Archive for the ‘Parenting & Marriage’ Category

Our Hamilton Chicago Family Review and Experience

Monday, December 5th, 2016

Our Hamilton Chicago Family Review and Experience

It’s 4:30 in the morning and I just can’t sleep. I can admit that I am still riding on quite the high after returning last night from a, TRULY, unforgettable weekend with my family. For those of you that follow me on the interwebz, you already know why it was so exciting, but if you are just catching up, I wanted to share with you the surprise getaway I pulled off to see Hamilton in Chicago with my kids. So many people have been messaging me and asking us questions about our experience that I thought I would share it with you so that others could replicate all the fun that we had!

How We Caught the Hamilton Bug

We caught the Hamilton bug a little later than most of my friends, but when we caught it,  we we fell fast and hard for Hamilton. During a marathon on a puzzle, over our Fall break, we started listening to the soundtrack with our kids. As soon as it finished, they begged to listen to it all over again…and again…and again. It happened to be around the time of the PBS documentary, so we curled up on a couch with them and watched that too. As we drove home from our holiday (blasting Hamilton at full volume), we asked the kids IF (and this was a big IF) we could get tickets to Hamilton, would they be interested in doing this for Christmas. Our family is BIG on experiences and not big on crap in our house so this was, of course, a welcome and familiar idea for our kids.  In fact, we have done a couple of our very own Choose Your Own Adventure Christmas gifts that have been an incredible way to give the gift of experience to our children.

We did not talk about it again with them and pretended like this would never happen in a million years. In fact, they did not know until the morning we left where we were even headed, not only because we wanted to surprise them, but because it didn’t even feel real to us.

hamilton

How Did We Get Tickets!?!

We are known for being frugal so thinking about buying tickets when balcony seats are going for $600 (or more!) seemed way out of our comfort zone for pricing. This month was a crazy month for us though on the site thanks to Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and the holiday content I had written. We doubled our ad revenue this past month, thanks to that burst in traffic, and we had more sales than we have ever had through the site, sometimes in just a single day!  Each time you make a purchase, we make a small commision off your purchases.  This passive revenue is nothing I ever bank on, it is always just a really happy surprise.

Basically, THANK YOU!

Just in case, I glossed over the whole the site did great stuff, this was the most work I have ever put into it this season. I actually went four days without sleep or a shower, we ate cereal for a week so I could hang out online tracking stuff, and I was pretty awful to everyone around me.

I like to live in a truthful place.

In the end, we pretended like that extra money did not exist and set that amount aside to give our family an experience of a lifetime. It was money that we did not bank upon so it made that a wee bit easier to spend.

 

Privatebank Theater Seating

Just because you have the money though doesn’t make it easier to spend especially if you are unfamiliar with a theater or its seating. PrivateBank Theater  (formerly Bank of America Theatre- VERY CONFUSING!) has some really good seats and some REALLY terrible seats.  My worst fear is to spend a ridiculous amount of money only to find that we can’t see a thing when we got there.

I spent a month scoping out tickets, but also asked for advice from a friend who frequently buys concert tickets and is just a guru in general on ticket buying. His advice was to wait until the last possible minute to insure the best deal on the tickets.

We are a two hour drive away from Chicago so we knew we could do that.

 

vivd-seats-2

After searching on a million sites, we ended up going with VividSeats for two reasons. The first reason was that they actually had the lowest priced tickets after hunting all of the other usual suspect sites. The second was that they offered a 100% buyer guarantee on those seats and it felt less risky than doing something like buying them on eBay.

I used the site,  A View From My Seat to help us figure out if our seats would be good or not. This is a great tool for ANY event you are going to and can help determine if your tickets are a good value or not. Basically, people take a quick phone shot from their seat and tell you whether it is a good one or not. This was the shot that I found from the tickets we were looking at which said, “Limited View.” Because the view was limited, it lowered the value on the tickets and gave us seats in Orchestra Row F for $300 each which ended up being less than the nosebleed seats. Spoiler alert:  the seats were fantastic and better than we could hope for! More on that later…

hamilton-day

Was the process smooth? No, thanks to the seller we bought them from. Waiting until last minute yielded great prices and a panic attack until they arrived. I logged in to check that the tickets had been sent out and Wednesday evening they still had not been sent out for us to leave on Saturday morning. I called VividSeats where I talked to a real-life person who put me on hold, called the seller on another line, and discovered he had not sent them out like he was supposed to. We made alternate back-up arrangements to have them shipped directly to our hotel and she assured me that I would be getting my tickets as soon as possible.

The tickets were overnighted and arrived on my doorstep at 4:30 PM the night before we left. I was so thankful to have them in my hands and practically kissed the delivery man who looked bewildered at the unshowered woman in her pajamas having a near meltdown at the front door. I really appreciated that VividSeats was quick to action and that they made sure that they honored their buyer guarantee to have them to us before our event.

We woke them in the morning and I think they were just stunned. I had packed their bags for them and we were a little disappointed they weren’t losing it about all of this. It wasn’t until we pulled up to the hotel that they were BESIDE THEMSELVES. Much like us, seeing is believing!
thewit chicago

thewit chicago

Where Did We Stay for Hamilton Chicago?

This was our first overnight with our kids in Chicago, but not my own first overnight there. When I did a girl’s trip, one of the gals arranged our stay at theWit. We got the room for a steal and had a really enjoyable stay so it seemed like a great place to try again. The best part is that it was within walking distance of everything so after I booked our tickets, I booked a stay again at theWit. Definitely check for deals through sites like Booking.com, Hotels.com, or TripAdvisor for scoring a really good rate.

Staying for a girl’s trip is a lot different than staying somewhere with your kids though. I was shocked when the concierge emailed me and said that he saw were coming with our children and wanted to be available to me to answer any questions. We knew our kids would love getting Chicago pizza so I emailed a request for a nearby option for gluten-free pizza. They emailed their pick (it was PERFECTION!) and a menu so we could look it over before we came.

The night before arriving the concierge called again to make sure we had everything in place. He explained the valet parking option ($65 overnight and they park it for you!), went over what time we would be arriving so our room would be ready, and assured us they were available moving forward for anything and gave me his number to call if anything came up.

Um, awesome!

We ended up getting there an hour earlier than we said and the staff was apologetic that the room was just being inspected and not ready. After we threw our diva fit about it being unacceptable (JUST KIDDING!)  they got us water and snacks and a few short minutes later, we had keys and headed up to our beautiful room. After breakfast, we came back to a gorgeous complimentary fruit platter welcoming us which was, seriously, the nicest thing ever.

This location was about a 10-15 minute walk to theater and on the way we could see all the beautiful holiday displays in the windows!
Hamilton Chicago Family Review

Hamilton Chicago Family Review

Hamilton Chicago Family Review

What Did We Think of Hamilton Chicago?

As we headed into the theater, an older couple asked if my husband and I were aware of the content in Hamilton since we came with our kids. He grinned and said that they had heard the soundtrack many a time and that we were very aware of what we were taking them to.

There are a couple of f-bombs in the show and there is a sexy number, when Hamilton is involved in a torrid affair,  that is pretty sultry. There are also a few sexual innuendos and such that I doubt went completely over their heads.

Here is what I will say about this. I’m a Christian and we have kept our kids very sheltered from a lot in life. At the same time, there are a few things that have recently happened that gave us confidence that our children had the maturity to see this show.

The first is that they are both in middle school now.

Do you remember middle school?

