Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

Using Technology to Make the Most of Summer

Tuesday, May 12th, 2015

From our marriage & parenting contributor, Mary Carver.

Boy using laptop outdoor

I’m not sure if you’ll see this as good news or bad news, but friends, summer break is almost here. Yes, it’s true. Those little people who eat so much food and make even bigger messes? They are going to be home for a solid 10 to 12 weeks, and they are going to need something to keep them occupied.

My almost-second-grader is a girl after my own heart these days and totally into books. That means our schedule is filling up with library events, reading programs and make-your-own bookmark craft projects. But eventually she’ll need a break from books (gasp! why?! I KNOW.), and then it’s time to figure out other ways to spend our summer days.

Now, obviously our summer and yours will involve lots of outdoor play, pool time, baseball games and the like. Even if – like me – you’re a little indoorsy, sunshine and swing sets and sandboxes and sweat seem to be required summer ingredients. Even if the siren call of our friends Netflix and Kindle is loud. Right?

So the question becomes: How can we balance our use of technology during summer break?

Great ideas, advice & tips on using technology during the summertime with your family from Mary Carver via

I’ve found that we use technology in four ways during family time (or Mama-is-working-so-find-something-quiet-to-do time).

Watching. Obviously this is the most passive of uses for the wonderful world of technology. From episodes of Kitchen Crashers saved on the DVR (my daughter’s latest obsession) to silly, G-rated clips on YouTube, it’s nearly impossible to run out of things to watch online. That’s why I work hard to keep track of her screen time (and mine) so we don’t overdo it and turn into Screen Zombies!

TIP: PBS, Disney, Nickelodeon and Sprout have free apps that show full episodes of your kids’ favorite shows.

Playing. Are your kids into Minecraft? If so, you can probably skip this one, because you are covered. My daughter hasn’t discovered Minecraft yet, though, so we have to look hard for appropriate games. Games that don’t require spending money to get to level three. Most the games we’ve found require just about as much brainpower as watching an episode of The Odd Squad on our PBS app, so I count games with her other screen time.

TIP: Don’t forget to adjust your settings so purchases require a password.

Learning. Now, learning games? THOSE I can get behind. (Even for myself, not that it’s a real hardship to “force” myself to play Trivia Crack instead of Candy Swipe…) My daughter knows the way to convince me to allow a little more time with the Kindle is to play an educational game, but she doesn’t mind the compromise anymore than I do. Tons of games that really do teach kids are out there – and many of them are free. One I plan to encourage her to play this summer is from PBS Kids, and it has several ways to teach her how to count money (something she hasn’t mastered just yet).

TIP: Your kids’ school is a great resource for educational websites, especially ones that they’re already familiar with. My daughter begs to play ABC Ya or read with Raz Kids, and we log on through her school’s website or with her teacher’s username and password. So find out about your options before school’s out!

Researching. When I was a kid and had a question about something my parents didn’t know (or wanted me to learn on my own), they always said the same thing: “Look it up.” Back then, that meant going to our shelf of World Book Encyclopedias. Not so much these days! Today if I tell my daughter we need to look up some information (she’s still a little young to do it herself, although she’ll be on her own soon), she knows we’re heading to Google, Wikipedia, Pinterest or another website.

TIP: In addition to looking up facts about whales, recipes for popsicles and the history of LEGOs, you and your kids can also look up community events or reserve books at the library.

Child playing video game with father

A Few More Tips & Ideas:

For older kids, technology is certainly going to be used for keeping in touch with friends. But even the youngest kids can Skype with grandparents or help you send a thank-you email after a play date.

One way to make sure your whole family is getting enough activity is with a device that measures your steps. Set a daily goal for each family member or even launch a friendly competition throughout the summer! Whether you use an app, a Fitbit, or a pedometer from the discount store, the point is to be more mindful of how much you – and your kids – move, and to encourage each other to do a little more.

And, of course, family night doesn’t always have to revolve around a movie or board game (those are the go-to activities at our house). Break out that Wii Fit, LeapTV or XBox Kinect – and break a sweat together!

Last but not least, summer is a great time to start discussions about safety. Remind your kids that not everything on the internet is healthy for them, and help them learn a few family rules about what you share online and what you do not. And as you tug the Gameboy (or whatever is cool these days…I CAN’T KEEP UP!) out of their hands and point them toward the backyard or the baseball field, use that opportunity to make talk about balance (and not turning into that Screen Zombie!) part of your regular conversations.

How do you plan to use technology during summer break?


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Free Printable Chore & Tech Time Tickets

Monday, May 11th, 2015

Tech-Chore Tickets Free Printable Note: Originally published in 2012, these tickets have continued to be a wonderful way to monitor both screen time and chores with our kids in a sort of “hands-off” way (meaning, it’s not up to me to keep reminding!). With our focus on technology m challenge, it seemed perfect to share again for those of you who are looking for a better way to manage screen time and make sure chores actually get done.

My husband created this great printable for summertime chores and monitoring computer time with the kids that I’m excited to share with you- free printable chore and tech time tickets. The tech hours punch-tickets in particular have helped both us and the kids know how much time they’re spending on technology. They can be printed and used with a simple hole punch to signify if the child has used their tech time or has completed their chores.

