a half, though, I’m pleased to say that he has begun to get much better at cleaning up. Yes, I still have to tell him to clean up, but it’s become more of a game for him. I’ll say, “Show me (how you can clean up)!” and then leave him to it. Shortly after, he’ll come out and say “You got to see this!” As I’m going to his room, he’ll go and hide and then I’ll make a big deal about how amazing it is. He loves that…and making a big deal about it is worth the time and effort because I love the fact that he is learning how to clean up for himself.

When you first start teaching your little one to clean up, they’ll definitely need help. A big mess can be overwhelming to a little person for sure. But I noticed that by asking my son “where” things go or holding a specific object for him to put away that the task became a little more do-able. Providing simple step by step help is  always much better when teaching a toddler than giving general commands. 

For me, being purposeful in having a place for belongings as well as intentionally giving easy directions to help my son learn to participate in the cleaning process is an important key to helping things run a bit more smoothly in my home.

No, a clean and organized child’s room doesn’t happen by accident. But with God’s help, patience, continued effort and practice, I’m expecting my son to learn important skills like this that will help him not only learn personal responsibilty but also foster a well-deserved sense of pride after the task of cleaning up is finished.

Yes, it’s definitely something I need to continue working on if I want it to become a personal habit in my son, but I do look forward to one day seeing it become so much a part of his nature as we continue to work on it, with God’s help, that he won’t need reminders from Mom when he’s a teenager.

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Do You Have a Routine?

When we hear the words “schedule” or “routine” we usually cringe on the inside. To many, those words mean that we do not have freedom in our lives to do what we want, when we want. We live in a time when spontaneity is almost revered and having a schedule/routine is viewed as a freedom stealer.

Yet, we expect teachers to have a schedule for their classrooms so we know that they will have enough time in each day to teach what children need to learn for the school year. We expect doctors to schedule our appointments and keep to the schedule as closely as possible so our time is not wasted in the waiting room.

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As a homeschooling mother myself, I was torn between the freedom that homeschooling gave me in terms of the flow of our day and the personal need for my time to be assigned so my responsibilities could be completed.

Honestly, doing the same exact thing day in and day out can seem somewhat dull, and the longing for a bit of excitement, a change of pace, or the unexpected can weigh on the back of my mind…. until that change comes, and then I long for my monotonous routine again.

And then I went to our annual Classical Conversations Practicum and read this:

“Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead.” G. K. Chesterton

Children want routine. They want to know what is coming next. They enjoy sameness and repetition….. even if it leaves mom feeling nearly dead.

But what is a routine? A routine is an unvarying and constantly repeated formula, as of speech or action; and a convenient or predictable response: a customary or regular course of procedure. [source]

Basically, it is a series of steps that you take throughout your day. It does not have a specified time, but it happens with regularity, the same way each and every day to the point where you no longer have to think about which step comes next.

Think of a gymnast. She has practiced her routines whether for the uneven bars, balance beams, floor exercise or vault so many times that her body knows exactly what is expected of it. The muscle memory has been so refined that she is mentally present to make sure each step is made with precision without having to wonder what she is supposed to do next. She can do these routines at any time of the day- no specific time has been assigned to each move- but she knows exactly which move will come next.

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On a personal level, we do not have a specific time that our kids have to wake up, but when they do wake up, there are four things that need to be done (Addie has five things).

  1. Read the Bible (Addie has a devotional she reads, and Ian has a picture Bible he looks through)
  2. Make the bed (Ian puts his blanket and pillow on his bed)
  3. Get dressed
  4. Brush your teeth
  5. (Addie has to feed her fish)

I have a few routines that guide my day as well.

Morning routine (This is the best way for me to start my day. I usually have successful days as long as I complete the majority of this routine…. but sometimes life happens…. like the time I had one little monkey jumping on the bed and then doctor visits trumped my day.)