Hard knock life, yo!

They are already hearing this stuff from their peers and what they saw on stage, I doubt, is any worse than they get to experience on a bus ride.

I’m just having a little flashback to a good Christian girl getting down to Humpty Dance repeatedly at dances reminds me that I’m not too worried about seeing a musical with my kids- hahaha!

The second thing is that this political season has been a doozy and they have been exposed to a lot of garbage thanks to that. Many things happened that I wished I could have sheltered them from, but they still heard all that stuff from their peers, on their news at school in the mornings, and what they have heard on NPR.  This election season, as awful as it was, has created a really honest dialogue with our children about politics and our beliefs. Hamilton is about politics and it is also about a revolution.

You know, our kids are living through a revolution right now and we wanted them to see what happens when people become a part of that narrative for change.

We want to raise kids that are part of the change, part of the good, part of the narrative.

The only worry we had about the Pence drama, by the way, was that it would raise the price of our tickets.

If you thought that might be a worry for us, I encourage you to get to know our family better!

Namaste.

Hamilton Chicago Cast

source: chicago sun times

Being familiar with the original cast doesn’t insure anything though, does it? I have gone to many shows where the current cast was a world away from the original cast. Here is what I want to say, this cast is as incredible as the original cast and does not AT ALL feel like a second-rate show. Being as close to the stage as we were, certainly gave us a very personal perspective of the acting to really witness every nuance and every facial expression. I can’t begin to tell you how moving and how incredibly well done this production is.

Lin-Manuel handpicked their next lead for Hamilton and this is the first leading role for Miguel. You would have never known he hadn’t been the lead in everything he has done and Miguel adds his own flavor to Hamilton, never feeling like a Lin-Manuel knockoff ever at any point in this show.

Every single actor is incredible so it feels unkind to single any out, but I have to do it.

Joshua Henry is one of the most incredible talents I have ever seen on the stage. He played Burr in such a controlled way and the emotions he displayed had me absolutely weeping through much of the show. His voice was unreal good and a perfect rendering needed for Burr.

Ari Afasar’s performance as Eliza was the one that I was most worried about. Phillipa Soo’s voice doesn’t seem like a voice that can be replicated, but Ari’s performance was astounding and perfectly pitched too. It was so much better than I could have ever expected.

Karen Olivo made from an incredible Angelica. There is this point in the show, after her toast to the bride and groom, where the emotion is rawly displayed on her face at this union between her sister & Hamilton. For me, it was one of the moments that made the whole show. In fact, I could burst into tears again thinking about it. That one moment, for me, really showed off what caliber of actress she was.

Hamilton Chicago Cast

source: chicago times

Chris De’Sean Lee plays both Marquis de Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson and adds humor and heart to this performance. He soars in, “What’d I Miss?” and had my kids belly-laughing through his portions in the show.

Alex Gemignani as King George could not have been more pitch perfect. There is so much about his part that you don’t get to hear on the soundtrack and he adds so much hilarity to an often serious show. In fact, King George ended up being both kid’s favorite in the show.

Even the stage was so cleverly constructed and set designer, David  Korins, shared that they even tried 33 different colors of brick before they found the one that matched the costumes best. Not a detail was spared on this project and it shows.

At the angle we were seated, we could look into the wing of the theater as the actors exited and entered on stage. I have done so many shows during my own time of theater so I was curiously watching them while trying to take in the show. They never once broke character, not once. Each face you would gaze upon was completely in that moment on stage and never strayed. I think that also says a lot!

Generously, after our performance, Alex shared that they were raising money to assist those with HIV. Several members of their cast stood with buckets to take our donations and it was incredibly moving as a fan to get to say, “YOU WERE AMAZING,” in a really intense stalker kind of way to them.

I hope we didn’t scare them.

As soon as we left, my wish was to do it all over again. The show felt like minutes for me, my son, and my husband. My daughter, however, was satisfied with the first act and it took a forty dollar soda to get her back in her seat for the second act.

She loved it, it was just a long day of travel and excitement for her!

At ten and fourteen, I do believe they loved and appreciated this experience. It’s like Disney…you want them to be old enough to appreciate it so you feel like you made a good investment. We really felt like this was a great age for that.

The Art Institute of Chicago

What Else Did We Do After Hamilton Chicago?

The kids were pretty wiped after the show and we were really glad we picked the 2PM one and not the evening performance because of that. We packed a collection of our favorite Christmas movies (these two for them and this one for us!) and scored a DVD player through the guest services at our hotel. We ordered our yummy pizza, got in our pajamas, and had a Christmas movie marathon.

After a lazy morning, we headed over to The Art Institute of Chicago for the day and got to see some REALLY incredible art (it was also within walking distance of our hotel!)If you haven’t been, it’s an incredible museum filled with more art than you can ever imagine. They also have a beautiful cafe to sip some warm drinks in between.

Shake Shack

Shake Shack

We finished our trip with our first visit to a Shake Shack (which was right across the street from the museum!)  and I really hope it isn’t our last. HOLY YUM!! You can get their patties wrapped in lettuce if you are gluten-free. The shakes are divine and a midday glass of wine hit the spot too for this tired mama!

Unfortunately, the weather took an awful turn and my poor husband had to get us back in the middle of a whiteout and slick roads. We were all so thankful to be home after seeing so many people in accidents. Had the weather not done that, the entire weekend would have been absolutely perfect.

The Hamilton Mixtape

We managed to make it through that awful weather thanks, in part,  to The Hamilton Mixtape that came out giving us a chance to hear songs from the show in an entirely different way. If you haven’t heard it yet, you are in for a real treat. Artists like Sia, Nas, Alicia Keys, Andra Day, Jimmy Fallon, The Roots and so many other incredible talents put their own personal spin on songs from the musical. You also get to hear the original demos as well as some original music that was created and mixed just for this project. You must, must, must listen to it!

hamilton-chicago-family-review

This Christmas will definitely go down in our memory books as one of the best we have ever had. Thank you to the incredible cast of Hamilton Chicago for making it an experience we shall never forget and making an incredible family memory that I hope will last a lifetime!

Thanks so much for letting us share about our experience with you!

Have questions? Ask me!

This post contains affiliate links that help our site! Thank you for supporting me! xoxo 

 

I Hope You Brought a Second Piece of Luggage

Friday, November 11th, 2016

America

Our son is preparing for high school this year and, in our district, that means choosing a field of interest he might want to explore at college and selecting what option might fit his needs best. It was quite the process because it was really important to us that we pick the right thing for him. We went to hours and hours of meetings, we poured over the information that was sent home and spent lots of time talking to parents about how it all worked and their experience with the school. After all that time vested this year, we were relieved to find a school that would fit his needs perfectly. We can’t wait for this next chapter with him!

For me, the election season was like that. I never go into voting lightly and this year, I believe, was my most informed voter decision that I had ever made. I took unbiased quizzes to try to figure out what issues aligned with me most, I watched each of the debates, I spent hours reading articles from both sides of the coin, and I talked endlessly with my husband about what we were looking for in this presidential election. I was very vested when I placed my vote, as I know many of you were, and the person that I thought would do a good job did not win.

I expected what I saw on social media, but it’s been an awful scroll from both sides.

I hope you will humor me for a moment and envision the voting process a little differently than maybe the way you did before. I want you to imagine that when each person went to vote they carried behind them their luggage of issues. Maybe you came with an overnight sack of a couple of things that were important to you and placed your vote or you just had a week’s worth of stuff that was easier to roll and to manage while you were voting.

