Can you believe that school has started for many already, and will be starting for everyone else within the next couple of weeks? It’s crazy how fast the summer goes, yet I always look forward to a brand new school year and that great fresh feeling of fall! Dealing with all the busy schedules, paperwork, homework, and meals during the school week is part of the fun, but also can lead to feeling overwhelmed if not tackled in the beginning.
Now that my kids are a bit older, I’ve found that if I start out on the right track with simple, doable organizing strategies, then the rest of the year goes much better than when I put off setting up simple systems or decide to just wing it.
With this in mind, I’ve put together 21 Back To School Organizing ideas to inspire you and help you get the year off to a good start for you and your kids. I’ve picked some classic tried-and-true Mom Advice systems that work for us and gathered a few other amazing ideas in three main categories:
Father’s Day is only a couple weeks away and whether celebrating my awesome Dad or my husband who is an incredible dad to our kids, I think it’s so meaningful to give handmade gifts, especially if they can be made by kids – or at least with their help. Those seem to be the gifts that are saved and cherished through the years (though hopefully any edible parts of the gift won’t be saved for years!).
Like I did for Mother’s Day (turnabout is fair play!), I’ve combed the Mom Advice archives to bring you some fun and easy gifts for dad that don’t take a lot of money or time and I’m also including two new projects from this year because, well, I love them!
To round out our list of gift ideas, I found a few more sweet and memorable projects from other creative bloggers that you might want to make – just please be sure to pin from the original source I’ve provided if you’d like to add one to a Pinterest board. Thanks!
Our family is currently having the time of our lives at Disney World for the Social Media Moms Conference and I was reminded of our family’s first experience visiting the Magic Kingdom and what we learned during that trip.
Are the tips I shared then still helpful? You bet! In fact, coming into this trip armed with the “insider” tips we learned during our first visit has made this one a lot smoother, even though it’s a bit different because I’m also attending a conference.
So I thought I’d take a moment to share again how we planned for Disney and what we learned (for further information on each tip, be sure to read the original post), and give you the opportunity to add any of your tips or tricks you’ve learned in visiting Disney World in the comments!
1. Advance Preparation Tips
Financially: start saving and looking for deals as soon as you start thinking about your trip.
Safety: print out current photos to carry of each child, bring a sharpie to write cell phone numbers with, and assign buddies.
Meals: plan for snacks and drinks before heading to the park.
Souvenirs: buy them at a local Disney store or the party store and pack them with you!
Navigation: load all needed GPS info beforehand.
2. Ride Tips
Make a family plan: list the rides everyone wants to go on by importance.
Visit rides with longest wait times first.
Use FASTPASS to get through longer lines faster.
Add the Wait Time App to your mobile phone to check ride wait times.
3. Photograph Tips
Capture your children’s view – not only of them seeing things, but how they see it (get down to their level).
Capture the moment – as many of the hilarious ride moments as you can!
Take pictures on the go, too – in the car and at the hotel – using both phone and regular cameras.
Remember a family photo: scope out someone who can take a picture of your family in front of something you like.
Capture the nighttime magic – do a bit of research in advance to know your camera settings so you can get some good memory shots of the fantastic light displays.
Now it’s your turn – what can you share with us about the best way to experience Disney?
It’s that time of the year again – over the next month it will be Spring Break somewhere in the US and MomAdvice has you covered with Spring Break Boredom Busters for your kids. No need to worry about how to fill those days when you have fun and free Spring Break activities to do at home.
If you’re anything like me, you’re looking for some quick, clever, and kid-tested ways to fill some of those school-less hours. How about a list of twenty-two awesome Spring Break Boredom Buster Ideas I found – everything from classics like homemade playdough, fun foods, and games to a “how’d you make that?” activity such as glow-in-the-dark jello?
Baked donuts have become our family’s new way of celebrating all of the special occasions in our life and I couldn’t wait to share with you my snickerdoodle donut creation I made this week. These baked snickerdoodle donuts are a fun & frugal family treat that are easy to create with a simple nonstick donut pan ( we have two of these Norpro 6-count Nonstick Donut Pans) and pantry ingredients.
My husband celebrated his birthday this past weekend and I wanted to create something special for his birthday morning. Every year I try to find a snickerdoodle treat for him since it is his favorite cookie in the whole world. We have enjoyed everything from the cookies to snickerdoodle cupcakes to snickerdoodle biscotti in our house. It seems no matter what version of snickerdoodles we are creating, we love them no matter what. Who could resist that cinnamon flavor?
I will admit the first batch of these was a giant fail, although they photographed beautifully. I played with different leavening agents that yielded gummy and heavy donuts. I ended up baking a second round later in the week using cake flour and it helped to yield a much lighter donut and more the consistency I was after. It is proof that sometimes it takes a couple of tries before you get it right when baking.