I really wanted to spend quality time with my kids this summer and I find that screen-time really distracts them from our time together. These tech tickets have made us all more aware of how much screen time we are using and have been a great way for us to monitor the amount they are getting. And they work hand-in-hand since the tech time can’t be redeemed until the chores are completed, so it’s a win-win.

How We Use The Tickets

– Each child gets one chore ticket and two tech tickets for the week in our house.

– The chore ticket must be punched before they can start with their first hour of screen time.

– Punch the ticket itself at the end of the day, BUT morning chores have to be completed to redeem the first hour of time, then evening chores are completed and the second hour can be used.

As an example, this is what our list of chore activities to be completed looked like when my children were 10 and 6(alter as needed for your kids and needs):

6 Year Old Chore List- Get dressed, tidy room, make bed, sweep (with a quick vac) under the table after each meal, meal helper every other night, (help prepare and set the table for dinner), 15 minute tidy at the end of the day, and assist mom with laundry sorting.

10 Year Old Chore List- Get dressed, tidy room, make bed, wipe down both bathrooms, meal helper every other night (help prepare and set the table for dinner), 15 minute tidy at the end of the day, and assist mom with loading and unloading of laundry.

Reward- $5 weekly

Tech tickets grant the child one hour of computer or video game time. We do not count television time as tech time in our house. Kids can watch 2 shows daily on Netflix. We no longer have cable television so that has really helped us do a better job of not zoning out on the television.

A timer is set and once it dings, the card is punched for that hour.  It is as simple as that!

We made an agreement that if the child wants to save computer/video game time that they can save and transfer the hours to another day. They can not, however, cash in on an advance on their ticket.

I will not lie, the first day was ROUGH. Two hours does go by quickly for everyone. That said, after the initial two days, we have really been enjoying our time together. We keep busy with fun outings and tackling our summer bucket list together. I find that breaking the day up with an outing seems to make the day go by faster and takes the focus off of the lack of screen time.

Today my son said, “Wow, that hour was really long!”  It was funny how he was whining about the hour being too short the first day. I think we were all losing track of how much time we were spending on our respective screens.

Everyone parents differently. This parenting strategy works for us and I hope it will help someone else out there too!

I didn’t want to waste anytime getting these printables out to you though because they are quickly becoming a valuable part of our summer time together and I think they could be valuable to you too!

Grab your Printable Chore Tickets.

Grab your Printable Tech Tickets.


Notes on the printable- There are three tickets per sheet. These are color tickets, but you can switch your printer settings to black-and-white or draft mode to save on ink.


How do you monitor screen time in your house? What does a typical chore list look like for you? I would love to hear your thoughts!

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Guest Post: How to Incorporate Healthy Living Back in Your Life

Tuesday, January 20th, 2015

Note: This is a repost of Ashley’s post from January of 2014 that I thought we needed to see again as we journey through our m challenge of focusing on our health because not only is Ashley inspiring, she gives some wonderful, concrete tips to make healthy living a real part of our daily lives!

I am Ashley Johns, a Personal Trainer, Writer, Creator of Fierce Forward and Fierce Forward Intention Bracelets.  Ever since losing over forty pounds and taking back my life, my mission is to empower others to move forward, fiercely and healthfully, towards the life they want.

I met Amy at a local blogger’s get-together where I learned how retro-chic and creative she is!  We chatted about me guest posting on Momadvice and decided something very valuable I could share with you are my tips on how to make you and your family’s health a priority.

Maybe you’re wondering, “Does this chick have kids?”   Let me answer that.  I am a fierce chick and I do not yet have children, but I sure do know how to manage healthy living and make it work for anyone!

Oh, and I am a master empathizer.

Last September, I married my love, Marcus, and with kids in our foresight, I have made it a priority to position myself in a healthy, balanced lifestyle before all the madness begins, or so that’s what my friends are bracing me for!

Although I’m not yet a mother, I can tell you that I have the utmost respect for all mothers out there and am so grateful to have my mother as my best friend, along side my husband.  Having a full time job, cooking, working out, grocery shopping, friend time, date night, bubble baths, doing your hair on a good day, prepping your healthy food, drinking your gallon of water each day;  I mean, how would all this be doable with a little person(s) in your life?

Well, I know that one day I will figure it out and take it from Amy that it can be done.  After all, I believe nothing is impossible and if you want something bad enough, you find a way and make it work!  Because us women do hard things.

Here are my tips on how to incorporate healthy living back in your life!  

Stock your car.

Stock your car with water bottles and bring healthy, kid friendly snacks with you when you are on the go.  My favorite snacks to pack that are fast and easy are nuts, protein bars, Larabars, cheese sticks and my amazingly delicious baked oatmeal.  This way you leave your house prepared and you won’t be inclined to get fast food in a pinch.

Know your fast food alternatives & set a healthy precedent for your children.