Others though were backing up moving vans of issues and trying to haul that in with them when they voted. That van was loaded, heavy, and packed to the brim.

When we got home, maybe your overnight bag was easy to unpack and you felt good about the outcome of the day. Even if it didn’t go your way, you felt good about unpacking and moving on to the next chapter.   You went about making your coffee, feeling good, and you gazed out your window and saw your neighbor with all this stuff just strewn all over the lawn.

It was a mess over there.

They looked overwhelmed and they were just sitting in the middle of it looking bewildered at how they were ever going to put all this crap away.

What is your knee jerk reaction to this view?

Do you roll your eyes and tell them to declutter? You laugh and head to your computer to make a hilarious meme on hoarding- your friends are going to LOVE this!

Do you head into the house and message them a helpful article that outlines why they should have hired a moving service? They should have known this was going to happen. You always saw it coming and had shared with them lots of articles before they moved about outsourcing this. I guess they did not read them.

Do you yell out the window, “Get up and put it away! You look emotional and you need to get over it and make your lawn look like mine!”

Do you put your coffee down, get your coat on, and tell them you want to help? You’re overwhelmed with their mess, but you know it might lighten the load if you did something. You know you are good at praying, listening, and organizing. You know they are hurting and and you are good at many of these things. You can’t do the unpacking, but wouldn’t it be nice to tell them that you are their friend.

What I worry about is that some of us may have forgotten a second piece of luggage in baggage claim. It was the bag with the empathy in it that helps you see your neighbor with love. Some people unpacked those bags and used them, but I fear that others of us forgot them. That second piece of luggage was really important for both sides to be able to work together. That second piece was the key to helping unpack the first one.

I’ll admit, this family still has some stuff on their lawn so I apologize for the view. We are hoping the view will change, but we haven’t gotten everything put away yet. We will get there, but we are trying to distribute that second piece of luggage to our friends while still unpacking our own. It wasn’t a moving truck size, but it wasn’t an overnight bag.

The silver lining to this story is that I know that we ALL want this country to succeed and this is the common theme that I am choosing to focus on.  I love our people and our country. I am praying that the transition is a good and hopeful one. We need it!

If you are feeling in the dumps right now, I hope that this will be an enjoyable scroll as I highlight the good in the world.

Good In Action

3 Ways to Encourage Creativity in Our Kids

Tuesday, October 25th, 2016

From our marriage & parenting contributor, Mary Carver.

3 Ways to Encourage Creativity in Our Kids from MomAdvice.com

We’ve been practicing a lot of basic math facts at our house this month. My older daughter has lost that loving feeling for math (a subject she’s run hot and cold on throughout elementary school), despite my repeated declarations that math is everywhere! and yes, she really WILL use this in real life! And somehow, between second and third grade, she’s apparently forgotten all the subtraction facts she memorized last year.

So it’s been pop quizzes over dinner, practice tests after karate, and flashcards in the car for us. Because I’ve read what feels like a million articles about the importance of emphasizing STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and math) with our kids — and especially our girls. It’s why I’ve enrolled my daughter in science and robotics classes the past few summers and why we have engineering blocks and doll sets stacked up in her room.

But it’s also why we play dress-up and pretend at our house (and why she also goes to theater camp every summer). I’m no researcher or education professional, but as far as I can tell, having the ability to think creatively is just as important to school (and life) success as memorizing facts.

As I watched my daughter try to figure out another math problem on the worksheet her teacher sent home one night, I realized she was so frustrated and confused that she wasn’t even using common sense. In a bit of a fit, I grabbed her most recent timed test and flipped it over. I drew a tic tac toe board, a carton of eggs, and a hand. “That’s nine!” I exclaimed. “And twelve! And FIVE! You KNOW five!”

My daughter had gotten so worked up, her brain had frozen. She had stopped using common sense or thinking creatively — two things that are crucial for solving any problem! (And, to be fair, I had neglected to help her with math up to this point because she is being taught in a totally different way than I was taught three decades ago. Whether or not I like this “new math,” I respect her teacher and was afraid of confusing my daughter even more with my lack of understanding of the strategies she’s being taught.)

Since that homework session, I’ve bought flash cards and begun reviewing math facts with my daughter on a regular basis. I’ve taken time to read the worksheets she brings home, in an effort to understand the way her teacher approaches math. But I’ve also looked for opportunities to encourage problem solving, to think outside the box, to help my daughter use common sense to figure out something new. It’s reminded me of the importance of creativity and the things we can do to encourage it in our kids.

As I said before, I am no expert. I have not conducted research. I’m merely a mom who’s connected a few dots for what her two kids need as they learn and grow. Perhaps creative thinking isn’t the missing piece for your kids. But if it is, here are a few easy, fun ways you can encourage it:

3 Ways to Encourage Creativity in Our Kids from MomAdvice.com

3 Ways to Encourage Creativity in Our Kids

Play dress-up. I’m a girl mom, so you will probably not be surprised to learn that we have princess dresses and a Minnie Mouse costume in our house. But we also have costumes that turn my girls into firefighters, chefs, doctors and veterinarians. Not to mention the animal hats and clown noses floating around in the toy box. And, really, anything laying around can be used for dressing up.

My girls’ current obsession is running around the house, rescuing each other, while wearing capes. Or putting on Dad’s hat or Mom’s shoes and pretending to be a grown-up.

When I first began encouraging my oldest daughter to play dress-up, it was solely a girl power, “you can be anything you want to be” thing. But eventually I realized the additional value of this playtime activity. Simply by asking a few pointed questions, I can set my girls on a journey of learning and perspective-shifting.

“What would a doctor want for snack?”
“How would a princess pick up her toys?”
“Do you think a firefighter would like to wear these shoes or those shoes?”

Thinking outside the box, developing empathy for others, learning about different types of people (not just different careers, although that’s a place to start): all of these can be outcomes of a simple costume party.

Play pretend. Last night, my two-year-old left the dinner table (we were mostly finished and just talking for a minute). She walked over to her play kitchen and then came back, saying, “I need the pink screwdriver.” I stared blankly at her for a moment before realizing what we were doing. I mimed handing her a tool and said, “Here you go!” She thanked me and ran back to her toys.

She has a giant basket of toy food and toy dishes in that kitchen, but she wanted to play mechanic. She actually has a play toolkit in our basement, but she’d rather use make-believe tools for her projects.

And so, just like the days when her sister would lay under our dining room table and pretend to “work on the car,” I play along. When she hands me a plate of that play food and tells me it’s hot, I put it up to my mouth and act like I burned my tongue. I take tiny sips and big gulps of the “tea” she serves me, and I make up scary spiders I need to be saved from so “Super Adrienne” has a reason to run to my rescue.

I sometimes think about that scene in Hook, the Robin Williams movie about a grown-up Peter Pan, when Peter and the Lost Boys get into a pretend food fight. No, I don’t think that pretending her imaginary pink screwdriver is real will make it appear in my daughter’s hands. But I do think that when we pretend we expand our minds and our world so that more is possible than would ever be in real life.

That’s fun — and it also helps us think creatively later when we’re trying to solve problems that seem impossible.

Don’t forget to say, “Yes, and…” Using the most basic rule of improv, whenever I can I try to say, “Yes, and…” when my girls play dress-up or pretend. By extending the pretend game or story, I encourage their imaginations to run wild and their brains to keep growing. [You can read more about this strategy here.]