Each donut was dipped in butter and then dipped in a bowl filled with sugar and cinnamon. The coating adds that crunch and more cinnamon flavor that remind me so much of our favorite snickerdoodle cookie. We all agreed, that these donuts were heavenly and there was not a single one left once I perfected the batch.
Good morning, friends! I hope that you all have enjoyed your Christmas and New Year’s with your families. The holiday break was just what our family needed this year to get our 2012 started out right. Thank you so much for giving me the chance to regroup and spend some much needed time with our family.
We did a whole lot of nothing this year while we were on holiday. My husband took the entire week off of work and for the first time ever, we had a whole week of nothing.
I bought a big box of Christmas puzzles that I thought the kids would enjoy doing with us. Our kids could have cared less about the puzzles after the first day, but Ryan & I found ourselves sitting down every night and trying to put these together while listening to holiday tunes on Pandora. I think this was one of my favorite things that we did and I can’t wait to tackle these again next year.
As is the tradition in our house, the kids opened their Christmas pajamas one day early and we took them in their new jammies to see the holiday lights and for peppermint shakes at Steak & Shake. All other traditions ceased to exist after our family was attacked with a rotten case of the stomach flu.
Of course the stomach flu happened on my daughter’s birthday, Christmas Eve, then Christmas Day…pretty much all of the important days to our family. We tried not to let it rain on our perfect Christmas break though. On Christmas Day morning though, we were all feeling well enough for our baked gingerbread donuts and the kids enjoyed this fun treat with mugs of milk after opening their presents.
The week before Christmas break, I shut our cable off on our television. After I shut it off, I realized it was the week before Christmas break and banged my head against the wall. Surprisingly, we have done really well without our cable (more on that later). I figure if we could make it through this week, we could make it through any week since this is the most time we ever have to watch television.
The kids really enjoyed our old favorites (A Christmas Story, Rudolph, & Charlie Brown) and Emily discovered her inner superstar after she saw, “Annie,” for the first time. There was a lot of signing and dancing in this house this year. It still turned out to be a great lazy week of television watching despite our cable shut down.
We had a wonderful NYE with friends and I am looking forward to seeing what this next year has in store. God has been very, very good to us. I am thankful for all of the blessings that happened in 2011. I always like to start the year out with a few goals and this year is no different.
My resolutions for 2012 are:
Finish the writing of my first book
Read two literary classics
Read 60 books this year (in total)
Take a knitting class that pushes me out of my comfort zone
Keep a daily journal (that is not my blog)
I don’t know how I am going to manage to get those kids back to school this week since we have barely climbed out of our pajamas by noon each day, but I am sure it will feel good to be up and moving again once we get in the swing of things. We were thankful for our completely lazy and indulgent holiday and hope you had a wonderful holiday too!
Happy New Year to each of you! What are your resolutions this year? What was your favorite moment from your holiday break?
Merry Christmas from our little family to yours. God has blessed us in incredible ways this year and one of those blessings happens to be you. Thank you for supporting our family, for reading my ideas, for taking a chance in the kitchen with a recipe you saw here, for firing up your glue guns from the projects I have crafted, for hitting your library with my reading list, for incorporating our family traditions into your family traditions, to simply affirming my work here with your sweet comments. I am so thankful for you!
Our family is on a holiday this week and we hope you enjoy the holiday with those you love. We are excited for gingerbread waffle eating, cocoa sipping, tackling a few holiday puzzles, singing lots of carols, and just being together. I have a stack of library books, a pile of yarn, and a coffee cup with my name on it this week.
Happy Holidays with lots of love from our family to yours!
We had an exciting week this week as we celebrated my daughter’s sixth birthday with a fun Hello Kitty birthday party. I wanted to keep the party simple and sweet with her closest girlfriends for her special day. I didn’t spend a lot on this Hello Kitty party at all, but it made me smile to hear the girl’s remarking that it was, “the best part ever.”
Just in case you are thinking about spending a lot of money, for five and six year-old girls the best party ever need only include pink things to eat, glittered nail polish, tiaras, and a Barbie movie.
Here are a few of the fun projects we did for her birthday party:
1. Tissue Paper Pom Poms in Pinks & Purples to go over her party table. I did buy a package of Hello Kitty napkins and paper plates this year to match her theme and then used all of our past party supplies to bring our pink-themed party together.
2. Hot Cocoa Filling Station- I found inexpensive holiday mugs at Michael’s Craft Store. I added a batch of our homemade cocoa mix, whipped cream, homemade pink peppermint marshmallows, and lots of sprinkles for the cocoa. Each girl got to personalize her mug with her favorite additions.
