Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

Easy DIY Summer Time Capsule for Kids

Tuesday, June 14th, 2016

Make a memory for your kids (and you!) with this fun summer activity!

Make an easy summer time capsule- a great activity for the whole family!

This year has flown by for our family and it’s hard to believe summer is so quickly upon us. Each year I’m more desperate to hang on to our summer and our memories together. My kids are hitting the teen stages and I treasure each moment with them so much more as they get older than I had ever imagined.

I want to share with you a fun summer time capsule ornament that your children can hang on the holiday tree or can be the launching point of a fun family mealtime together this summer. Have you ever had your kids create a time capsule? I am telling you, it is so much fun and gives you a glimpse, as a parent, into what is important in their lives.

How to Make A Summer Time Capsule

Make-A-Summer-Time-Capsule

Supplies Needed

Directions

1. Tell your child at the beginning of the summer to begin gathering small items that represent their fun-filled summer! To get them brainstorming, consider gathering a representation of their favorite crafts, board games, building activities (puzzles or building blocks), beach finds (pretty sand or shells), or items found on nature walks. Tell them you want this capsule to really showcase what they were passionate about that summer so they can create a really important collection for their capsule.

Make-A-Summer-Time-Capsule

2. Have your child jot down 5 things that they love about summer. Guide them with a gentle writing prompt to explain why they have included these items in their capsule to represent them.

For example, “I love seeing my mom cry when I take all of her money in Monopoly.” Of course, that would be YOUR child, not MY child (*ahem*).

Don’t forget to have them include the date somewhere on this sheet so you can keep track of the years!

3. Fill an ornament with their trinkets and the facts about their summer. Snap shut at the seams. If you are concerned about longtime storage, you can secure with a little hot glue along the seams.

4. Use permanent marker to write your child’s name and the date somewhere on the ornament.

Make-A-Summer-Time-Capsule

In our family, we are all about board games, building blocks, finding seashells at the beach, and my daughter has developed a strong love for finger knitting this year. I love this representation of who she is at nine!

Don’t let the time capsule fun end at summer. We incorporated this same time capsule idea in our NYE celebrating as a family, but selected a few things that represented our favorite moments of the year. Over a celebration dinner, we each twisted open our capsules to share our favorite moments together. I remember that night well because I learned so much about my kids and some of the things they included surprised me. I guarantee you will learn a lot during the big time capsule reveal and make some beautiful memories.

For a summer capsule, this same idea would be fun for a family s’more night or as a fun ending to a sundae party together. Celebrate the end of summer in a new way and remember to get your kids thinking now because beautiful collections that represent them take time!

I hope you enjoy this fun craft together and please be sure to let us know if this becomes a part of your own family traditions as it has become such an integral part of ours!

Easy DIY Summer Time Capsule for Kids from MomAdvice.com.

*this post contains affiliate links- I only recommend what I love though!

 

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How to Make Bubble Snakes

Thursday, June 9th, 2016

How to Make Bubble Snakes from MomAdvice.com

These Indiana girls couldn’t be happier that summer is around the corner and today we wanted to show you how to make bubble snakes with our homemade diy bubble recipe. If you haven’t tried our bubble recipe, you are in for the best bubbles ever this year. This fun activity is brought to you in partnership with Tum-E Yummies today.

Have you made your own bubbles or a bubble snake before? If you haven’t, you are going to be amazed at the difference in this solution versus what you buy at the store and the staying power of your bubble snake. Not only are making bubbles and bubble snakes fun, but they are also a lesson in science.

According to Steve Spangler Science, “Bubbles form because of the surface tension of water. Hydrogen atoms in one water molecule are attracted to oxygen atoms in other water molecules. They like each other so much, they cling together. When you blow air through your Bubble Snake maker, you are creating hundreds of tiny bubbles. As the air wiggles through the fabric, bubbles are continuously being made. The bubbles attach to each other when they come out of the fabric. It’s all thanks to the same hydrogen bonds that make bubbles possible!”

I don’t know about you, but I didn’t really understand the science behind bubble making. I love a bit of science with our crafts. Let’s get mixing!

How to Make Bubble Snakes

How to Make Bubble Snakes from MomAdvice.com

Supplies Needed

Dishwashing liquid soap

Glycerin (we found this behind the pharmacist’s counter at our local superstore. Can also sometimes be found in the first aid supplies section)

Pitcher (we love the kind with a plunger to mix the bubbles)

Liquid Food Coloring

1 plastic bottle

Box Cutter

An old sock or a washcloth (secured with a rubberband) Bubble tray or a disposable plate or bowl

DIY Bubbles Recipe from MomAdvice.com

1. Mix up your homemade bubble solution in your pitcher (recipe below). We halved our recipe to fit in this two quart pitcher, but you can definitely mix up a full gallon too. Set aside.

How to Make Bubble Snakes from MomAdvice.com

2. Today, we are using a Tum-E Yummies container for the base of the craft, so let your kids drink their favorite flavor to get the container ready to be used! If your kids haven’t tried these, they are fruit flavored waters that come in five flavors (Very Berry Blue, Greentastic Apple, Fruitabulous Punch, Orange-arific, and Sour-sational Raspberry). Each of these have 100% daily value vitamin C, B6, B12 and only 50 calories and 13g of sugar. You can be assured, you will need all those vitamins for the bubble blowing that will be happening once we are done creating this craft!