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not always game for imaginary friends or pretend games. For the past several days my oldest daughter has been carrying on a game of “balloon ball,” a highly competitive [made-up] sport of which she is, reportedly, the world champion. I love seeing her creativity and confidence, but OH MY WORD am I ever tired of listening to her drone on with the play-by-play of this pretend game!

So, even though I love pretend and dress-up and all things imaginary, I have my limits, too. So I say yes when I can, and then I pull out the flashcards or a basket of books when I can’t stand it anymore.

How do you encourage creativity in your kids?

How to Enjoy Autumn to the Fullest

Tuesday, October 4th, 2016

From our marriage & parenting contributor, Mary Carver.

Tips to Enjoy Autumn at MomAdvice.com

Every year, as I sprint (or limp, depending on the year) toward Labor Day and long for routine and cooler temperatures and colorful leaves and pumpkin everything, I vow that this will be the year I really enjoy fall. Summer is, quite simply, not my favorite season — but my reward for surviving it each year is autumn. So you’d think I would enjoy it, right?

Ahhhhh, autumn.

Brisk air and comfy sweaters and crunchy leaves and hot drinks and apple picking and pumpkin carving. Autumn, the season of change and preparation as we gently roll toward the holidays and a colder, more hectic time of life. Right? It sounds so romantic, doesn’t it?

[Speaking of romantic, don’t forget to date your husband this fall…]

But the reality of September and October and [hold me] November is that this season is just as crazy chaotic as every other one. We have practices and games and rehearsals and concerts to add to the calendar, not to mention dentist appointments and counseling sessions and family dinners and book club and Bible study and craft projects. (Seriously. Is there another non-Christmas season with SO MANY craft projects?!)

In my family we have a birthday on top of all of the “usual” stuff, and more often than not, as we dive bomb into the holidays I realize that I missed it. I missed my favorite season, the best season of all (in my unbiased opinion!). I missed autumn. Again.

Well, not this year! I’m determined to enjoy every bit of fall this year, and I want to encourage you to do the same. I have a few ideas for making this happen, and I’m happy to share them with you. Just in case you have missed an autumn or two, but long to truly enjoy this beautiful season.

2 ways to enjoy fall to it's fullest at MomAdvice.com

2 Ways to Enjoy Autumn

1. Pick three things. We all know the temptation of bucket lists, and heaven knows I’ve made my share. But this fall, instead of adding every fall-type activity to your to-do list (not to mention printing it out and putting it on the fridge), why not keep it simple? We’ve already discussed how busy regular life is before we begin adding field trips to the apple orchard. So just pick three things. Pick one special autumn food to make (my all-time favorite is this DELICIOUS pumpkin bread), pick one craft to make (I’ve already bought the supplies to make this wreath from Amy), and pick one trip to take (and if it just happens to be the church fall festival, THAT’S STILL GOOD AND FUN AND ENOUGH!).

Pick three things – a food, a craft, and a trip.

And then? Use all that extra time you’ll have (hahaha!) to simply walk outside and breathe in the crisp air. Or watch a football game. Or let your kids buy pumpkins on your next run to the grocery store. (Believe me, they are still festive when they come from the grocery store and not the pumpkin patch.)

2. Count your days. Time flies when we’re busy or when we’re looking forward to big events, and fall is full of both those things for me. So this year I’m going to make sure I am intentionally taking note of each individual day. (I mean, probably not EACH and EVERY day. Let’s be realistic and accept that even every other day is still better than letting an entire season pass in a blur or parties and costumes and crafts and meetings!)

A few ways you might make your days count this autumn are with a daily photo challenge, reading a seasonal quote or a scripture each day, or keeping a gratitude journal. Or, if you’re feeling really ambitious (or unable to make a choice…something I am quite familiar with!), you could do one of those each month of the season. Start reading a Bible verse each day this month, then take a photo challenge next month, and finish up with a daily gratitude exercise in November.

However you do it (and, really, keep it as simple as you need to), just do something to intentionally appreciate your days.

When it comes to enjoying every season, I sometimes struggle between committing to carpe-ing the diem out of life and remembering that, more than likely, there will be another opportunity to carve pumpkins if we don’t do it this week, this month, this fall. But this year, I’m determined to let all of that struggling and striving and regretting go.

I am going to LIVE and LOVE and ENJOY this autumn. Will you join me?

 

Brain Food: Trail Mix Energy Bites

Monday, October 3rd, 2016

Trail Mix Energy Bites from MomAdvice.com

I’m partnering today with Workman Publishing to chat a little more about our family’s genuine love for the new Big Fat Notebooks series, perfect for your middle school child, and to share a fun brain food snack to pair with these fun books!

Trail Mix Energy Bites from MomAdvice.com

Last month I shared with you my car organizing strategies (I can’t believe it still looks REALLY good, you guys!! Miracles DO happen!) and how we have incorporated these books into our car time as a great activity to make the most of those moments. Just like I love to take in a good audiobook or a podcast while I am driving, I love that this pocket of time is perfect for some fun learning on the way for my kids. Why not make the most of all those wasted minutes?

Trail Mix Energy Bites from MomAdvice.com Trail Mix Energy Bites from MomAdvice.com Trail Mix Energy Bites from MomAdvice.com

I know I have said it before, but these books are F-U-N. I am actually going to include these in our holiday gift guide because I think they make an incredible gift for any kid. As you can see, they are adorably illustrated and even the font choice makes it not feel like a textbook, but more like a Diary of a Wimpy Kid escape.

Do you remember that show, Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader? Since my daughter has been asking me questions about the things she has been learning from this book and reciting trivia on different subjects, I can tell you that I am, indeed, NOT.

Hey, I can’t be good at everything!

There are five books in this fun series and each is the only book you need for each main subject taught in middle school: Math, Science, American History, English Language Arts, and World History. Did I mention that they meet  Common Core State Standards, Next Generation Science Standards, and state history standards?

Yup, pretty awesome stuff.

You can find these fantastic books at AmazonBarnes & NobleIndiebound, or Workman.

Here are 4 fun free Big Fat Notebooks worksheets to get you started! 

Thinking Like a Scientist

How to Take Great Notes

Displaying Data

Ancient Egypt Timeline

Trail Mix Energy Bites from MomAdvice.com Trail Mix Energy Bites from MomAdvice.com

In honor of fueling our brains, I wanted to create a brain food treat that the whole family will enjoy and requires ZERO baking. Holla!  I am a big fan of energy bites and this little bite is filled with a protein-rich trail mix that is bound together with peanut butter, oatmeal, and quinoa.

I loved these plain, but I thought they could benefit from a little crunch so I toasted up quinoa in a skillet (watch out, it pops!!) and rolled these trail mix bites into the toasty quinoa for a crunchy coating that reminds me of sesame seeds or even rice cereal.

What Makes These Trail Mix Bites Good Fuel for Your Brain?

Nuts and seeds contain omega-3 essential fatty acids, a major building block of brain cells that are critical for a good memory and stable mood (AKA, they fight the HANGRY!). They are also rich in B complex vitamins, vitamin E, iron, zinc, and magnesium. It takes all these important nutrients to help keep your brain functioning well.

