Posts Tagged ‘Parenting’

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 MomAdvice.com

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.)

ANYWAY.

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 MomAdvice.com

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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Make the Most of Your Marriage by Making Memories

Monday, July 14th, 2014

From our marriage & parenting contributor, Mary Carver.

Improve Your Marriage by Making Memories via MomAdvice.com

My husband and I have friends who have known each other their entire lives. I’m not even exaggerating. They have a photo of themselves as toddlers, playing together. And sometime in their early childhood, they reportedly were married in someone’s backyard or living room.

{Of course, the photo above is not the famous one of my friends. But it IS their son with my daughter, and I figure I better keep it in a safe place just in case they end up marrying in 20 years or so!}

Though I joke about being a child bride anytime someone asks how long I’ve been married, I didn’t actually meet my husband until my sophomore year of high school. Still, that was obviously a LONG time ago – and means this year marks 15 years of marriage and 20 years of being a couple. We’ve known each other for longer than we didn’t.

All that time together means a lot of things. It means baggage and patterns and finish-your-sentence arguments. But it also means inside jokes and stories and finish-your-sentence-in-a-good-way. We’re working on those bad habits and same old arguments, but I’m also convinced that focusing on the memories we’ve made together can do just as much good for our marriage.

—————

Earlier this year our pastor spoke about improving relationships. He cited a study where new couples and established couples were observed eating dinner. Younger couples talked for the majority of an hour spent together, while couples married for several decades only spoke to each other for a few minutes out of an hour.

A few minutes?! Yikes! I think that goes well beyond “comfortable silence” that can seem like paradise after a day with noisy kids or chatty co-workers.

As I’ve thought about these two things (knowing my husband for 20 years and older couples not having anything to say to each other), I’ve wondered if one will affect the other – and how we can avoid becoming silent senior citizens who are more interested in their meatloaf than their marriage.

Improve Your Marriage by Making Memories via MomAdvice.com

Since my marriage hit a low point a couple years ago, I’ve learned so much – about marriage, about my husband, about myself. I’ve read countless articles and books; we’ve spent hours (and dollars, SIGH) on counseling. I now have a much better grasp on our love languages, on love and respect, on the importance of date nights and being on the same team.

In short, I’ve learned how much WORK marriage is.

And it is. But it’s also a lot of fun!

Or . . . it’s supposed to be.

As a mom, a type A personality, a [recovering] perfectionist, an oldest child, I’m not always very FUN. I’m responsible and organized (sometimes), I get things done, and I take care of people and business. But fun? Not so much.

After 20 years I forget too often how much fun I can have with my husband. But taking time to reminisce every now and then reminds me that one of the most fun parts of my marriage IS the fact that we’ve known each other so long. We’ve grown up together, and our lives are enmeshed in a thousand ways. Our families, our jobs, our homes, our friends – all of it is connected in one way or another.

Every time we visit our hometown or old friends, I remember how it felt back in the day, how much we laughed, how amusing (and not annoying) I found his teasing, how my shoulders didn’t hunch and my jaw didn’t clench with the stress of the everyday. And I remember being in love – young love, early love, no-real-responsibilities love.

As we walk down memory lane – whether literally at his dad’s farm or figuratively with a yearbook, scrapbook or long-forgotten mix CD – something special happens. We smile a bit more, we laugh out loud a lot more, and my heart just feels warmer toward him in general. Reminiscing is good for my relationship.

I don’t think this is restricted to couples who grew up together. No matter how long you’ve been married, you’ve created memories with your husband.

  • That place you met – or had your first date
  • That song you danced to
  • Those photos of your funniest faces or fanciest prom outfits
  • Your favorite movies – and movie quotes
  • The inside joke you can share with just a wink or raised eyebrow
  • Those friends you double dated with back then

Remembering those things together will help you recall the sweetness of young love and also remind you of your heart connection. And it might just help you remember how to be a little more fun!

Of course, as I think about those older couples with nothing to say during dinner, I’m even more determined to keep making those fun memories. I ask him if he’s heard a new song that I think he might enjoy as much as I do, we binge-watch a TV show together, we plan vacations and take last-minute road trips. We pass notes in church (shhh! don’t tell!), and we take those obnoxious-to-everyone-else selfies when we manage to get a date night.

We make memories – so we have something to look back on, no matter how old we get or how many dinners we share.

Reminisce with us today. What’s one of your favorite memories of your husband?

Photo source

 

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Planning One-on-One Time with Kids

Monday, June 9th, 2014

From our marriage & parenting contributor, Mary Carver.

Spending One-on-One Time with Kids at MomAdvice.com

“I just . . . feel like you don’t pay any ATTENTION to me!” she wailed.