3. Take a box cutter and carefully remove the bottom of the container. Once this is removed, secure a sock or a washcloth (secured with a rubber band) over the newly opened end.

4. Take your liquid food coloring and create a stripe of each color (red, yellow, green, and blue) across the bottom of the sock or washcloth. The more you add to the bottom, the more vibrant the colors.

5. Dip the rainbow end into the bubble solution. Be sure to get a good soak of bubbles on it to create your snake.

6. Blow on the other end of the container to blow out that colorful bubble snake. Be sure to stress to your kids to not suck in their breath (who wants to swallow bubbles? yuck!).

How to Make Bubble Snakes from MomAdvice.com How to Make Bubble Snakes from MomAdvice.com

 

How fun is that? I guarantee amazing bubble snakes with our diy recipe! While you are at it, be sure to purchase some big wands for this fun project. You really won’t believe how big these bubbles are or how long they hold their shape before popping.

How to Make Bubble Snakes from MomAdvice.com

A huge thank you to Tum-E Yummies for partnering with me to create this fun summer activity idea. You can find these flavored waters in many convenience stores, grocery stores, and drugstores. My kids really did love this fun twist on water and I know they will make a fun addition to our pool bags this summer after a long day of swimming!

DIY Bubble Recipe
Prep time: 
Total time: 
 
Keep these items on hand to make bubbles all summer long. You won't believe the size or the staying power of this amazing solution.
Ingredients
  • 1 gallon water
  • ⅔ cup dishwashing soap
  • 2-3 tbsp. glycerin
Instructions
  1. Mix all these ingredients in a container. DONE!

For more fun family ideas, follow Tum-E Yummies on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest!

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7 Promises I’m Making to My Kids This Summer

Tuesday, May 24th, 2016

From our marriage & parenting contributor, Mary Carver.

7 Promises I'm Making to My Kids This Summer

For the past several summers I’ve created a bucket list for my family. I’ve scoured local event calendars, scrolled through Pinterest, and subscribed to all the summer fun newsletters I can find. I’ve juggled schedules and friend groups and work projects and vacation days, and I’ve been DETERMINED to make each summer THE BEST ONE EVER.

Some summers have been more successful than others, but every summer ended with me realizing that bucket lists are not my friend. I love lists, and I function better in general with a list. But my summer bucket lists always end up feeling like goals or assignments, and I end up stressing out – and stressing out my family – to cross things off that list.

So this summer I’m taking a different approach. And instead of a whole bucket list of ALL THE THINGS TO DO, I’m making some simple promises to my kids.

7 Promises I’m Making to My Kids This Summer

1. I won’t sign up for every library program, since I know full well we won’t make it to 90% of them. Actually, this is a promise to the library, too.

2. I will take you to the library to get more books, even if you haven’t read the ones we already have checked out. Because, really? What does it matter if we have a giant stack of books at home? We love books in our house! And the library is fun. And I am not going to squash that with an arbitrary rule about not checking out new books until we finish the old ones. (Especially since a rule like that makes me a big, old hypocrite. Ahem.)

3. We will eat popsicles and drink lemonade. They may or may not be homemade. Here’s the thing: If we chop up some lemons and drop them into the came-from-a-mix pitcher of lemonade, IT WILL STILL BE DELICIOUS AND REFRESHING. And if I save my sanity by buying popsicles rather than making them and losing my mind when I try to get them out of the popsicle trays? We all win.

4. I won’t plan elaborate science experiments or field trips for every free day of the summer. I’m not saying we won’t go anywhere or do anything. We might do a science experiment or a craft project. We might go on a field trip or a road trip. But I’m not about to tell you about it weeks in advance and spend hours on details that will go directly down the toilet the minute my plans meet reality. Nope. Not gonna do it!

5. I will take you to the pool. And I will wear a swimsuit (and a smile) when I do it. We’re in a weird place right now, trying to sell our house and move. So I’m not sure if we’ll be going to the city pool (if we’re still in our current house) or the neighborhood pool (if we’ve moved into the new house). But we will go to SOME POOL, SOMEWHERE. And I will not let them hear me complain or see my grimace about the heat, the sweat, the sun or the swimsuit I’m wearing.

6. When I’m not working, I will close the computer and put down my phone. Because I work part-time from home, I have a lot of choices when it comes to summertime childcare. (And I promise that even when I’m stressed or frustrated or WHATEVER by my summertime childcare options, I am always aware of the privilege it is to have choices. And I’m grateful.) While it’s important that I decide between theater camp or a robotics class, between daycare or a babysitter, the most important choice I make each summer is what I will make most important. How will I prioritize? How will I balance? How will I make sure my kids know they are more important than work and chores and lists and rules?

That’s not to say my work isn’t important. That’s also not to say it’s not important for my kids to see me working. But it IS important to me that when I’m not working, I’m not working. When I’m with my kids, when it’s playtime, I’m with my kids for playtime. I’ve never been good at this, so I figure now is a good time to try again.

7. We will have fun, and we will like it. And speaking of playtime…we will have some of that! I will let go and laugh. I will relax and be refreshed. I will enjoy my kids and myself and this season and this life. I will have fun, with my kids, and we will like it!