Quinoa is our binding agent and our crispy coating and it also contains vital nutrients for your noggin. Quinoa is so easy to prepare in a rice cooker (this tutorial should help!) and happens to be one of my favorite gluten-free indulgences. Quinoa, pronounced (KEEN-wah) is a very nutritious gluten-free seed that originates from the Andean region of South America. It also is a fantastic source of protein, contains all eight amino acids, is a good source of dietary fiber, contains B Vitamins, and iron. All such good stuff to help your brain!

I hope you can share this delicious brain food (both the treat AND the incredible Big Fat Notebooks with your kids. They truly make learning fun and I’m so happy our family got to share about these with you!

Trail Mix Energy Bites from MomAdvice.com

Trail Mix Energy Bites
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 24
 
Fuel your brain with these delicious energy bites that provide vital nutrients and vitamins. Packed with quinoa, these gluten-free treats are satisfying and filling!
Ingredients
  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • ½ cup honey
  • 2 cups cooked quinoa (check the post above for cooking directions or follow packaging)
  • 1-1/2 cups quick cooking oats
  • ½ cup almonds
  • ½ cup pistachios
  • ½ cup dry roasted peanuts
  • ½ cup dried cranberries
  • ¾ cup uncooked quinoa
Instructions
  1. In a dry skillet, heat it to medium heat and toast the uncooked quinoa for 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally. You want the energy bite to look golden. Be careful, quinoa does pop!
  2. In a large bowl mix together all the other ingredients until they are incorporated well.
  3. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and then begin scooping & rolling the balls (I like a cookie dough scooper for this).
  4. Roll each ball into the toasted quinoa, coating all sides evenly. Place on the parchment lined cookie sheet and repeat until all of the batter has been used.
  5. Place the cookie sheet in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Remove and then place them in an airtight container for snacking.

 Recipe Adapted from The Baker Mama

 This post was sponsored by Workman Publishing and Big Fat Notebooks. All thoughts and opinions are my own! Be sure to follow the Workman Blog for more great ideas!

How to Make Elephant Toothpaste

Tuesday, September 13th, 2016

How to Make Elephant Toothpaste from MomAdvice.com

This post was sponsored by Bayer. All thoughts and opinions are my own!

If we are only doing science with our kids when the science fair rolls around, I feel like we are missing the boat. Every day is an opportunity to teach something about science with our kids through simple routine moments throughout our day. From baking bread to why their bath tub toys float to how swinging at the park really works…that’s all science (and pretty amazing!).

Simple daily activities are a great way to incorporate science into our daily routines and most parents have a desire for that. In fact, in Bayer’s recent back-to-school survey, nearly all (95%) parents surveyed agree that it would be helpful to have tips for turning simple activities into science learning opportunities for their children, which is why Bayer decided to create a program to address this need.

So many of these teaching moments are overlooked in our house so I am excited to partner with Bayer as they work to improve science literacy in kids through their award-winning program, Making Science Make Sense (MSMS). In this program, Bayer creates hands-on lessons to kids to seriously think about science and fostering the seeds of science in our kids even when they are small. It inspired our family to take a science challenge of our own and gave us a TRULY fun moment with our daughter while teaching her a really important science lesson in the process.

I honestly don’t know who was more excited- my daughter or my husband.

Who doesn’t love a crazy chemical reaction?

If you don’t want to take on our experiment, you can tackle so many easy and fun experiments through the MSMS science library exploring topics like what happens when water boils, where the light from sun comes, and why do oil and water not mix. Not only are these fun things to talk through together, they could also definitely round out a homeschool curriculum.

Since we have middle school kids, we have found it takes a lot to wow them so I wanted to create some science fun that they had never seen before. Grab your safety glasses and dive into a fun science experiment with us as we make Elephant Toothpaste and learn a heck of a lot of science in the process.

How to Make Elephant Toothpaste

 

How to Make Elephant Toothpaste from MomAdvice.com

How to Make Elephant Toothpaste from MomAdvice.com

Supplies Needed:

1 Cookie Sheet

1 Empty 2-liter container

1 Tablespoon of Dry Yeast

3 Tablespoons Warm Water

Small Cup For Mixing

Liquid Dish Soap

1/2 cup 20-volume hydrogen peroxide liquid (20-volume is a 6% solution and not available at drugstores so make sure you get the type we are linking to)

Food Coloring

Rubber Gloves

Funnel

Safety Goggles (we bought these and they fit perfectly)

How to Make Elephant Toothpaste from MomAdvice.com

 Directions for Making Elephant Toothpaste

 Please note: We advise parents do the pouring of the hydrogen peroxide as it can irritate the skin and eyes.

1. In a clean 2-liter bottle add 8 drops of food coloring. We picked blue to look like toothpaste!

2. Next have an adult add the hydrogen peroxide to the mixture. A funnel really helps with this step!

2. Add one tablespoon of your liquid dish soap to the bottle. Have your child swish the bottle gently.

3. In a separate cup, mix together the dry yeast and warm water. Mix, mix, mix for 30 seconds.

How to Make Elephant Toothpaste from MomAdvice.com

4. Place the funnel on top and then pour the yeast mixture into the bottle.

5. Watch in amazement as this starts foaming and overflowing from the bottle. Be sure to put your gloved hands around the bottle to feel the heat that the bottle is giving off.

How to Make Elephant Toothpaste from MomAdvice.com

Doesn’t that look like toothpaste? We were all amazed at this chemical reaction.

What’s the Science Behind This Elephant Toothpaste?

Each foam bubble is filled with oxygen. The yeast acts as a catalyst to remove the oxygen from the hydrogen peroxide. Since we did this process so fast, it created lots of bubbles quickly.

How to Make Elephant Toothpaste from MomAdvice.com

 

We also created an Exothermic Reaction which means you created heat with this reaction. How cool is that? We thought that part was almost as amazing as the foam that we created!

How to Make Elephant Toothpaste from MomAdvice.com

She was absolutely miserable.

Clearly.

Science is awful.

Just look at that face!

Just kidding, she was in science heaven in our backyard lab.

Although experiments are grand, I hope the takeaway is that we have the opportunity to share science with our kids every single day. I hope this idea and the many, many ideas from Bayer’s Making Science Make Sense give you lots of chances to talk about science each and every day.

Do you have any tips on how to share science at home with your children? What hurdles do you experience in encouraging STEM learning beyond the classroom? I would love to hear them!

This post was sponsored by Bayer. All thoughts and opinions are my own!

5 Ways to Calm the Chaos This School Year

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2016

From our marriage & parenting contributor, Mary Carver.

5 Ways to Calm the Chaos This School Year

For the past several weeks my mantra has been, “I can’t wait until school starts.” As my family and I have struggled with a perfect storm of change, uncertainty and chaos, the beginning of the school year has become something of a Holy Grail to me. I’ve told myself (and my husband and everyone who will listen) that when school starts…

…I’ll be more organized.
…I’ll GET IT TOGETHER.
…I’ll start eating – and feeding them – more healthy foods.
…I’ll put them to bed earlier (and go to bed earlier).
…I’ll plan meals and make a grocery list.
…I’ll move the laundry from the washer to dryer before it mildews.
…I’ll stop ordering pizza once a week.
…I’ll get more work done.
…I’ll miss fewer deadlines.
…I’ll GET IT TOGETHER.

It’s a long list of things I think I’m going to accomplish when the school year begins and I reclaim some of my precious order and organization. But though I’m tempted to just stare at the circled date on my calendar (the one that has hearts and smiley faces and blinking lights around it…at least in my mind), the one that says, “FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL,” and daydream about chore charts and folded laundry and deadlines met and boxes checked, I know better.