My six-year-old daughter, folks – the drama queen. Just half a dozen years under her belt, and already she’s a master manipulator, saying the words that cut deepest in my mama’s heart. I often ask my husband where on earth she could possibly get these traits – and then pretend not to notice when he stares at me pointedly.

Yes, it’s true we are a melodramatic bunch in my house, but despite the crocodile tears and bedtime delay strategies, I know there’s truth in my daughter’s complaint. We had a baby in January, and after being an only child for six years, my oldest daughter is having a rough time with the adjustment.

Don’t get me wrong! She LOVES her baby sister. Like, crazy over-the-top adores her. But she still has felt overlooked and underfed, at least in the attention department, and has found lots of ways to let me know. Even though her methods (and method acting!) irritate me, I’m thankful she’s spoken up so my husband and I know she needs a little extra assurance that we love her just as much as the tiny baby everyone keeps fussing over.

I know that so much of good parenting is being intentional, setting specific ideals and goals for our families and then following through. But man, oh man, is that ever difficult when you’re tired! And if there’s ever a time for being tired, it’s when a new child enters our homes and throws everything – sleep, meals, family dynamics – into chaos. Still, this is important.

So what’s a tired mom to do when one of her kids feels left out? Make a plan, of course! Okay, maybe a plan isn’t the obvious go-to solution for all of your problems, but if there’s one thing that makes me feel better about life, it’s a solid to-do list or outline. Or chocolate. So maybe there’s more than one thing…

ANYWAY.

Though I love plans and lists, I didn’t foresee this issue the way I did meal planning and grocery shopping. So while I spent my last trimester shopping, cooking and freezing in bulk, I neglected to plan ways to make sure my older daughter felt loved after we brought home her baby sister.

That’s okay, though! It’s never to late to make a parenting plan, and besides, your kiddos might be feeling overlooked for any number of reasons (not simply as a result of a new baby in the family). So let’s make a new plan together.

Planning One-on-One Time with Kids

My approach to planning one-on-one time with kids is three-fold:

First, I make sure we connect every day. Whether that’s an extra bedtime story or snuggling in the morning before anyone else wakes up, adding to our gratitude journal during dinner or discussing the latest kindergarten “gossip” in the car on the way home from school, I make sure to look her in the eye, hold her hand and listen to her heart. That seems like the bare minimum, I know, but slowing down enough to really connect with the people we love most can fall by the wayside easily on busy days if we’re not intentional.

Secondly, I ask my daughter for her opinion and input about family activities. When it’s appropriate, of course! I certainly don’t check with her before paying the bills or planning a date night with my husband. But occasionally, she gets to choose what we have for dinner (and then, ideally, help me fix it) or what movie we watch on a Friday night.

And on the day after school ended in May, we went to lunch for a “summer planning meeting.” I told her when she’d be attending summer school and theater camp, and what days she would spend with a babysitter or grandparents. But then I asked her who she’d like to invite over for playdates and what special summer activities she wanted to add to our list. (Sidewalk chalk paint, s’mores and a family game night, in case you’re wondering!) She loved feeling like her opinion mattered as we made our summer plans (and bringing her notebook to Chick-Fil-A for our “lunch meeting” pretty much made her day).

Finally, we plan dates. Sometimes it’s an actual outing:

- going to a movie
- getting ice cream cones
- shopping for a new outfit

But other times, it’s simply taking time to be together:

- reading an extra story at bedtime when the baby happens to fall asleep early
- walking home from school so we have more time to talk about her day
- letting her paint my nails
- having her tell me all about her make-believe superpowers and fairy princess friends

One-on-one time together doesn’t have to be elaborate or expensive. It doesn’t have to be fancy or formal, and you don’t have to spend hours on your city’s calendar of events or Pinterest to find the perfect activity.  Playing a round of Go Fish, making his favorite dessert together or playing catch in the backyard after dinner could be all it takes to make sure your kids remember that you think they’re special, all by themselves.

The point isn’t spending money or spoiling a kid who’s feeling underappreciated or overlooked. And sometimes, it isn’t even about spending hours and hours together, gazing into each other’s eyes or – even worse – wielding glue sticks and glitter to make the Pinterest-perfect craft that will prove your devotion and Mom of the Year status. It’s simply about showing your kids a little extra love when they feel unloved.

We all feel unloved at times, and our kids are no different. So whether it’s because of a new baby or a new house, overtime keeping you or your husband at work more than usual, or any stage when they need a bit more attention, making a plan to keep your relationship with them on track will go a long way.

And now I have to get busy typing up my daughter’s “Summer Plan,” because that was my action item after our lunch meeting and summer is already underway!

How do you spend one-on-one time with your kids? Have you ever made a plan to prevent one child from feeling neglected or overlooked?

Photo by Dave Parker

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When Mom Needs a Timeout

Monday, April 14th, 2014

From our marriage & parenting contributor, Mary Carver.