At least once this summer.

What promises are you making this summer?

 

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How to Raise an Uncommon Kid Today

Tuesday, March 1st, 2016

I am so happy to have the amazing Sami Cone sharing with us today tips to help us raise uncommon kids! She is one of my dearest friends in the blogging community and I know we can learn so much from her! 

How to raise an uncommon kid today

Everyone knows raising kids isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon.

But that doesn’t change the fact that we still hope to see change, improvement and potential in our parenting…and hope to see it quickly! The problem comes when we expect change in our children without first turning the mirror of change on ourselves as parents.

Before we can ever hope to raise uncommon kids, we must first be uncommon ourselves. (Click to Tweet)

The biggest issue I come across in parenting is that we somehow expect our kids to care about people and issues they know nothing about on the other side of the world, while not showing them how to love and care about the people right under their roof.

In my book, Raising Uncommon Kids, I share twelve characteristics that we need to embody as families before we can expect our kids to truly become compassionate. But how can we put these principles into practice? After all, speaking in theoretical terms only gets so far with our kids.

For our kids to care about others:

  • They need to know there are others to care about.
  • They need to understand the world doesn’t revolve around them.
  • They need to believe they can make a difference not just in the world, but in their neighborhood and most importantly inside their own homes.

Your kids may say they feel loved and I’d bet they’d even admit they love you and their siblings, but do they show it? Before we can be compassionate towards others, we need to practice within the fours walls of our home.

Actions speak louder than words, so let’s start today by learning 5 practical steps anyone can take to raise uncommon kids.

5 things you can do TODAY to start raising uncommon kids

1. Create a family mission statement. Once you do, display it prominently in your home where every member of your family can not only see it, but refer back to it often.

2. Re-design your home. Go through each room of your house and have each family member call out the thing they like most about that space, whether tangible or intangible. Strive to make everyone’s voice heard and represented in some way.

3. Parents switch roles with kids for a day. Want to help your kids experience what it’s really like to be you? Switch roles with them for a day. While children are typically thrilled at the prospect of ordering around their parents, the tides typically turn once they discover the new balance of work and play. Even if you don’t do this for an entire day, make sure to save time to celebrate the switching back of roles and debrief what everyone experienced.

4. Let your children deal with their mistakes. Don’t be so quick to clean up all your children’s messes for them. Think about it. It’s better to help your kids process their flubs while they’re living with you in their school years than to raise them in a bubble and then send them off to college without a hint of what the world will throw at them.

5. Encourage your kids to do one of their sibling’s chores one day. Explain how a simple act of kindness can break the battle cycle siblings often find themselves in.

Being uncommon isn’t quick or easy, but it is worthwhile. Knowing that you’re living life on your own terms not only allows your family’s heart to be full, but more importantly, fills you with the freedom for that love to overflow to others in need. When you model compassion in your own home, your kids will begin to understand what that could look like outside the walls of your home.

So what are you waiting for? Start raising uncommon kids today!

 

Life is What Happens To You While You’re Busy Making Other Plans

Tuesday, February 16th, 2016

how-to-consume-more-books-5

(I like this skirt because it hides that knee brace right now)

I knew something was wrong over the holidays, but didn’t want to admit it to anyone. As I wrote the addresses of our loved ones on the envelopes, my hand would lose grip of the pen, cramp up, and spasm. What should have been a simple task done with joy became something that had to be split up over a week that resulted in embarrassingly scrawled envelopes that I resented. I also resented Tiny Prints for sending no back-up envelopes so I could throw out the really bad ones. I left our return address off, for the first time, because I didn’t want to see those cards again. Feliz Navidad.

A week later as I headed to the grocery store, I put my car into park, and my foot curled in and would not sit flat in its shoe. A painful cramping left me sitting in my car for twenty minutes so I could walk around and get the family groceries. As if I didn’t dread the task of grocery shopping enough, now I could barely make it through the aisles, dragging around this foot and worrying that it would happen again while I was trying to check out or while I was driving.

Then the pain started in my hands in such a debilitating way that I could not even type, shoot a camera, knit, flip a book page without pain, or do any of my usual routines that are expected of me as a mom.  Pain shot through my fingers so badly that I sobbed and called my Dad like a little girl again, hysterically sitting in a corner of our bedroom sobbing and wondering why this was happening again when I was doing all the right things with my health.

So You Like Being a Hypochondriac

I was in denial that this was coming back. In college, after a routine dental procedure that went bad (as all procedures with me do), my parents had a battery of tests ran on me that included the usual blood work and more serious tests like a spinal tap for Lyme and MS. Everything came back normal, but I was anything but a normal college student when it came to my health. Muscle cramps, spasms, and numbness plagued me, particularly when I was overworked or tired…and I was constantly tired.  I later saw a rheumatologist who gave me the diagnosis of fibromyalgia and treated it with antidepressants that aided in muscle relaxation, but I knew that I had never really been satisfied with that diagnosis.