It is so easy to be on the road, feel hungry and pull through McDonalds in 2 minutes; boom, the kids are happy.  Don’t fall prey to this behavior because you and your children deserve more.  There are so many healthy fast food alternatives available to you, such as Starbucks Perfect Oatmeal or Greek yogurt, Panera Bread’s Secret Low Calorie Menu, Subway with mostly fresh ingredients and so many more.  Be mindful of where you take yourself and your kids when you’re out by browsing the online food menus available at most restaurants.  You and your family deserve to eat healthfully and it is possible when you set the intention to do so.

Pack your gym bag the night before.

After a long day’s work, it is easy to put off going to the gym, but if you have your gym bag packed and with you in the front seat, coupled with a quick snack from your snack pack, you will be much more likely to hit the gym.  If you have your kids with you, there are plenty of gyms that have child care.  I look forward to my future “me time” at the gym when I have kids.  Use it as your time to decompress, breathe and regroup so that your children get to vibe off of your calm nature as you go on with your day together.


A lot of people underestimate the power of breathing. When you’re going from place to place, dropping one child off at day care and entertaining another child in the car while on your way to get groceries and feeling the stress on your shoulders, take three deep breaths, exhaling slowly to release the stress, anger and frustration you’re feeling in the moment; then smile.  My motto is, ‘Just breathe through it.’

Be kind to you.

This is a hard one for us women!  Put a spot for you on your to-do list or make a date with yourself.  As women, we spend so much time and energy on others, it’s also important to make time for yourself.  Make sure you’re at the top of your to-do list!  Don’t for a second, forget that you are just as important as everyone else that gets your love and energy.  You deserve that love and energy and need it.   Be kind to yourself, allow yourself the freedom to make mistakes, laugh it all off, smile, make time for you and know that whatever you need, you have it now.  You are enough and you are perfect.

Be intentional.

I have heard children are like sponges.  I truly look forward to the time I can be a source of influence and inspiration to my children.  I wholeheartedly believe in the power of intention and that what you think becomes your reality.  By allotting more time to focus on your intentions as a family, you are creating a more solid foundation in which you are grounded in.  When you know where you are going, it is easier to get there.  I created Fierce Forward Intention Bracelets to empower myself and others to live with intention each day.  Having a visual reminder of your Purpose, Commitment, Courage & Strength, you begin to embody these intentions the more you focus on them.  I even make them child sized upon request!

Fierce Forward Bracelet

You are so lucky to have a family, a foundation, to build upon and work towards something bigger, together!  Be intentional as an individual-remember that girl in the picture- and as a whole and you surely will have a healthy family and a healthy you.

My final tip I will leave you with is to find a picture of yourself that radiates who you are.  This can be a picture from childhood, a picture of you caught off guard five years ago or a more recent picture.  Take your time in choosing and make sure this picture speaks to you and truly nails the definition of you.  Put it up on your DIY Chalkboard (that link will take you right to my tutorial!) or your bathroom mirror, look at that picture every day and remember to take care of her.

DIY Chalkboard Project

Thank you so much for reading my words and thank you amy for the opportunity to reach your Community of Fierce Mothers, whom I look up to!

Fierce Forward Bracelet Ashley from Fierce Forward

To Find Out More About Ashley:

Fierce Forward Intention Bracelets
Website:  Fierce Forward
Find Ashley on Facebook
Find Ashley on Pinterest, on Twitter or on Instagram! 

How do you make healthy living and “me time” a priority for yourself? Feel free to leave your ideas in our comments below!

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The First Aid Essentials Every Mom Needs (Free Printables) & a $100 Walmart Gift Card Giveaway

Wednesday, January 14th, 2015

How to Stock a First Aid Kit

This post is sponsored on behalf of BHG at Walmart.

A fresh new year is a great time to  not only declutter our homes of unnecessary items, but it is also a great time to stock up on life’s daily essentials. Emergency preparation has been something that has been on my mind these days and with the focus of our site being on health/wellness for the m challenge, I thought this would be a great time to address my poorly stocked First Aid Kit, a unique way to package it for the home, and I would love to give you the chance to win a gift card of $100 to create one yourself out of products from BHG at Walmart.  What do I know about First Aid essentials and preparedness. It turns out, not much.

How to Stock a First Aid Kit: ER Doctor Jamie Shoemaker

I am not an expert on emergencies and emergency situations, but lucky for me, I actually happen to know an ER doctor in town who has seen his fair share of emergencies at his hospital. Dr. Jamie Shoemaker is an ER Doctor for Elkhart General Hospital and GRACIOUSLY offered his expert opinion on what every mom should have in her First Aid Kit to be prepared for emergency situations.

It should come as no surprise that I barely had the bandages and cream category covered.


On his list of First Aid essentials, he suggested different size bandages, Tylenol, Motrin, Benadryl, Hydrocortisone creme, Triple antibiotic ointment, hydrogen peroxide, nasal bulbsuction, syringes for oral med admin, tweezers, tape, gauze of varying sizes, Ace wraps, aloe, nail clippers, antiseptic wipes, instant cold compresses, scissors, pairs of non latex gloves, thermometer, splint, safety pins, calamine lotion, flashlight, blanket, tooth preservation
kit, contact lenses saline and case and a first aid manual.

Don’t worry- we have a printable for all of this for you to take when you head to the store.