3.Magnolia Bakery Vanilla Cupcakes- Emily’s favorite show is, “Cupcake Wars,” so I knew that I needed to make a spectacular cupcake for my big girl. I made these cupcakes adorned with pink buttercream frosting and a shake of pink sprinkles. Each cupcake was topped with a Hello Kitty ring (that had lip gloss tucked inside). The rings were just $.50 each, but the girls really loved them.
4. Getting Glamorous- I bought four different colors of nail polish (including clear glitter) and a package of nail stickers to do the girl’s nails. Each girl got fancy nails and a Hello Kitty tiara to wear home with them ($2.99 each plus a 20% off coupon).
5. Movies & Popcorn- We ended our birthday fun watching, “Barbie Princess Charm School,” and munching on popcorn. The girls loved this movie and thanks to a tip from my best friend, I managed to DVR the movie on Nick Jr., saving me the cost of the rental.
My sweet Emily is the type of girl that captures the heart of anyone who meets her. Her sense of style is stellar and she has just this incredible independence that sometimes makes my jaw drop to the ground. I was never as fiercely independent as her.
Most days I shake my head and think, “How is SHE mine?” I was never that cool.
Happy birthday to our beautiful girl- we love you so much!
Our family spent our Thanksgiving holiday in Florida this year. It was our first real family trip and our first time heading to the Magic Kingdom. I am a Disney newbie although I had the incredible opportunity to see many Florida sites with the Orlando Visitor’s Bureau with my son last year as a trip for just the two of us.
I will admit it, I was nervous about it all. I wanted to surprise them, I wanted the day to be magical, I wanted the weather to cooperate, I wanted the crowds to be minimal, I wanted us all to have the best time of our life.
Is that too much to ask?
Lucky for us, all of these things really did happen and we had a magical day at the Magic Kingdom.
Accommodations were provided by the grandparents as well as a cooler filled with drinks and snacks for us to take on the road and a few to nestle in a bag that I carried with me. The truth is, we went into it knowing it was going to be an expensive day. We also went into it prepared financially for this day and I worked some extra freelance jobs to cover the expense.
Here is what we learned from our experience at Disney:
Preparation is Key
Financial Preparation- Whenever our family is tackling a big financial project, we set aside money into a separate savings account to prepare for whatever that financial goal might be. Consider talking with your bank about opening accounts for your Disney trip. Have an automatic transfer made for $25 or more each month put into this account all year long and then you will have the money saved when it is time to make your family trip.
Savings can be had when booking your travel through places like AAA and additional savings can be found while visiting in Orlando by printing a free Orlando Magicard to take with you when visiting restaurants and attractions while you are in Orlando.
Safety Preparation- I don’t need to tell you that Disney is a big place and safety is very important when visiting theme parks. Each child was assigned a buddy to be their partner throughout the days and they were to hold their buddy’s hand while we were there. We took additional safety precautions by printing out recent pictures of our children to keep in our wallet and bags just in case something should happen and they were separated from us. With a handy Sharpie, I wrote my cell phone number on their arms so if they were separated from us, someone could call us and reunite us quickly.
Meal Preparation- You can bring snacks and drinks into the park with no problems. We packed fruit snacks, granola bars, and bottles of water for our day in a bag with no objections. Rely on these snacks and bottles of water to help cut some of the costs. I recommend visiting this MouseSavers page to find the best cheap eats while you are at the parks. We did get table service for the evening, but you want to call ahead since reservations can be made up to 180 days in advance of your vacation. Since we called the reservation number that morning when we arrived, we ended up at the Plaza. The table service was about twelve dollars more than the fast food service in the park and quite a bit better with a lot more food included with our meal. If you want to explore the menus before you go, you can view all the menus for the parks here.
Souvenir Preparation- Souvenirs are a big expense and children can be plagued with horrible cases of what our family lovingly calls, “a case of the gimmies.” At the same time, I remember the amazing souvenir ears I got and how much I wanted those items when I went to Disney. I hit the Disney store for t-shirts and small toys which were a third of the price as they were in the shops and a girlfriend recommended picking up ears at a local party store (only $5.99 each). The kids were thrilled with their ears and shirts which they wore throughout the park and they did not even ask for anything while we walked through thanks to this little bit of preparation.
Navigation Preparation- When you pick up your tickets, you can pick up a handy map of the park. Thanks to my iPhone I was able to get some reinforcement on the map with Disney’s Magic Kingdom Tour Guide GPS+ from CXI Gaming (cost was $1.99) and helped us navigate the parks easily and find what we needed quickly. We also had everything in our GPS before we left for getting to the park and how to get back to where we were lodging.