  • Devotions
  • Basic morning bathroom routine
  • Throw a load into the washer
  • Pack Brian’s lunch
  • Make breakfast
  • Send Brian off
  • Clean up after breakfast
  • Get dressed
  • Devotions with the kids
  • Prep dinner
  • Make sure house is in order

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Kids’ bedtime routine (except for nights that we are out late, this time is very important to my children)

  • Baths
  • Watch one 30-45 minute show
  • Read a chapter from a classic book to both kids together, talk together (Currently, we are reading through Pooh’s Library by A. A. Milne)
  • Read a few Bible stories to Ian alone, sing with him, pray (Currently, we are reading through 99 Stories from the Bible by Juliet David)
  • Read one or two chapters to Addie from a book we are reading together, talk, pray (Right now we are half way through Selah’s Sweet Dream by Susan Count)

My evening routine (what I have to do each evening to prepare myself for the next day)

  • Check my planner for what is on the schedule for the following day
  • Prepare anything that is needed for the following day and place it by the front door
  • Lay out clothes for the following day (mine and kids)
  • Prep Brian’s lunch
  • Defrost meat for dinner the following day
  • Shower

Notice, there are no times set for any of the routines, no specified lengths of time for anything on the list. Because of my calendar, if we have to leave the house, I know what time we have to be out the door, but the routines can be done at whatever pace is necessary for the day.

1 Corinthians 14:40 says, “Let all things be done decently and in order.” When I follow our routines our days flow beautifully, there is less stress, and my children have a quieter spirit because they know what to expect and there are no sudden surprises in their little worlds.

Do I always enjoy following our routines? The honest answer is no. As much as my personality loves order, the other side of me hates monotony. But as the monotony of routine can sometimes push me into a rut, I like to think of the rest of G. K. Chesterton’s quote which reminds me of how much I appreciate the routines the God has put into our natural world:

“For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun, and every evening, “Do it again’ to the moon.”

Do you have a routine that you can’t live without? Let us know what works for you.

Celebrate the Ordinary Days

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Making ordinary days special for my family has always been a goal for me.  In fact, one of my goals when I first became a mom was to make life wonderful for my family. Not just the big days, but more importantly, the little days- the days that no one else but us would see and know about.

Then I began noticing that there were “special” days everywhere. National Popcorn Day. National Donut Day. National Hot Dog Day. And my personal favorite, National Coffee Day!

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I like that  there are special days because it makes ordinary days just a bit more special. I am the mom who makes the popcorn, gets the free donuts (with the purchase of a beverage…. and then my donut is not so free anymore), makes hot dogs on that particular night, and takes her kids out in the pouring rain to get the coffee (because coffee makes my world go around).

Yet, those were not the only special days that I wanted to create for my family.

I wanted to make the ordinary days special- the special days that do not show up on the calendar.

I wanted to purposefully plan to make a regular Tuesday special by planning ahead a simple but memorable activity for my kids to look back on.

I wanted to plan ahead for a special time for my husband and I to enjoy after the kids had gone to bed.

So I did.

I began thinking about ways to make some of our ordinary days special. These are just a few ideas to get you started on making ordinary days special for your family.