He also noted that aspirin should be avoided in children due to Reye’s syndrome so he did not include it on this list for moms.

Thank you, Dr. Shoemaker, for helping us get prepared for emergencies in this new year.

How to Stock a First Aid Kit

How to Stock a First Aid Kit

How to Stock a First Aid Kit

How to Stock a First Aid Kit

I headed to Walmart with his list and wanted to stock up on every item, but also knew that I had to find a pretty way to package it. Thankfully, the BHG product line at Walmart offer a variety of cute totes, baskets, and other organizer essentials. Since I have nowhere to tuck my First Aid kit, it will rest on top of our little bathroom storage unit, on display for our guests. I wanted something attractive for storage so I settled on this handy Better Homes & Gardens Chesapeake Magazine Basket for under $13 that housed all of these fabulous First Aid essentials with ease and kept them tucked away without anyone knowing what is in there. How perfect is that?

Emergency preparedness is such an essential part of running a household and I know that this is something I should work on in our home. Whether it is being prepared with a bandage and some cream for the neverending injuries in our home or making sure our home is stocked with candles and flashlights for our neverending power outages or even more seriously, the need for disaster preparedness with canned foods and water…

Let’s face it, this stuff tends to fall on the shoulders of many mothers.

I know it falls on mine.

I can admit that I have done a pretty lousy job at stuff like that, but this year I want to do better and I want to encourage you to do better too. This month, the m challenge isn’t just about focusing on our own needs, but also on the needs of those we love. I hope this little push can help you this year to address key needs in your own household.

How to Stock a First Aid Kit

(just a screenshot- click below for the printable please!)

I have prepared for you a FREE printable list of First Aid Essentials that you can take to the store of all the recommendations Dr. Shoemaker offers for us.  There is no need to stress about being prepared this year- we have you covered!

Enter below to win one $100 Walmart Gift Card from BHG at Walmart to stock your First Aid Kit for the new year. One lucky winner will receive this gift card to stock up on all the essentials. This giveaway ends on January 21st! Good luck, everyone!

a Rafflecopter giveaway



In accordance with the FTC Guidelines, I am disclosing that I received compensation from BHG at Walmart for my time and participation in the BHG Live Better Network. Although we have material connection to BHG, any publicly stated opinions of BHG and their products remain my own.

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Review & GIVEAWAY: Empowered SAFETY Membership

Thursday, October 30th, 2014

How to Keep Your Family Safe by Monitoring Product Safety Recalls from

*This post is sponsored by the Empowered SAFETY. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

When my children were small, I was absolutely obsessed with tracking recall information. Let’s face it; the sheer amount of equipment needed to keep your baby safe in that first year is astounding.  Back then I subscribed to Parents Magazine and would skim the magazine for the latest recall information. Over the course of those first few years as a mom, there were many recalls, but I was so busy and so tired that I struggled to stay on top of that and keep up with it all.  Thankfully, there are faster and easier ways to stay on top of recalls now.

This week I am partnering with a fantastic site called Empowered SAFETY to share with you all of the great advantages of a membership & how it can help you keep track of legitimate complaints & recalls when it comes to items you use in your home and the food you consume. We are giving everyone one free month to try this service and giving one lucky reader a six month subscription.

  How to Keep Your Family Safe by Monitoring Product Safety Recalls from

What Does Empowered SAFETY Offer?

Did you know that there can be hundreds of complaints made to government agencies about child-specific products before a recall is actually issued?  Instead of waiting for the recall to occur, a subscription to Empowered SAFETY can alert you of the complaints prior to the recall even is issued.

With a premium membership you can simply match the products in your home with the half-million child products in Empowered SAFETY’s database, and you will receive an email notification on that product should complaints be made against it. It is as easy as that!

How to Keep Your Family Safe by Monitoring Product Safety Recalls from

We aren’t just talking car seats and baby equipment though; the service also offers valuable information about food safety which, as we know, can be potentially life-threatening to a child with food allergies. You can receive the food recalls in the area where you live so you can stay on top of potential allergens and safety hazards in your home.

How Can This Help You When Making Purchases?

When I make purchases for my family, I spend hours online trying to decide which item will be the best for us based on the reviews of other shoppers. I hate wasting my money or time on purchase that don’t have longevity in our home. When it comes to purchases that keep our family safe, I really want to know that the items that I am choosing will do their job well and that I won’t find myself needing to replace them later.

Empowered SAFETY can let you know if the product you are thinking of purchasing has had any complaints on it, allowing you to be a more empowered consumer and saving you valuable time.

What Do They Monitor For You?

Complaints can come in many different ways and Empowered SAFETY monitors all the different sources so you don’t have to. Not only do they monitor actual consumer complaints, and product and food recalls and warnings to government agencies, they also follow news reports, legal filings, press releases, blog postings, federal & state agency websites for outbreaks & health alerts, as well as member-reported product issues.

As a busy mom, I certainly don’t have time to monitor all of that so a membership like this can save your family a lot of time, hassle, and unnecessary clutter from items that are potentially unsafe and won’t have longevity in your home.