I could go on and on about all the weird and quirky things in my medical history like being a klutz and chronically tired child covered in self-created bruises from walking into things. Every medical surgery that never went as expected. Weird scarring on my body from things that never healed correctly. A shocking placental abruption with the birth of my child that was like a really bad crime scene in our home. Menstrual bleeding that made me finally seek relief through an ablation procedure (that also went badly).  Poor recovery from every routine procedure and struggles with anesthesia. Reacting to all medications. Dental issues and excessive gum bleeding.  A recent hearing loss that lasted for months and months and months that threw off my balance.  The snap, crackle, and popping of bones shifting each time I would go up the stairs and worries that something was going to pop out with all the sound effects. The stomach issues that plagued me my entire life. Old lady back pain that had me seeking relief at the chiropractor. Constant dislocations of random joints that left me rocking a brace on some joint on my body almost weekly at my gym classes.

I headed to the doctor with my hypochondriac list again and the routine tests were all performed along with an EMG to rule out radial tunnel syndrome.  The follow-up visit revealed that, other than a few minor things, all was normal.

Of course.

“How are your hands and fingers today?”

“Well, they are feeling a little better, but now my knee. My knee is out and it hurts really bad too.”

We had double booked our doctor for the morning and my son sat on the examining table for his routine ADHD follow-up. I requested that while we were here, he take a peek at the poor circulation in his hands. As the doctor began to examine him, Ethan said the magical question that started the ball rolling on the real answers.

“Are you going to ask him about our flexibility, mom?”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, I wonder if he has EDS. I have a friend that was diagnosed and it sounds like us.”

eds-test

The doctor started giving us The Beighton Score test and we, of course, could do all of this and more. You should see us at parties or just a fun night at our dinner table showing off with our bendy fingers.  After we passed this test with flying colors,  he pulled my son’s skin on his neck and watched it stretch to an unnatural amount.

“Look at the stretch in his skin.”

“Oh, I think mine is like that too,” and I pulled out skin farther than Ethan’s.

We finally have our answer.

We had Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome.

Oh, and my kid had scoliosis and Raynaud’s syndrome.

And the other one, she should be looked at too since she is bruising all the time and run down.

My head was spinning as I clutched a million handouts, appointments were made, tests duplicated for the specialist, x-rays done…in two hours I felt like our entire life had changed.

ehlers-danlos-syndrome-causes

What is Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome? And How Quickly Can We Get Over This?

Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS) is a group of inherited connective tissue disorders, caused by various defects in the synthesis of collagen. EDS is known to affect men and women of all racial and ethnic backgrounds.

There are six distinct types of EDS currently identified. All share joint laxity, soft skin, easy bruising, and some systemic manifestations. Each type is thought to involve a unique defect in connective tissue, although not all of the genes responsible for causing EDS have been found.

These six types are defined according to the signs and symptoms that are manifested, in a set of major and minor diagnostic criteria for each type. Each type of EDS is a distinct disorder that “runs true” in a family.

Different subtypes of Ehlers-Danlos syndrome are associated with a variety of genetic causes, some of which are inherited and passed on from parent to child. If you have the most common varieties of Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, there’s a 50 percent chance that you’ll pass on the gene to each of your children. Thus, the demonstration made by my crew means that we will all need a diagnosis to see if we all have it.

To receive a formal diagnosis of what type we all have and the treatment required for that type, we have to seek the help of a specialist and one of the leading people in this field just so happens to be rocking a practice in our town. Her research on EDS and how it relates to our GI system really helped to explain why I have had so much relief from removing gluten from my diet, as all of this is connected to our connective tissue. Instinctively, I had been doing many of the recommendations to seek relief for my numerous issues, never knowing how much I had been helping my body. It is probably why I have been doing so well for so long.

Dr. Collins counseled our doctor on the new regime we should follow until we could see her.  It involves a really ungodly amount of supplements that should help with joint pain and digestion. You can see her recommendations for diet and supplements that have worked so successfully for many of her patients, diminishing symptoms with this disorder.

Unfortunately, we can’t get over it. It’s something that we will be dealing with our whole lives and that was devastating to me especially in the middle of a bunch of injuires.

ehlers-danlos-syndrome-diagnosis

We Have Answers And I’m Sad & Still in Pain

I would have loved to skip out of that office with prescriptions for us all and immediate healing to my body. That doesn’t happen though and it takes some time to figure out exactly what will work for me and for our kids.

I have wept more tears than I can count for the pain that I have been in this week and hearing that we have this is heartbreaking for us all.  I told my mom yesterday, as she came to be with her weepy daughter, that  I could handle all of it if I wasn’t in so much pain with my knees, hands, and fingers. If it would have come when I felt strong and fit, I would have done the whole pull myself up by my bootstraps routine and just killed it like I always do, but right now I feel really broken.

I’m heartbroken our kids may have this and I feel like a crappy mom for passing down such crappy genes.

I’m sad how this has impacted my workout routine of hitting my dance class each week. It was the one class that brought me inexplicable joy and I know that it is the worst thing I can do for my joints right now. I miss the routines and love I get from each of those ladies in that dance crew. They have become like a family to me and I hate not being there.

I can’t knit to curb the stress because of hand pain and the need to brace things to help relieve it.

I’m heartbroken to see my husband so sad and feeling helpless about what is happening to us all. To be honest, that hurts almost worse than the pain.

debbie-downer

Silver Lining? Maybe Someday!

I am not in that silver lining stage and I cringe when people try to put a positive spin on this. My body and heart are in terrible pain right now. I guess the silver lining is that it could always be worse and there is always someone suffering and struggling with something bigger than something this minor.