I know that with the commencement of the school year also comes the PTA, the school activities, the lessons and practices, the homework and tests. I know that the cleaning schedule and the snack shelf and the color-coordinated to-do list will all fall apart — and probably before we hit Labor Day. It’s just the nature of this busy season of life, and turning a new page on the calendar isn’t what makes it less chaotic and more manageable.

No, rather than dream of a chaos-free life (SERIOUSLY. Can you even imagine? We’d just get bored, right? … RIGHT???), I know from past changing of the seasons or school years that it’s better to deal with the chaos than to pretend it doesn’t exist. So, here’s my plan:

5 Ways to Calm the Chaos

5 Ways to Calm the Chaos This School Year

1. Make Meals Easier. Last year I wrote about three challenges and solutions to meal planning that my family has struggled with. I’m going to be honest: not a whole lot has changed since then. Getting food on the table for THESE PEOPLE who want to eat three times a day, every day of their lives, while also dictating how many sweets and how few vegetables they desire IS HARD WORK. But it’s work that has to be done — and that makes a world of difference.

I don’t anticipate turning into a different person between now and the start of the school year. So I’m not going to pin a whole bunch of casserole recipes for a day-long cooking session that will fill up my freezer. (I actually have about a dozen freezer meals in my freezer right now that I FORGOT I EVEN HAD until just recently. Oops.)

Instead, I’m going to take an hour to chop onions and peppers, grill and slice chicken, and brown hamburger. Then I’m going to take another hour to make baked oatmeal and banana muffins. And then? (After I stick all that food in the freezer?) If I’m still feeling industrious, I’ll prep all our lunch and snack food for the first few weeks. (And if not, I’ll recruit my third-grader to do it. After all, she’s the one who will be eating those individual servings of crackers and pepperoni and grapes!)

2. Pick Out Clothes. Now that we’ve moved, our washer and dryer no longer live in our garage. I have an actual laundry room, and it’s on the same level as our bedrooms. But while this is the ideal layout according to moms everywhere, I’m still struggling to implement a system — a system that doesn’t result in mountains of dirty laundry outside the laundry room door and mountains of clean laundry on top of the dryer.

It may still take a while for me to figure out our new laundry system, but my first step to mastering this mess is to pick out my kids’ clothes a week at a time. I was just lamenting the lack of school uniforms at my daughter’s public school, because OH THE GNASHING OF TEETH about what she’s going to wear. Every. Single. Day of my life. I’m hopeful that if she and I take a little bit of time each Sunday afternoon to pick out five outfits, a lot of those fights will be eliminated. We’ll see…

5 Ways to Calm the Chaos

3. Set My Alarm. My oldest daughter’s new school starts earlier than her old one, plus I’m changing my work schedule (read: adding more work, plus leaving the house to get it done). That means our leisurely mornings spent lounging while watching Mickey Mouse Clubhouse (them), scrolling through Facebook (me), and inhaling granola bars at the last minute (um, all of us) ARE OVER.

There’s no getting around it. We have to get up earlier. And that means, if I am serious about calming the chaos, I need to get up even earlier than my kids. Since I wrote all about the struggles night owls like me face when trying to create better mornings for their families, I know the steps I need to take. It’s just a matter of doing it. And it starts with setting my alarm.

4. Buy a New Calendar. When we moved, I tossed our old white-board calendar that hung on the side of our refrigerator. It had seen better days (the middle few squares were completely gray), but the reason I threw it away was because our fridge in the new house is between two cabinets. And the doors are too narrow for the calendar. So it didn’t work anymore.

But you know what else doesn’t work? NOT HAVING A FAMILY CALENDAR! Yikes. This summer has been full of chaos and irregular schedules, and in hindsight I realize getting a new calendar right away might have prevented some of that. So before we dive into the school year, with its activities and schedules and meetings and appointments, I’m buying a new calendar for the kitchen wall and putting it to use! (I also use a calendar app that my husband and I share, because sometimes I am away from home when I need to schedule something and that’s what works for us.)

5. Just Say No. You guys? I really hate missing out on stuff. I do. And I hate it when my kids miss out on stuff, too. And you know what? Even in our new, small town, we have SO MANY FUN OPPORTUNITIES. Teams and lessons and shows and festivals and movie nights and play dates — and then there’s homework and read-to-self and screen time and free play and GO OUTSIDE ALREADY and church and school (oh yeah, that!) and meetings and orthodontist appointments and Bible study and book club and…

If I let it, the world and all of its many amazing, fun, educational, interesting, entertaining, just great in general opportunities will take over my life. And it will drive me crazy. I know, because I’ve done it before (many times).

Last fall my daughter played on a basketball team and took piano lessons. And just that amount of activity, in that season, was TOO MUCH for my family. The stress of two activities, two nights in a row, every week just about did us in. I know! So many families do so much more! And that’s okay. We will someday (maybe even this fall, I don’t know yet) be able to do more. Each family has to figure out their own balance, avoid their own tipping point, and say no to what is too much for them.

So, there it is: my master plan for calming the chaos this school year. I could list another dozen ideas for organization, another handful of tips for running a household well, another bunch of suggestions for turning my crew into a well-oiled machine. But a) I figure we’ll be doing good if we can manage these five, and b) I think any family will be on their way to more peace if they can work on any one of these things!

How will you calm the chaos in your house this school year?

 

Pin It

DIY Car Organizing Tips (Giveaway with Big Fat Notebooks!)

Monday, August 22nd, 2016

DIY Car Organizing Tips from MomAdvice.com

You know that mom that always has bandages, always has a snack and drink on hand, can pull a pen out at a moment’s notice, has tissues, never forgets an umbrella, utilizes time well between running kids, and keeps a tidy car?

That’s not me.

In fact, I have been pretty embarrassed about just how bad things have gotten. No one really wanted to ride in my car including myself (insert scared face emoji).

It was on my organizing bucket list to tackle this since a good portion of my day is now spent in the car running kids from activity to activity. I spent an afternoon getting us organized for this school year and I wanted to show you how I did that.

Big Fat Notebooks Big Fat Notebooks

The inspiration came from today’s partner, The Big Fat Notebook series. If your kids love Diary of a Wimpy Kid, they will LOVE this new way of learning. When my kids were younger, they were hooked on Brain Quest, but once they hit middle school age, I felt like everything just felt like…Well, work. After a long day at school, the last thing they want to do is browse another textbook. That is why these are so genius. They look fun and teach you something in the process.

There are five books in all, and each is the only book you need for each main subject taught in middle school: Math, Science, American History, English Language Arts, and World History.

They also happen to meet Common Core State Standards, Next Generation Science Standards, and state history standards, and are vetted by National and State Teacher of the Year Award–winning teachers. If you are a homeschooling mama, this would make an excellent addition to your curriculum.

You can find these fantastic books at AmazonBarnes & NobleIndiebound, or Workman.

Big Fat Notebooks

I am not lying when I say that my daughter has become OBSESSED with these. There has been a lot of fact reciting at the dinner table!

We REALLY want to share them with you so please scroll to the end to catch this giveaway!!

I also wanted to figure out a way that we could keep these books on hand for busy days so I used this as an excuse to get my car organized and create caddies for each kid with the things they need. With school supplies on sale right now, it also happens to be quite an affordable time to create these little kits!