Everyone is a Winner

Today I am giving EVERY reader a free 28-day promo code to try the Empowered SAFETY site. Just enter code the code ES28DAY93  (Expires 11/30/14) upon sign-up on Empowered SAFETY.

Follow the instructions below in our Rafflecopter widget to enter to win a FREE six-month premium membership to Empowered SAFETY.  Good luck, everyone!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*This post is sponsored by the Empowered SAFETY. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

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5 Ways to Teach Kids Money Management

Monday, September 15th, 2014

From our money & finance contributor, Kelly Whalen.

5 Ways to Teach Kids Money Management
Teaching kids to manage money can be a challenge, but with a little planning you can share lifelong skills that will help the kids in your life live a richer life.

5 Ways to Teach Kids Money Management


1. Give an Allowance

Allowances are useful tools that allow kids to manage their own money on a small scale. There are lots of considerations when giving your child an allowance.

  • Should you give it to them weekly? Bi-weekly? Monthly?
  • Will you track via an app or will you give the kids cash?
  • Should you tie it to chores or simply use the allowance as a tool for learning?

What works for you and your children may take some time to sort out. Additionally it will depend on their age what you consider an appropriate amount of money and how often they should receive it. For instance, a 5 year old may only get $1 per week to spend and save, while a 14 year old may need $15 per week for things like school lunches, spending money, and savings.

Manage their expectations by being clear about the rules of how they spend their money. These are a few rules that we use with our kids that you may find helpful:

  • No going into debt with the Bank of Mom & Dad
  • Savings must equal 10% or more
  • Giving must equal 10% or more
  • Mom & Dad have final approval over all purchases

Start your kids on an allowance early (around age 5) and you’ll find plenty of teachable moments as they learn to manage their money.

Read more: Kids and Allowance

2. Make Giving a Priority

Giving back is an important part of our financial life so we pass on this value to our kids by making it clear that giving back is a priority. You can do this through monetary donations, but don’t overlook the value of time as well.

Ideas for Incorporating Giving Back as a Family:

  • Set aside a % of allowance for donations
  • Commit to donating X hours of time each month as a family
  • Participate in community events like Fun Runs to raise funds and awareness for a cause
  • Find small ways to give back such as buying extra school supplies for your children’s teachers or collecting gently used winter gear for kids in your community
  • Give back by donating items you no longer need like giving used books to your local public or your school library

Read more: 5 Ways you Can Teach Your Kids to Give Back.

3. Encourage Mistakes Now

Encourage your kids to have some freedom to make mistakes with their money now so that they learn when they are young how those mistakes can impact their long-term goals.

For instance, if your child decides they “must have” a toy or item that you know won’t be worth the money you can explain it to them, but also allow them room to make their own decision. They will quickly learn how certain toys are marketed to seem much more fun than they really are!

While it’s hard to watch your child make mistakes they will learn from their actions instead words, and those lessons tend to stick with them much longer. It’s better to make a $10 mistake now than it is to make a $10,000 one when they are an adult.

4. Practice what you Preach

Speaking of actions being louder than words-be sure to show your kids a good example as well. While we’ve covered a range of financial topics here in the past it’s the everyday decisions our kids seem to latch onto readily.

By doing things like shopping with a list, avoiding impulse purchases, and sticking to your budget you will be doing more than just saving yourself money-you’ll be teaching your kids to do the same.

5. Involve Kids in Family Money Decisions

While some families may feel the family money is a private matter be sure to be open about how the bills are paid and how family money decisions are made.  For instance, if you’re planning a family vacation you can set up a family money jar and discuss what things the family can cut back on to make the vacation a reality.

As kids get older you can become more open about your finances and teach them the real nuts and bolts of managing credit, debt, and making the tough financial decisions that most of us face.

While your 6 year old may not need to know how much you pay for electricity each month you can explain how much you save if he turns his light off before he leaves for school. The older your child becomes the more you should share with them. For instance perhaps with a 16 year old you may be more apt to discuss car payments, insurance, and maintenance as they learn to drive.

What advice do you have for teaching kids money management skills?


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One Easy Way to Encourage Your Child’s Imagination

Monday, August 11th, 2014

From our marriage & parenting contributor, Mary Carver.

One Easy Way to Encourage Your Child's Imagination via

A couple months ago I posted this on Facebook:

“Annalyn gets so into character when she plays make believe that when she says, in a panic, “Mom! Where’d you put our helium tank?” I actually think, “Hmmm…where DID I put that helium tank?” (Guys, WE DON’T HAVE A HELIUM TANK.)”

Now, believe me when I tell you that I do not take credit for all the amazing characteristics my daughter has. Just like her strong will and curly hair, some things just came with her. And her vivid imagination and flair for the dramatic are two of those things.

[I suppose I could take credit and/or blame for those things, since they certainly came from my gene pool. But it’s not like I intentionally passed on those traits anymore than I did my green eyes or seasonal allergies.]

However, I did recognize early on the benefit of encouraging my daughter’s imagination – and one simple trick has helped me more than any other. Ironically, it’s something I can’t do well in any other area of my life, but when it comes to pretend play with my kiddo, I’m all over it.