  • Donut Day- Get your donut and then read your littles the book If You Give a Dog a Donut while you eat your donuts.
  • Chick-Fil-A Cow Appreciation Day- It is so much fun to dress up for your lunch or dinner! Pull out the paint, the old t-shirts, and some construction paper and make an event of going to your local Chick-Fil-A. special-days
  • American Girl Girl of the Year movie premier- If your little girl is a fan of AG like mine is, the date of the movie premier can turn an ordinary day into something special. We tend to make a girly afternoon of it. I pull out my nail polishes, curlers, hair straightener, curling iron, and then I paint my daughter’s nails and do her hair. She picks out a cute outfit complete with as many accessories as she wants, and we watch the movie together.
  • Beach Day- One benefit of living in Florida is the nearness and accessibility to beaches. The surf and sand have a way of making any ordinary day special. Pack a light lunch such as fruits, cheese sticks, pretzels, trail mix, plenty of water, and sunscreen and let them play. Sometimes we bring beach toys, sometimes we don’t.  ordinary-days
  • National Puppy Day- Do you have a dog? We don’t. But we can still celebrate National Puppy Day by going to a pet store and playing with the puppies.
  • Ring in the Olympics- There are so many ways to make the Olympics a special time for our families. We make our own torch, and, during the opening ceremonies, we have our very own torch relay. This time around, we have also chosen a particular sport to follow (gymnastics) and particular athlete to root for (Gabby Douglas). special-days
  • Cookie Day- As a little girl, every year, our mom would take one day around Christmas to do nothing but bake cookies. One year, we baked 500 cookies. Then we gave those cookies to others in our church as gifts.
  • First Day of Each Season- It doesn’t have to be anything special, but commemorating the first day of each season can make that day special. For the first day of spring, we love going to Rita’s for a free ice. On the first day of fall, we decorate our home for fall- adding autumn colored leaves to our arrangements and decorative greenery, pulling out our previously made fall crafts, and even some of our Thanksgiving items. For the first day of summer we enjoy going to the beach, and on the first day of winter, we typically celebrate Snowman Day (mentioned below).
  • Snowman Day- Here in Florida, my kids can only dream of snow, so snowmen are an impossibility for us…. or are they? We made an entire day based on snowmen, complete with homemade snowman shirts, snowman shaped pizza, have a “snowball fight” made of crumpled paper towels, and then collecting all of our paper owls on white garbage bags to build a snowman. You can see more of our first Snowman Day in this Smilebox slideshow.

It doesn’t take a lot of effort to make an ordinary day more than just a day.

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purposeful-moms

Learning to Enjoy Things without Owning Them

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I want my children to have access to as many things as possible that will teach them and help them reach their highest potential. However…..

I do not want to own all of those things.

So how is it possible to give my children the resources they need without feeling the need to purchase it all?

One thing that I remember our mother doing with us as girls was taking a weekly trip to the library. We would walk there (it was a five minute walk from our house) and spend a couple of hours doing school work (we were homeschooled) and looking through the books. We became friends with the librarians and looked forward to our time spent there.

Fast forward twenty-something years, and I am now the mother taking her children to the library.

 

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The library has changed a lot since I was a kid- there are now computers, games, puzzles, and cool bean bag chairs for making yourself comfortable  with a good book. There is now story time for children under the school age during the school year and learning class time for all ages during the summer.

The library has thousands of books, that are available to enjoy. Toddlers, children and adults alike can enjoy all of the books free of charge (unless one is late returning these books, then there is a late fee…. speaking of…..).

One of the steps to simplicity found in Celebration of Discipline by Richard J. Foster is learn to enjoy things without owning them.

There are so many books I want my children to enjoy, but it would be impossible for us to buy them all. A library offers access to a plethora of materials for education and entertainment.

Learning to enjoy things without owning them can reach far beyond books. There are parks, beaches, festivals, and other things that can be enjoyed for free or for a nominal price without having to own anything.

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The beauty of learning to find ways of enjoying things without owning them is two-fold. In some cases it teaches patience in waiting your turn before you can enjoy something. It also reduces the amount of stuff brought into your living space which keeps clutter at bay. Clutter is an enemy of simplicity.

I want my children to grow up understanding they do not need to own everything in order to enjoy it.

They do not need to have an extensive video library; they can borrow movies from the library or rent them for a $2.50 at a local kiosk or wait for them to arrive on Netflix. They do not need to download every song they like; they can enjoy Pandora or Spotify free of charge and enjoy their favorite songs and find others like it. They do not need to purchase every book they want to read; they can borrow it from the library.

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What important lessons will this teach them in the long run?

  • Not everything needs to be owned in order for them to enjoy it.
  • To save their money for things they really want or need.
  • To critically think about purchases they do make.
  • Less clutter equals less stress.

How will they learn this lesson?

It starts with me and the example I show them. Children will not learn this lesson on their own. They need to be shown that we can learn to find ways to enjoy things without owning them in order for them to learn how to do the same.

The library is a good place to start.

This post was originally posted here at The Joy of Homemaking.