As the four of us curled up on the couch together on Friday night, all on a single couch, I wrapped my two in my arms as tight as I could and alternately kissed each of their heads while we watched an episode of Shark Tank and chatting about if we would invest in people’s inventions. It was a simple moment, but we all needed it and craved it in this mess, the comfort that can only be found with one another. This situation is another team building exercise together and I’m glad I have this team and these people.

I’m also thankful we have an incredible village who are letting me be the weepy mess that I am and still want to be with me in spite of being the Debbie Downer of friends right now.

I’m ready to take the next steps towards healing.

In the meantime, the site may suffer, my workload will need to be lightened until I can get the hand pain under control, and I’m sharing this to buy some grace if things feel off here or if I don’t respond to your emails.  I’m not myself right now, but I’m thankful we finally have an answer.

If you want to learn more about EDS check out the Ehlers-Danlos Foundation page!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dora Band-Aids for a Hurting World

Monday, December 21st, 2015

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When my daughter was small, I remember that each and every hurt required some type of medical treatment. We had a constant rotation of ice packs and tiny bandages, often for nonexistent wounds. It was as though the act of putting that Dora Band-Aid on her superficially scraped up knee was enough to close the floodgates of tears and make the world right again. She needed me to see her hurt, to echo how awful it was to be hurt, and then to show my efforts to repair it.

Last week I discovered that a family I had been working with, through a volunteer opportunity I am involved with, had fallen on some particularly hard times and had been living without things that I would consider basic human needs.  The gas in the home had been shut off, the stove was not in working order, medical needs couldn’t be addressed through their insurance, and there was not even a washer to care for their family’s clothing.

When you have a platform like this to work from, you can often make swift work and can create fast resolutions to problems, simply because of the large circle that comes with this type of job. In a matter of 24 hours, I found I could meet all of these basic needs for this family between our family’s resources and many, many generous givers that I reached out to who helped me close the gap through material and financial donations. If there is one thing I feel proud of, it is is the company I keep.

As I shared those gifts with this family this weekend  I had a flashback of being that mom sharing a Dora Band-Aid again- I was so unequipped. This wound was so beyond the reach of the tiny offering that I had.  I could see so very clearly that there were many other needs that were there and I knew that the gift I offered, while appreciated, was just a small bandage on a problem bigger than I could fill. 

I left my humble bandage for this wound, I echoed the hurt, and I hugged those people and gave what I could.

Those bandages though, those are mine to give out and sometimes I have a whole box at my disposal and sometimes I just have a couple to share that I can sprinkle around. This box is mine to do with what I choose, and yet,  I was surprised at some of the commentary that came from what others said about those bandages.

“Did they deserve them?”

“Were they working?”

“Why had they fallen on hard times in the first place?”

“So many people working the system….”

You have probably heard a few of these before, am I right?

Here’s the thing.

My family?

We worked the system. 

My husband lost his job for a year and we became part of the system that people refer to with that shake of their head.  We found ourselves unable to make ends meet, unable to find employment, and the seeker of any government gift that we could qualify for. My husband and I went without health insurance (a gamble that kept me up every night), we placed our son on a healthcare plan funded by the state, and we eagerly waited for those unemployment checks so we could do things like get groceries and pay our mortgage.

What helped us get through those times were those tiny bandages that so many giving and kind people shared with us. They knew they couldn’t heal the gaping wound we had…it would have been impossible!  Yet, they were happy to share the smaller bandages that made each of those dreary days in my life better.

They brought us meals, they watched our baby, they gave us gift cards to have nights out, they even bought a pizza for the volunteers who later had to move us out of our very own home that we could no longer afford.

I could not even have purchased that pizza for them as a thank you.

Our debt situation?

Well, we needed a full-body cast at that point, not a tiny bandage.

But those bandages made such a difference and I still reflect on the generosity of the people that got us through such a depressing time in my life. 

And now, I’m the lucky one who has a box of tiny bandages to help those in need.

The bandages are often the smallest gifts, but not only are they my gifts to give, but it is their gift to do what they need to do with it. I don’t worry about if that bandage is going to someone working hard enough or if they are deserving of my tiny bandages.

I know God will figure all of that out.

He has a way of sorting things out for me. 

I only hope that other people are sprinkling them in some of the same spots that I am so we can close the gap on those hurts in the world together. When cobbled together, incredible things happen like the small Christmas miracle I got to witness this weekend as we met these basic needs for a family I love.

As we close out another year here at MomAdvice, I hope you will find a way to share your gifts with others, whether they are big or small. Just as I did with my daughter,  I am acknowledging these hurts in the world today, I echo your hurts because I think about them too and pray for resolutions, and I share a tiny bandage with those of you who are hurting.

I am also hoping you are one of the lucky ones holding a box and you won’t forget to share a few Dora Band-Aids of your own, even if the wounds seem too big for such small offerings.

They all matter.

And so do you.

xoxo

Circle With Disney: The Only Cyber Deal a Parent Needs

Monday, November 30th, 2015

Protect Your Kids

Sometimes it is difficult to share here and keep a sense of privacy  around certain issues that we have in our family. We have been dealing with a personal struggle with our kids and creating a good balance of online time and offline time with them. Our biggest struggle though has been protecting them from the internet and potentially harmful content as well as monitoring the amount of time they are spending on their devices.