Like I’ve mentioned before, I’m not always the most FUN person. I’m practical and grounded and realistic. I think fast and I’m able to see what will work and what won’t, and I have a low threshold for the ridiculous. This is exactly what led to a lecture from my manager at the advertising agency I worked at following a brainstorming lunch. That’s another story for another time, but let’s just say I wasn’t exactly the best team player during that meeting. (In my defense, though? Their ideas were insane.)


My first reaction to silliness is to squash it, but that’s not the kind of mom I want to be to my girls. So as I’ve noticed my oldest daughter’s love of acting and pretend play grow stronger, I’ve worked hard to encourage her (and to be a little more fun). Though I mostly just reminisce about my role as Glinda the Good Witch when remembering my days in high school theater, I also learned a little about improvisational acting back then.

Encourage Imagination: Playing Dress Up via

When participating in an improv exercise, you should never deny your fellow actor. This rule is the cornerstone of improv and, while never denying your child wouldn’t exactly be a wise strategy for parenting, going along with my daughter’s pretend play every chance I can has become nearly second nature.

The first rule of improvisational theater (improv) is to say, “Yes, and…” Accepting the premise one actor offers (the “yes”) and then building on it (the “and”) is the best way a scene develops. This Mad Lib-ish strategy can lead to hilarious results – and a lot of fun for your children. For example:

Child:  We’re going to the circus today.
Mom: Great! Do you think we’ll see some elephants there?
Child: Of course we will. I’m the elephant trainer.
Mom: That’s right. That’s why we have elephants living in our back yard.
Child: Yes, and when it rains they sleep in my bed.
Mom: Sure they do – and they always leave peanut shells on your pillow!

See how much fun that is? And, at least at my house, a pretty drastic break from the norm! So even though fun and silly and pretend don’t come to me naturally, I’m learning to take that old theater lesson and put it into practice at home.

That means that these days, when my daughter runs into the house, jabbering about the fairies she found in the big tree in the back yard? I “yes, and” her. I ask her how many fairies she found and what they’re named and what color their dresses are. And, of course, I ask her if they can fly. And when we’re driving in the car, and she leans up toward the front seat and says, “Mom! Hand me the tools, please,” well, it usually only takes me a couple seconds to switch [mental] gears, realize she’s pretending, and pass the wrench and hammer to the back seat.

I’m pretty sure she’s not actually building a roller coaster back there.

How do you encourage your child’s imagination and creativity?


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Celebrating 4th of July Heroes With Kids

Monday, June 23rd, 2014

Celebrating 4th of July Heroes With Kids

As my children grow older, I strive to find more meaningful ways to celebrate holidays. The 4th of July has always been a burst of red, white, & blue through our home, but I can’t say that we have ever spent time together discussing the importance of this day and getting to know the heroes behind what makes the 4th of July so special. Today I want to share with you a fun way you can share about the 4th of July Heroes in your home and a fun way to incorporate their images in your home to make the day more meaningful and festive.

I partnered with Walmart on this project and all the materials you need for this can be found at their store.

To begin, you can select your 4th of July Heroes that you want to talk about. I found this great list for kids that I used to select our heroes to focus upon. I then headed to Wikipedia and found images of each of our heroes and converted them to black & white and saved them on my computer. If you would like to use the same heroes as us, here are the heroes we selected for our project.

George Washington

George Washington

Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson

Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin

John Hancock

John Hancock

Crispus Attucks

Crispus Attucks

John Adams

John Adams

Abigail Adams

Abigail Adams

Celebrating 4th of July Heroes With Kids

Once you have your heroes selected, head to the Walmart Photo Site and upload the images there. In addition to having 1 of each image printed in 4×6, also add 1 set of wallets for each person.  If you send these to the one-hour lab, it will be less than $6 for all of them. While you are there, you can also pick up a package of mini-clothespins, a set of notecards for your kids to write on, supplies for this easy flag bunting, and this burlap wreath to decorate with. Since I already had these things in our home, it helps cut down on cost and storage for us this year.

Celebrating 4th of July Heroes With Kids

Once you have your images, have kids select which person they are interested in discovering and have them find information about their 4th of July heroes. I challenged my kids to find one or two facts about each hero.  We also read about the first 4th of July and how different is from how we celebrate today.

I am embarrassed to say that I was learning right along with my children and soaking it all in as much as they were. Abigail Adams, for example, was one of our favorite people we learned about. Did you know that she had five kids that she cared for and homeschooled while her husband was away serving his country?  Not only was she passionate about women’s rights, but she was also passionate about equality for all people, whether they were black or white. She helped care for the soldiers in her home (feeding them and treating their injuries), and she even learned how to make her own gunpowder. Emily and I are big fans of Abigail Adams now and all she did for our country.

Celebrating 4th of July Heroes With Kids

Likewise, my son loved John Adams and his fun fact was that he thought his teachers, “held him back.” Despite being held back from his true potential in grade school, he passed his entrance exams to Harvard and his parents, who were farmers, gave up several acres of their own farm land to pay for John’s schooling. And, boy, did that pay off! John Adams strongly supported independence from Britain, signed the Declaration of Independence, and negotiated the treaty ending the Revolutionary War. He later became the nation’s first vice president and second president.  This led to a great discussion about recognizing our true potential when sometimes others do not.