DIY Car Organizing Ideas

DIY Car Organizing Tips from MomAdvice.com DIY Car Organizing Tips from MomAdvice.com

After browsing every type of organizer available, I ended up using these shower caddy organizers for each of my kids because they had great pockets and a wipeable surface in case they get dirty or muddy. I also slipped a plastic cup for each to hold pencils/pens so it would make it easier for them to grab. In each one, I have an umbrella, snacks (that can withstand the hot car),  a water, a couple of Big Fat Notebooks (strategically chosen for the subjects we need to work on!!), and packages of tissues.

car-organizing-tips-2

I had planned to hang them from the backs of the seats, but the width was too deep on our car. I actually think it will be easier to have them on the floor and they can also be moved to the center when they are being used.

DIY Car Organizing Tips from MomAdvice.com

Backpacks can also pile up on the floor so I got these hooks to give these guys a home. It can also be a great place to hang a jacket, hat, or purse. Our backpacks often get dirty and thrown on the floor so I am hoping it helps with that too!

Now that the kids are in better shape, I wanted to work on some problem areas for me. My biggest issue is carrying around gym equipment so I wanted to make that an organizing priority.

diy-car-organizing-ideas-9

DIY Car Organizing Tips from MomAdvice.com

In my gym equipment stash I have two pairs of shoes (one for dance class and one for cardio), a spare pair of socks, yoga socks, tissues, water, facial cleansing wipes, hair ties, travel brush, and a towel. These are things that I am always forgetting and that I sometimes end up having to buy at the gym.

All of these fit perfectly in this container.

Again, plastic, wipeable, AND breathable.

Not that my feet sweat AT ALL, but I wanted you to know for you. It’s okay. It happens to a lot of people.

DIY Car Organizing Tips from MomAdvice.com

DIY Car Organizing Tips from MomAdvice.com

DIY Car Organizing Tips from MomAdvice.com

My yoga mat takes up valuable space and I hate that it is always rolling around in our trunk. Again, using those utility hooks to keep it in place along with my hot yoga towel and umbrella.

DIY Car Organizing Tips from MomAdvice.com

To finish up the tour, I wanted to show you just a couple of other things that are helping.

DIY Car Organizing Tips from MomAdvice.com

removable hook for hanging the trash bag- we will see how long this holds!

DIY Car Organizing Tips from MomAdvice.com

DIY Car Organizing Tips from MomAdvice.com

DIY Car Organizing Tips from MomAdvice.com

tiny totes for random things- one has receipts and pens, one has snacks for me, one has a mini first aid kit (for a legit one check here!), and the last one has tissues.

DIY Car Organizing Tips from MomAdvice.com

utilizing the gaps for my phone to save space in my drink holder (similar idea here!)

It’s not perfect, but I’m pretty proud. I feel like I *might* be able to be that mom this year AND my kids will be learning between activities too. High fives all around, friends!

Giveaway Time

Big Fat Notebook

I can’t wait to give someone this whole collection. We are so excited to share this with you! The books included in this giveaway are:

Everything You Need to Ace Math . . . covers everything to get you over any math hump: fractions, decimals, and how to multiply and divide them; ratios, proportions, and percentages; geometry; statistics and probability; expressions and equations; and the coordinate plane and functions.

Everything You Need to Ace Science . . . takes readers from scientific investigation and the engineering design process to the Periodic Table; forces and motion; forms of energy; outer space and the solar system; to earth sciences, biology, body systems, ecology, and more.

Everything You Need to Ace American History . . . covers Native Americans to the war in Iraq. There are units on Colonial America; the Revolutionary War and the founding of a new nation; Jefferson and the expansion west; the Civil War and Reconstruction; and all of the notable events of the 20th century—World Wars, the Depression, the Civil Rights movement, and much more.

Everything You Need to Ace World History . . . kicks off with the Paleolithic Era and  transports the reader to ancient civilizations—in Egypt, Greece, India, China, Africa, Rome; the middle ages across the world; the Renaissance; the age of exploration and colonialization, revolution and imperialism, and the modern world and the wars and movements that shaped it.

Everything You Need to Ace English Language Arts . . . covers everything to get you your best marks: grammar, including parts of speech, active and passive verbs, Greek and Latin roots and affixes; nuances in word meanings; textual analysis, authorship, structure, and other skills for reading fiction and nonfiction; and writing arguments, informative texts, and narratives.

One (1) lucky winner will receive:

  • Copies of all 5 titles in the Big Fat Notebooks series
  • Branded school supplies including highlighter/pen combos, a notepad, and jigsaw sticky notes.

Please follow the widget below to enter to win! I hope this post inspires you to get organized. As always, feel free to ask me any questions in the comments below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

DIY Car Organizing Tips from MomAdvice.com

This post was sponsored by Workman Publishing and Big Fat Notebooks. All thoughts and opinions are my own!

 

Pin It

Tech Monitoring In Those Middle School Years

Monday, August 8th, 2016

monitoring-tech-time-with-older-kids

This post is brought to you by CJ Affiliate’s VIP Content Service. Thank you to Norton by Symantec for sponsoring today’s post!

I have tried to live in an honest place as we have disclosed over the years our family’s struggles with filtering web content for our kids and creating a healthy balance of online and offline time. I admit, in these lazy days of summer, I have become a little less stiff with the rules. One thing that will not change though is the need to monitor what sites my kids are visiting. Today I want to talk a little bit about how we monitor tech time in the middle school years.

You see, this is a big transition year for us as parents because we have moved out of the elementary school years and are jumping into middle school. It’s the time where we are letting our oldest have a phone and where the kids are asking to build their own social media presence.

With a mom as a blogger and their father working as a web consultant, you would think we would be really cool about this stuff…but we aren’t.

I don’t feel bad about the overprotection at all though.

The things that they do on social media and the things they are viewing online can often do more harm than good. It can even follow them into adulthood as they are job seeking. I have big dreams for these two and I want to protect them as long as I can.

Although we have many procedures in place for their handheld devices, the content they have been viewing on the computers has been our biggest hurdle. My husband spends evening hours going through their web history and clicking to see what they have been up to. This requires many clicks to Minecraft music videos and hair tutorials.

Isn’t that how every dad wants to spend his time?

I’m pretty sure we would rather be drinking wine and binging on Netflix together.

Since we have been in the trenches with this for some time, I wanted to share with you things that we have been doing to try to do a better job with monitoring our middle school kids on the internet.

Call Family Meetings- Many family meetings have been called in our home as we do our best to monitor our kid’s technology time. Sometimes the kids want to call their own family meetings to revisit rules and sometimes we have to hold family meetings because rules have been broken.

As parents we are always striving to keep the communication lines open. Whenever we add new security measures or revisit the rules of technology in our home, we want to offer that kind of support and communication (even if they don’t always like the rules we are devising). Making them feel like active participants in the decision-making is really important to both of us.

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help on Setting Time Guidelines- When we were struggling to establish the right guidelines for our children, our family consulted with a child psychologist to see what time limits would work best. His advice was one hour of tech time on school nights and two hours on weekends/vacations. We have done our best to adhere to these guidelines to create a good balance of tech time and real-life time together.

Tech Monitoring In Those Middle School Years from MomAdvice.com

Install Internet Monitoring Software to Keep Them Safe- Although we have felt in control of handheld devices, we have felt less in control of the sites they were visiting on our computer. Often the restrictions installed where inhibiting us from doing our own work so we needed a solution that could help keep them safe (and our computers- more on that soon!)