There are a few things that I became aware of over the past couple of years about my loss of control as a parent.

One was that one of my children was getting up in the middle of the night to play online games while we were sleeping because we were monitoring the amount of technology hours they were allowed online. We found out that this child had been getting up at 3 in the morning every day, slipping on their uniform, playing Minecraft until I needed to wake them up, and then pretending to read in their room, absolutely wowing me that I did not have to pull them out of bed. Of course, the routine started to slip when they became an absolute disaster at school and emotional mess when they came home. We checked our internet logs to discover what was happening and realized it had been a routine for quite awhile before we realized they had been doing it.

The second was that one of our children left open their Google searches on our computer and a peek at their open search history yielded a serious discussion we needed to have about sex and the potential that their search could yield pornography or put them at risk of child predators. We should have had the talk sooner- it felt like a parenting fail to see what they were looking for.

The third were some unsavory jokes at our dinner table that apparently had been found on YouTube skits. 

Clearly, we had lost our control.

The Only Cyber Deal a Parent Needs

We started locking down the internet in as many ways as possible. No one could get on during certain hours, their Kindles had every parental restriction we could set, and we blocked any potential sites that we could that might pop up in their searches. We became police monitors of their behavior as best as we could, but still situations arose where we felt we lost control. My husband did hours and hours of research on what we could do to make this better, but we couldn’t find anything that fit our family’s needs. These blockers for our kids created blockers for me all day trying to do my job and I didn’t know how to reset the blockers my husband enabled. Potential monitoring systems would not work with our router so this is the crappy “block you from everything,”  solution that we had come up with for now.

Until THIS.  It’s called Circle. The company reached out to me to help spread the word about their service for the holidays. Honestly, I almost cried when I watched the video because this is what we needed.  THIS is what our family has been waiting for. THIS is the answer to our issues and I am so excited to show it to you today. I am over the moon excited that we are implementing this system in our home to help protect our kids and I can’t encourage you enough to consider the same system especially if you are having these struggles too.

I received a beta unit this week and would love to walk you through it. Even though I am a blogger, I can admit that I am not very tech savvy.  Watch the video to see how easy it was to set up for our family!

Every family needs this in their home.

Don’t believe me? Here is another video clip of it in action! 

Best part…

It’s only $99 FLAT (meaning no monthly fees!!)

Are you tired of letting the Internet dictate what your family is exposed to? Not Anymore! With Circle, you are the boss!

Here are 4 Awesome things you can EASILY do with Circle:

1. Set appropriate filters for EACH DEVICE. Use the pre-designed ones or customize your own.

iOS Screen 4

2. Track where your family is spending their time online. iOS Screen 3

3. Give your devices a BED TIME! iOS Screen 2

4. PAUSE the internet! Yes. you. can. iOS Screen 1

If you are still not convinced, read what these Circle customers are saying about it:

“As the father of four kids from elementary through college age, I am not exaggerating when I say Circle is EXACTLY the device I have been looking for to control the internet in my house. Circle truly is peace of mind in a little white box.” – Wayne Stocks

“Circle has literally changed our lives and how our family spends time on the internet. My worries of what my children could be exposed to online has changed overnight by the use of Circle. I can pause the internet anytime making getting chores or homework done much easier these days.” -Terra Nyce

“Circle makes it easy for me to protect my kids online, monitor usage across all our home’s devices, and create conversations with the entire family. It’s rare that something is simple and effective, but Circle is both.” — Michael Lukaszewski

We are so excited to finally have control again. Get control of the Internet and give your family this gift of Circle on Cyber Monday.

*This post contains an affiliate link, but I only promote things I believe will add value to your life.

How to Make a Homeless Care Package (Free Printable Supplies List)

Tuesday, November 10th, 2015

Note: From November 2012, this is one of the articles I’m most proud of on Mom Advice, and I’m SO happy that it’s also one of the most pinned, making me proud of YOU. I’m republishing it for our November Focus on Giving M Challenge with the hopes it will see a whole new group of people who will be inspired to give!

One thing that you may not know about our family is that we are really passionate about caring for the homeless. Creating a homeless care package can be one fantastic way that your entire family can be involved in caring for the homeless. Today we want to provide a checklist of supplies for the homeless, a local resources sheet you can print out (if you are in our area), and some tips for involving the whole family in this project.

This month Walmart let me choose a project that I was passionate about for the holidays and showcase how families could recreate it in their own homes. As I always disclose, I am compensated for my writing, BUT instead of accepting the compensation, we invested what I would have earned along with the gift card budget Walmart gave me to give back to the homeless in our community. 

These homeless care packages can be prepared for your local homeless shelters or kept tucked away in the trunk of your car for those you may see on the street looking for your help. I love feeling armed in these situations and these kits are a simple way to show how much you care.

I wouldn’t be truthful if I didn’t tell you that my husband inspires me every day with his giving heart. Last winter, he was coming home late from work because he would see people in need and run to stores to get them supplies and gift cards.

That is his heart.

That is why I love him.

If there is one thing I firmly believe in, it is that giving should be a family affair. We have to lead our children by our example. I want my children to remember that what made our family special is that we always gave with our whole hearts.  