Did you know that Dr. Martin Luther King referenced Crispus Attucks in one of his speeches? He held him up as an example of black patriotism at the beginning of our nation’s history. Yet, we never knew anything about what he did for our country. I’m so glad we know now.

Celebrating 4th of July Heroes With Kids
Celebrating 4th of July Heroes With Kids

If you have smaller kids, you can share simple facts and have them draw pictures. Clearly, the fact that Abigail Adams rocked it as a mom and had five kids was worthy of a picture. Make this time fun for your kids while acknowledging the sacrifices that so many gave up for our freedom.

Celebrating 4th of July Heroes With Kids

Once we were done discussing our heroes, I incorporated these pictures into our holiday decor. I pulled some of the flags off of our bunting and switched them with pictures of our heroes.  I took the items off of my burlap wreath and clipped the wallet images with mini clothespins on the wreath. I hung this in the center of our mirror and added the flag & hero bunting around the frame of the mirror.

Celebrating 4th of July Heroes With Kids

I love these touches to our 4th of July decorating, but I love even more that my kids know about these patriotic heroes.  I hope this idea inspires you to learn more about this holiday and the heroes who made this day possible for all of us.

Happy 4th of July, friends!


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Less Summer Selfies, More Self

Thursday, May 29th, 2014

Less Summer Selfies, More Self


The thing I was most excited about when I got my first iPhone was the reverse camera. Finally, not only could I take pictures of my family, but I could be in them. And in them, I was. For the first time, the kids and I were in a photo together…a grainy photo with long arms and distorted faces, but I was in there. I loved getting to share these moments through social media and basked in the compliments. I no longer had to wait for my husband to come home to take a picture or lug out a tripod to capture a moment. We were there and we were in it together.

The thing is, sometimes in those moments, we get away from those moments. It is less about our kids, more about us.  The trend isn’t to post pictures of our kids at the park. It is mom at the park, the top of mom’s head at a historical monument on vacation, mom at the movies eating popcorn,  mom with her stressed face with the kids behind her.

A lot of mom.

A lot less moments.

A lot less kids.

This summer, I am challenging myself to less summer selfies, more self.  

Less Summer Selfies, More Self

Return to Being An Observer

You don’t need to be in the picture of a moment to know that you are there. If you want to capture the moment, turn the sound off on your phone and take a photo of your surroundings and your beautiful kids you made. Revel in the beauty of those moments and capture them as they are. Not posed. Not forced. Not necessarily you.

Ditching the phone altogether and actually lugging around that expensive camera you just had to have is also a great way to get back to being an observer in your life without the temptation to be in the shot. Although I love food photography, I struggle photographing my people sometimes. I am hoping that this commitment to getting back to being the observer will help me do a better job capturing those moments in better quality.


Less Summer Selfies, More Self


Get Back to Journaling Moments

I have gotten away from journaling, but I happened upon some of my old journals and scrapbooks from when I was a kid and it was a treasure box of memories. I reveled in capturing moments then and I always wrote everything down. I have let my blog be my journal, but I have those private moments that don’t need to be shared with the world that I want to remember forever. One journal that I got as a holiday gift is this One Line a Day Journal (affiliate link). In this journal, you can jot down one line a day, but on one page, you can look at a five year glance. It is a fantastic way to look at how you spent that one day out of the month over the course of five years. I want to start getting back to that and having these moments on paper for my kids. My worst fear is that they will never see or recognize my handwriting, as terrible as it may be.

I want to capture these moments, but not share them with the world.

Just them.

Less Summer Selfies, More Self

You Are Beautiful- You Don’t Need a Selfie To Hear That

You don’t need feedback from others to know that you are a beautiful mom and that you are doing a great job with your kids.  As I age, I find that we crave that feedback even more, as though our beauty is slipping. Perhaps, this is that midlife crisis business told through a daily selfie. We all work through these moments in different ways- I took up a dance class that makes me feel like I am five again as I stand at the barre. That’s my way of working through the aging process right now.

You know how you know you are beautiful? It isn’t by a million Instagram followers telling you that you are adorable, it is the work and the love you are giving to others and the reflection of that love in the eyes of your people. Giving to others is the biggest self-esteem boost ever. It is a natural high.

This blogging, it’s a tricky business. People want to see you, they want to know you are real. Brands want you to show off their stuff. They want YOU,  not a mannequin. And that is fine, for those business moments. I love showing off the wares of small business owners and helping support locally owned businesses. I share my haircut to hopefully get new clientele for a mom that is incredible at her job, I buy and wear a dress for another local mom who started her first small business, and yes, sometimes it feels good to be told that you are pretty. Who would not want to hear that?

The most touching thing I saw this week though was a Facebook feed full of beautiful words written and spoken by Maya Angelou. Not a negative word was said because this woman…she touched hearts, she shaped minds with her words, and she lived a life that I wish I could achieve a mere fraction of. She is beauty to me.

When I die, I hope that they won’t show a million selfies of me at my funeral. I hope that they will show a reel of all the people’s lives I impacted, including my amazing kids.