Norton Security Premium

Norton by Symantec sent us a Norton Security Standard membership offering a year protection on ten devices in our home. This version of Norton also includes their family-friendly features (which you can purchase a la carte. We have been using it for the last month and we are both pleasantly surprised at the filtering it can do for web content. This security system goes way beyond just time restriction.

Norton Web Supervision

Norton Security offers another level of web supervision, allowing your kids to explore the web safely by blocking content that you deem unsafe.   It also offers a lot more depth into their search history,  allowing you to see words and phrases your kids are searching. This can help you to see what they are interested in as well as keep on top of  the inappropriate stuff to block.  In fact, you can see it all at a glance. Check out that screenshot above to see the info that will now be right at your fingertips.

Norton Time Management

Want to monitor time usage? Norton can do that for you too!

Just as important as all of that though, once your service is activated, you also have location supervision to monitor your child’s location on your Android & iOS devices so you can see where your kid is (and if they are where they are saying they are going to be- ahem!).  Please note, this option is available only in the US, Canada, UK, Australia, New Zealand & Japan. The iOS features are available just in the US.

The pricing on all that for the first year costs $49.99 and subsequent years are $99.99. They offer a variety of packages though for your needs including the Norton Security Deluxe (for 5 devices) and the Norton Security Standard (1 device)

Keep Your Computers Safe- Tragically, our computer died last month (R.I.P.) and its tragic death is because of the vulnerability of these computers as our kids played games and (unknowingly) loaded our computers up with malware. My husband had to buy a new computer and we are now relying on Norton to block all the malware.

This installation did not slow down our computers at all and it protects them from the daily Roblox malware attack.  It’s a welcome sight not to see my homepage screen changed or a bunch of random video pop-ups that I can never shut down now off our computer thanks to this security measure. For us, protecting our computers is important for our work and Norton can save us a lot of money to keep these computers functioning at their optimal performance.

To learn more about Norton by Symantec products, visit the Learning Center.

Model the Kind of Behavior You Want to See From Them- My husband & I have to be on our computers and devices a lot for work, our kids know that. This is how we pay our bills. The thing is, we can always do better. By doing a better job with this, we can teach them that social media does not need to be the center of our world. Having a clear work day schedule end time and getting the heck off the computer is now my priority.

These years? Precious. My people? They are precious too and far more precious than any social media interactions that I might be indulging in. I need to show them that and model that for them so they can do that for their own people someday!

Let’s chat! Do you have any tips for tech time monitoring? I’d love hear how you are doing this with your family!

This post is brought to you by CJ Affiliate’s VIP Content Service. Thank you to Norton by Symantec for sponsoring today’s post!

7 Ways to Help Kids Deal with Change

Thursday, July 28th, 2016

From our marriage & parenting contributor, Mary Carver.

7 Ways to Help Kids with Change

This summer has been a rough one at my house. Our family has experienced a pretty significant amount of change in just a few months and, while it’s been good change, it’s been really hard on my eight-year-old daughter. We’ve spent hours talking and listening and praying and planning and, honestly, yelling and eye-rolling and crying. I’ve felt frustrated, exhausted and helpless as we’ve tried so hard to help her cope with what has been, to her, an overwhelming amount of uncertainty and change.

So, obviously, I’m the person to write a list of parenting tips for kids dealing with change! Okay, fine, expert I am NOT, but I can tell you the handful of strategies that has worked for my family. And then, in the comments, perhaps you can share what has worked for yours!

7 Ways to Help Kids Deal with Change

1. Remind them of the things that never change. Whether you are moving to a new town, joining a different church, or saying goodbye to a family member, reminding your children of the permanent things of life never hurts. Tell them, over and over if you need to, that you love them no matter what. Tell them that they are smart and brave and strong, that God is in control, that family comes first. Tell them the fundamental truths that your family believes, and tell them often. Remind them that some things, like your love for them, never, ever changes.

2. Maintain routines whenever possible. As a grown-up who doesn’t love change, I know how important routines can be to me. Sometimes, the simple familiarity of putting away groceries or checking my social media accounts in the same order can be soothing enough to help me deal with chaos in other parts of my life. Kids are no different. So even when you are frantically packing boxes or going to doctor’s appointments or contacting lawyers or buying uniforms for their new school, the regular things of life can help your family deal with stress. If you always eat tacos on Tuesday, try to keep eating tacos on Tuesday – even if that means grabbing a bag of pre-made tacos in the drive-thru or using those packed boxes as a makeshift dinner table.

3. Listen. Just listen. I’m a fixer. I know it’s more of a cliché for the man of the house to be the bad listener/wannabe fixer, but I play that role here. I have very limited patience for listening to the same old sob story, the same old fears and anxieties without pushing for a plan, a strategy, a list of things to do TO FIX THE PROBLEM. And sometimes that’s great and helpful and smart…and sometimes it’s not. Sometimes my family just needs me to sit down and listen, to hold their hands, to give hugs and smiles AND NOT ADVICE. And while that doesn’t come easily or naturally to me, I’m trying to learn to do it sooner rather than later, before we’re all frustrated on top of all the other feelings.

4. Help them express their feelings. My mom is a teacher, and she’s always coming up with great ideas for helping my girls share their feelings. She knows that sometimes kids don’t have the skills or maturity to say what’s on their minds, so drawing a picture or singing a song might be the best way for them to process and express their emotions. I’m still working on this one!

5. Take a break from the stress. When I get overwhelmed, I tend to stick my head in the sand. I’m not really proud of this habit, but it does help me recognize that sometimes we need a break from dealing with drama. If your family is in the midst of a change, odds are you have lots of tasks and to-dos weighing on your mind and your schedule. And you need to do them! (Don’t be like me and avoid them!) But if you can find a few minutes to watch a funny video with your kids or a few hours to take them to the park, that break will likely go a long way toward relieving the tension and their anxiety.

6. Talk about the good parts of the upcoming change. Does your new house have a big back yard? Will the new baby be super cute? Will your new job mean you travel less? Even changes that are hard and even unwanted – like death, divorce, job loss, or a friend moving away – might have a silver lining. If you can help your kids identify something good in the situation, not only will they be able to adapt to their current circumstances better, but they’ll develop the skills needed to choose joy in all kinds of situations.

7. Remember the past. Change can be exciting and good, even when it’s difficult. But the thing that came before? The one you’re moving past or growing out of? Your kids probably think it was good, too. So take one last photo in front of your old house before the moving truck pulls away. Make a quick photo book of pictures of your child and her friends. Give them some prompts to list out all the things they loved about second grade or their beloved pet or their soccer coach. Let them keep their mementos and help them preserve their memories, allowing them to look back and remember even as you all move forward.

Originally I was going to write a post about books that help kids deal with change. I’d read It Will Be Okay: Trusting God Through Fear & Change with my girls, and I was certain other books must be out there on this topic. I generally assume that books are the answer for all problems, so why not a whole list of them?!

What I found, though, is that similar posts had already been written. And since I didn’t want to reinvent the wheel (but did want to make sure to share these resources with you), I thought I’d just tell you about the lists I found. Great Kids has a list of seven children’s books about moving, and the University of Wisconsin has a long list of children’s books about various types of change. And my friend Tsh wrote about 14 books that help ease children through transition several years ago, and it’s one I’ve bookmarked for future changes!

Okay, now it’s your turn! As I said, I’m far from being an expert on this topic, so I’d love to hear what’s worked for your family.

How do YOU help your kids deal with change?

Pin It