Getting the Most Out of Your Ride Time
Make a Plan of Attack- Along with your Navigation Preparation, discuss as a family what rides are most important to you and order them in a list of importance. The rides with the longest wait times we rode first so that we could make sure that we got those out of the way before the crowds and wait times got really long. If you aren’t’ sure what rides would be best for the age group of your kids, I do recommend buying the Disney’s Magic Kingdom Tour Guide GPS+ from CXI Gaming (cost was $1.99) because this actually gave you a plan for your day based upon your age group. They have tour plans for adults & teens, parents of preschool children, parents with children ages 4-8, and senior Disney lovers. It gave us a great starting point for deciding how to make the most of our day.
Use FASTPASS to Make the Most of Your Day-FASTPASS isn’t anything you need to sign up for, it is simply a way to place a reservation on rides with long wait times. On your map that you receive when you come in, it will have a FASTPASS icon next to the rides that you can FASTPASS. In the Magic Kingdom, Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain, Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, Jungle Cruise, Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, & Peter Pan’s Flight are the rides you can FASTPASS. Head to those rides and a machine will be available to insert your ticket and a receipt will print out when you can come back to the ride with a one hour window that you can cash in on. Head to other rides with shorter wait times and then come back at the designated time to go through a faster line.
Add a free Wait Time App to Your Mobile Phone- No need to invest in a pricey Wait Time App, just the free Disney World Wait Times app will work perfectly since all wait time information is user generated. Check the wait times on the rides and use that to help decide which rides you want to go on.
Capturing the Magic
It is the most magical day of our kid’s lives and the last thing I wanted was terrible pictures that didn’t showcase just how amazing our day was. My parents have this great picture of me when I was a little girl wearing my mouse ears, posing with the characters, sunburned and freckled cheeks, grinning with the biggest toothless grin at five that is still one of my favorite pictures from my childhood.
Capture Their View- When Emily saw the castle for the first time…well, I could start bawling just thinking about it. I wanted to see that moment over and over so I captured her first gaze at the castle and then got to her eye level and took a picture at her level at exactly what she was seeing. Having pictures both of them seeing this magical beauty and the magical beauty itself are captures that your family will never forget.
Capture the Movement- How can you capture the hilarious and dizzy feeling of some of those rides without movement in the picture. Capturing motion in photography is so much fun especially when riding on the teacups. I focused on the bag in this picture as we spun around and and around. I recommend this article if you are looking for more tips on how to capture motion blur in your pictures.
Take Fun Pictures on the Go- My camera equipment can get awfully heavy so we took turns with the big camera and I relied on my mobile phone when I wanted to capture details quickly and easily. I love Camera+ and Instagram for sharing fun pictures on the go. It is such a fun way to take a quick photo, add an effect, and send it to family and friends to keep them updated on how your day is going.
Get a Family Photo- I will admit that I looked for someone who had a camera like ours to take our family picture. If you have a point-and-shoot, finding someone to snap a picture should be really easy.
When I handed off my camera I switched it to Aperture Mode (Av on my Canon) and changed the Aperture to f/7.1. I was really worried we would be out of focus and Disney is a very busy place. I then used Picnik to crop as many of the background people out of our picture.
They have people all over the parks taking pictures and you can have them snap your picture for their portrait and then ask them to take one with your camera too. They know the best spots with good lighting and backgrounds for your family photos. Best of all, they know how to work cameras.
Capture the Nighttime Magic- Nighttime magic was tricky to photograph and may require a little research on your part. When I took pictures of the castle I was so disappointed. The colors were off and lights were blurry. It was not the magical pictures I had hoped for.
What are your best tips for doing Disney on a budget? Do you have any tips for making the most of your time at the parks? Please share!
Below is our big reveal to our children when we told them they were heading to Disney. It was the thrill of a lifetime to get to surprise them with the news that they would be seeing the Magic Kingdom for the very first time. It still brings tears to my eyes that we got to have such an incredibly magical day with them!
I hope you all have a wonderful and blessed Thanksgiving. We are off on a secret mission to surprise our children. We have packed our bags and are on our way to the Sunshine State to see both sets of grandparents and to share a Thanksgiving meal with them.
The ultimate in surprises is happening this week and we can’t wait to surprise our kids with a trip to Disney and see their faces when we tell them that we are going there for the day. It has been an extremely difficult secret to keep and I am hoping to capture the big reveal on camera. I have lots of surprises in store for this trip and I am so thankful that we get to do this as a family.
We hope you have a very Happy Thanksgiving! Sending lots of love to each of you this holiday!
Content will resume as normal on Monday. Until then, enjoy ever moment that you can with your precious families!