Because I want to give more self.

Less selfies.



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Simplifying the Holiday Parade of Activities

Wednesday, December 18th, 2013

*This post is sponsored by Ritz Crackers

Each year, I find myself coming to the topic of simplifying the holidays.  Don’t we just all wish this time of year was a little easier?  Despite my best efforts to simplify, it can feel impossible in the midst of the kid’s holiday programs, get togethers, shopping, wrapping, sending of cards, gift-giving, & holiday baking.

I don’t want to brag, but this year we really did achieve that simple holiday we have been longing for and I am partnering with Ritz to share how you can avoid the parade of endless holiday to-do’s and instead embrace a simpler holiday.

 Simplifying the Holiday Parade of Activities

Simplify the Giving of Holiday Cards


I love, love, love having pictures that I am in and having someone else take them for me, but we lost track of time and weren’t able to book our usual family session. Instead of not sending cards, I set my camera up on a tripod and we took our family shot by setting the timer on our camera and having me jump into the family picture.   By getting everything set up in advance before my family came outside, we were able to get our picture in a mere five minutes.  Before everyone had their coats off, I had our photos edited and cards in the mail. The best part is that we have moved our family session to the Spring, a time of year we decided was much less chaotic, and will really enjoy it all a little bit more.

I will admit that I was also was more laid back about how we did our cards this year and enlisted one of my favorite helpers to assist me in this year’s mailing. Not only was she excellent at adding our stamps and sealing the envelopes, but she also kept me on track because she was waiting for me to get those addresses on so she could do her part with them.  It gave us time to chat while we were doing them and ended up being fun instead of a holiday chore this year.

 Easy No-Bake Mint Thin Recipe from

Simplify the Holiday Baking


This year we decided to skip the big baking day and make easy treats instead. Although I usually love holiday baking, this year I focused more on creating knitted gifts than my typical holiday treat box. Fortunately, we found a fun holiday treat that we could make that didn’t require a bit of baking, but was just as delicious. On the Ritz Holiday Parade site, we found an easy recipe for Mint Thins to create together that tasted just like one of our favorite cookie treats, but were made with Ritz Crackers, chocolate, and crushed candy canes.

 Easy No-Bake Mint Thin Recipe from

Easy No-Bake Mint Thin Recipe from

It just goes to show that making holiday treats doesn’t have to be an elaborate baking day. My kids loved helping to crush (and eat!) the candy canes for our cookies and we enjoyed eating these while watching, “A Christmas Story,” this year. Yet another simple and easy tradition is born!

 Simplifying the Holiday Parade of Activities

Simplify the Gift Giving


I often talk about our commitment to do the Four Gift Rule, but this year we took it a step further and asked the kids if they would like to skip the presents and just take a family adventure together. We gave them lots of options for places we could take a mini-vacation to and they chose a trip to Grand Rapids, Michigan for our holiday getaway. We are so excited to take in all of the museums, holiday lights, ice skating, and see the sites of the city.

If your kids are struggling to come up with gifts this year or your home is overrun with just too much stuff, consider creating your very own, “Choose Your Own Adventure,” vacation in lieu of gifts. Not only did I have a lot less to buy this year, but I also get to spend four days with my family making incredible memories that I hope they will remember forever.

Start planning and dreaming ahead for next year though because those vacation rentals do go quickly!

 Ritz Parade Float

Focus On the Fun


Ritz wants to bring back the fun for the holidays and this year they have created a fun interactive Ritz Parade where you can visit the site and build your very own float. You can add up to twelve items on your float from toys, characters, celebrations, and banners. The pieces can be scaled to your desired size and placed anywhere on your float. Once it is complete, you can share your holiday float with others. It’s a fun little interactive tool that you can use to keep the kids busy while you are putting those last minute touches on those holiday festivities. Since we adopted a cat this year, we loved making a float of her for our holiday parade. I am sure this illustrates just how special she has become to all of us!

In addition, the Ritz parade allows consumers to unlock deals to help decrease the stress of gift buying! You can check out all the deals here!

For a little added holiday fun, check out how Ritz surprised shoppers with a fun rap. Get it? Rapping Wrappers!!


Happy Holidays, friends!

 Easy No-Bake Mint Thin Recipe from

Easy Mint Thin Cookies
Recipe type: Dessert
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 12
Looking for a quick holiday treat to share that doesn't require any baking? You must try these delicious Mint Thin "Cookies." You won't believe how good or easy these are to make (and eat!)
  • 2 pkg. (4 oz. each) semi-sweet baking chocolate, melted, slightly cooled
  • ¼ tsp. peppermint extract
  • 36 RITZ Crackers
  • 1 candy cane (6 inch), crushed
  1. Mix chocolate and extract.
  2. Dip crackers in chocolate mixture, turning to completely coat each cracker. Carefully scrape off excess chocolate.
  3. Place crackers in single layer on waxed paper-covered baking sheets; sprinkle with crushed candy.
  4. Refrigerate thirty minutes or until chocolate is firm.


This post is sponsored by Ritz Crackers. I’ve received compensation for my time and effort in creating this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

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