My kids assisted in every aspect of this project. My son came with me and did the number crunching on a good old-fashioned calculator, my daughter helped sort and organize all of the items we bought, and both kids helped fill the bags with all of the necessary items.

Here Are My 3 Essential Elements to a Great Homeless Care Package

Feed Their Needs- One of the greatest gifts you can give to someone who is homeless is personal hygiene items and food to nourish their bodies. Begin by picking up items that will satisfy this area in their life first. Simple items like shampoo, a razor, deodorant, a toothbrush, toothpaste, a comb, a bar of soap, and tissues are great items to keep on hand.

Food like granola bars, crackers with peanut butter, trail mixes, dried fruits, and a bottle of water are also great items to tuck into your bags. If you have the funds, small denominator gift cards (we did $5 Walmart gift cards) can also be great to give so that they can pick up a meal or item(s) they might need.

Provide Warmth- We live in Indiana and the winters here are brutal. I can’t imagine how cold it would be to stand on the streets without the proper items I need for warmth. Add items like thermal boot socks, gloves, scarves, and hats to your gift bags. Items like these may seem out of your financial reach, but I found all of these at the dollar store and the sets of gloves were a mere $.50 each.

Feed Their Souls- I am sure it goes without saying, but feeding someone’s soul is just as important as feeding their needs. You can feed their souls in a variety of ways depending on your families beliefs and resources. We created a local resources list (available for local residents to download) that they can tap into for further resources in our town. A note that lets them know that they are on your prayer list, a note of encouragement by your children, or a scripture that you find comforting can also be excellent additions.

God has been so good to us, but 10 years ago we were in a very different place than where we are now.  My husband was unemployed for almost an entire year, our financial situation was a house of cards, and my heart was in a bad place. Although I don’t like to admit it, I wondered what my purpose on this earth even was. I never have forgotten that dark place and it is why we still try to be so careful with the resources we have been given and why I have such a tender place in my heart for those who are struggling.

Being careful though doesn’t mean that you can’t be a giver. There are fantastic ways to give, both big and small, around the holidays. Be sure to check our list of ten painless ways to give back to charities to help you get started.  I call these smaller ways to give the, “scraps of life giving.”  I have talked a lot about that with my partnership with Pure Charity as well! 

We want to help you give back to your community! Here are some resources to do just that!

Grab our Free Homeless Supply Checklist for your your care packages. Don’t just click on the picture, head to this link to grab a full-size PDF version!

Grab our Local Resources List for your care packages (if you don’t live in Michiana, you can use this as a template for your own sheet)!  Don’t just click on the picture, head to this link to grab a full-size PDF version!

 

How do you give back in your community? How do you teach your kids to be givers?

 

I am a part of the Walmart Moms program, and Walmart has provided me with compensation for these posts. For this project, all compensation was invested in aiding our area homeless.  My participation is voluntary and opinions are always my own.

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What We Have Learned From Adopting a Shelter Cat

Thursday, November 5th, 2015

Tracking Pixel

Why You Should Adopt a Shelter Cat from MomAdvice.com

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Fresh Step® litter.

I had never had a cat growing up, but when we were newly married the only type of animal that we were allowed to have in our apartment was a cat. We naively headed to a pet store and purchased our first cat who lived with us through the birth of our two children and a move that brought us from Massachusetts to Indiana. When she passed away, my home felt empty and I found myself incredibly lonely. I never realized how much she filled my days and how much I would miss her daily presence in my life.

Why You Should Adopt a Shelter Cat from MomAdvice.com our first family selfie with Lulu

This time, I was a little older and a little wiser than my newly married self. I knew that there were many cats available at the shelter that needed a home and I wanted to get our next animal from there to support a great local shelter. We knew that kittens went quickly while the older cats tended to stay longer so we picked out our sweet Lulu who was still a young lady at three, but had been at the shelter for awhile. What a hard selection it was though as we browsed pages and pages of cats looking for a home to call their own. Lulu captured our hearts thanks to her sweet disposition with kids, her sassy tuxedo, and her adorable name (I happened to play a Lulu in a high school play).

On July 15, 2013  we brought her home with us and I immediately moved into crazy cat lady loving territory. I have never loved an animal more than I love this cat.

Why You Should Adopt a Shelter Cat from MomAdvice.com

Why You Should Adopt a Shelter Cat from MomAdvice.com

Why You Should Adopt a Shelter Cat from MomAdvice.com

Why You Should Adopt a Shelter Cat from MomAdvice.com

Lulu has brought so much joy to my life and to our kid’s lives that we all fight over who gets to hang out with her.  She follows me from room to room like a puppy when it is just us two and enjoys the pets and snuggles from our kids when they get home, waiting by the door patiently for their arrival.  We celebrate her birthday every year on Halloween like the crazy cat lovers we are and sing her the birthday song, much to her disappointment. The torture!

Why You Should Adopt a Shelter Cat from MomAdvice.com

What Are the Benefits of Adopting a Shelter Cat?

There are so many benefits to adopting a shelter cat and today I want to share a few important reasons with you about what a special gift it is to give one a place in your home:

You Are Saving a Life- There are over  2.7 million animals who are euthanized each year because there are too many pets and far too few families to adopt. This number could be dramatically reduced if more families adopted instead of buying animals. Not only that, but by adopting an animal you also free up space for another animal to take their place and find a forever home.

You Can Take Advantage of Adopting an Adult Animal- Kittens are so fun, but can be a lot of work. Lucky for you, you can skip the toddler stage and jump right into adorable calm and companionship. We found an adult cat fits perfectly in our family and adds so much to our household.  With adult cats their sweet dispositions are already established and you can move right into world’s best couch companion without the crazy! 

You Support the Work of a Great Non-Profit- When you adopt a pet from our shelter, you assist a not-for-profit organization, but you also send a message to others who will be asking you for years to come where you obtained your adorable pet. There are so many incredible volunteers who spend countless hours caring for these animals as they await their forever homes. Nothing makes me happier than to honor the hard work of these volunteers by adopting a pet and supporting great companies like Fresh Steps®  who help support organizations like these.

Why You Should Adopt a Shelter Cat from MomAdvice.com

How Fresh Step® Helps Shelter Cats Through Their Million Meow Mission

Fresh Steps has a Million Meow Mission that strives to help all cats experience a loving home. Whether it is through caregiving, volunteering, or financial donations, they consider every act of kindness to a cat in need a true gift.

Although I was aware of the program, I wasn’t aware of the work they did to support fospice care. I am not sure if you have even heard of the term, “fospice care,” but it is one mission in particular that is so beautiful that it brought tears to my eyes.  Fospice care is when a family foster cares for a cat that is terminally ill and gives a shelter cat a loving home where they can spend their final days with a family. It certainly takes a special family to do this and Bosley was  one strong cat who overcame the odds and spent a beautiful year with one family who opened their home to make it a place of sanctuary for Bosley in his final days.

Watch this video about Bosley and the family who got to be his family during these last peaceful moments. How can you not want to support a mission like that?

This year, Fresh Step® continues its commitment to shelter cats by offering enhanced opportunities for its Paw Points loyalty members to get involved. Members can:

    • Enter their Paw Points Code to show support for shelter cats and receive a Million Meow Mission badge to share on social media
    • Donate Paw Points to support shelters and receive a $2-off Fresh Step® coupon and a Million Meow Mission badge to share on social media
    • Share their Adoption Story with the community. For more information on the Million Meow Mission and to get involved, please visit their website.

 

We hope you can join us in supporting this great cause through your purchase of Fresh Step® Litter. Now that we know their mission to assist others, it makes our purchase feel even more special!

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Fresh Step® litter.

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3 Ways to Take the Hassle Out of Packing School Lunches {& Free Printable!}

Tuesday, September 29th, 2015

This is a post from our diy/craft contributor, MJ.

Mom Advice lunch time printable- free download!

For the first time ever, I’m packing lunches for three kids – which means three drinks, three sandwiches, three treats, and three sets of complaints! Like any parent, I strive to pack healthy and tasty meals that the kids can enjoy in the middle of their days, but oftentimes my best attempts fall short of their hopeful stomachs.

So now that our trial and error efforts have failed, and I’ve talked it over with my children, we’re proud to recommend these three ideas that have helped turn our lunchtime fails into lunches that leave only the crumbs behind.

1. Ask your children what they want and give them the tools to make good decisions.

Before we head upstairs for bedtime, I ask each child what they’d like for lunch. Sometimes we have what they want, sometimes they ask for food they shouldn’t have, and sometimes they have NO ideas. To avoid the headache, I created this Lunchbox Helper!

DOWNLOAD THE FREE LUNCHBOX HELPER PRINTABLE!

Lunch box helper printable

Food choices are separated (roughly) by food groups, and my children are able to make smart choices for themselves (eg: see that fruits and vegetables should be a part of every meal!). It’s also come in very handy for grocery prep. My children can add their own ideas to the sheet and mark off what they’d like to pack for lunches and snacks, and we can know in advance what we need to have in our pantry!

3 Ways to Take the Hassle our of School Lunches

2. Organize ingredients in a place they can pack for themselves!

Lunchbox Helper lets your children see and select what they want to eat, but let’s take it to the next level and have them pack their own meals. In our home, we have all the good stuff on the lower shelves where small hands can reach exactly what they need. In the pantry and in the refrigerator, all the fruits, veggies, grains and goodies are at child height.

I love how Amy organized her space so that an entire lunch can be gathered up from the space of a few drawers. No confusion means less work and less hassle for everyone!

School Lunch Ideas

3. No matter how the food tastes, send them off with your love notes.

When my oldest started in full-day Kindergarten, I sent her off with a note in her lunchbox. As she mentioned that she sometimes didn’t know what to talk about at the lunch table, I started adding a joke to those notes. Over the years, these evolved into illustrated notes with the drawing sometimes being much funnier than the corny joke!

Through a wonderful partnership with The Land of Nod, my illustrated jokes are now reaching hundreds of lunchboxes! Just a few months ago, my Lunchtime LOL Notes went on sale as a full pack of 180 jokes for every day of the school year. It’s been such a treat to hear how parents and children alike are enjoying these notes and turning any menu into a time for giggles.

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I’d love to hear your ideas! What works for packing lunches in your family? Any great foods to suggest?

XOXO, MJ