When Mom Needs a Timeout | MomAdvice.com

“Mom? What’s for lunch? Mom? MOM! Hey! MOMMMMMMMMMMM! What. Are. WE. Doing. FOR. Lunch?!”

Before she could ask – or say my name – One. More. Time, I said, carefully and through gritted teeth, “I can’t talk to you right now. I do not have anything nice to say.”

We were driving home after church, after a week full of fighting and talking back and directly disobeying every big and little thing. We were headed home (by way of Taco Bell), after a morning full of arguing and interrupting the grown-up talk and smarting off in front of the pastor.

Though my newborn has started sleeping for a few more hours in a row overnight, I still feel like a stiff wind could knock me over – or at least lull me into a nap – most days. So fighting against a strong-willed six-year-old had worn me down.

This mama needed a time-out!

Wouldn’t it be nice if, every time we feel overwhelmed, we could escape to a place like that beach up there? {You know, like maybe the week after spring break? Or on snow day #472?}

Unfortunately, a beach vacay isn’t really in the cards every time I feel like pulling out my hair.

When Mom Needs a Timeout | MomAdvice.com

Last summer I wrote about wanting to run away. Just for a bit, just long enough to refill my emotional tank so I could face whatever chaos or challenge waited for me at home. On that particular day, I had dropped off my daughter at the babysitter’s house and driven straight to a diner, where I sat – alone – eating pancakes and avoiding a small-but-maddening kitchen renovation at home.

But even that feels luxurious – and impossible – some days. Sometimes you can get away, but sometimes you’re stuck in the house or without extra money or a babysitter or a couple hours to spend on yourself. That doesn’t mean you can’t take a break.

When you need a timeout and want to run away, here are a few things – some more luxurious than others! – you might try:

  • Light a candle. The one that smells so pretty and makes you breathe deeply and your shoulders relax, just a bit? Yep, put it way up high and out of reach of little hands if you must, but light that candle.
  • Schedule a manicure. Or a pedicure. Or a haircut. And then go to the appointment. Turn off your phone if you can stand it and just enjoy being pampered. Even if I’m using a coupon to get my hair trimmed at a discount salon, those two minutes of having someone else wash my hair seem awfully close to that beach paradise I long for!
  • Go to lunch. Call a friend – maybe one you haven’t seen in a while – and make plans for lunch. A little grown-up conversation can do wonders for the soul. (Or, if you’d rather, go eat that lunch on your own. Take a good book or your iPod, and enjoy the alone time!)
  • Go to the bathroom. Yes, I said it. I’m not telling you what you need to do in there! But if you can escape the kids for five minutes, walk into the bathroom and shut the door. Yeah, all the way closed.
  • Take a shower. What? You’re offended that I assume you didn’t already do this? Well, fine, you are a better woman than me! Seriously, I know that mom showers often get shorter and less regular during some phases of life. These days – living with a newborn – I feel good if I manage one every other day. But when I finally do step under the hot water, even if it only lasts for four minutes and 27 seconds? It. Is. Wonderful.
  • Take time for a quick workout. Or a chapter in that book you’ve been dying to read. Or the latest episode of your favorite show. And do it in the middle of the day. GASP! I know! Can you BELIEVE I said that? But seriously – despite our collective understanding that we should sleep when the baby sleeps and work our tails off when the toddlers nap, sometimes a mom just needs a break. Take yours.
  • Go shopping. Swing into Target and peruse the dollar spot. Or the clearance racks. You don’t have to buy anything. Sometimes just wandering around and looking at the pretty, clean, new things is enough to clear my mind. Likewise, much as grocery shopping can be a chore, doing it alone? Can feel like a two-week vacation.
  • Take the long way home. Sometimes after I drop off one daughter at school and the other at the babysitter, I don’t rush right home to begin working. Deadlines are pressing and emails are waiting for replies, but driving the long way home – while blaring something that is not children’s music – is what I need to decompress from a rough morning. On the flip side, I’ve been known to scoop up my daughter on non-work days, drive through Sonic for a cherry limeade during happy hour and sit in the kindergarten carpool line for an extra 15 minutes as my car-sleepy baby gives me a break.

What do YOU do when you need a timeout?

{Photo sources: johnmichaelmayer and miamism}

 

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21 Back To School Organizing Ideas

Monday, August 19th, 2013

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.

21 School Organizing Ideas

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:

  • Making School Memories/Showing Love
  • Life Organization Tips for The School Year
  • Organizing Dinners, Lunches, and Snacks

Teacher School Supplies Cake :: MomAdvice.com

Making School Memories/Showing Love

 

Teacher’s School Supplies Cake (use the sales!)

Creating Back to School Traditions

First Day of School Pin/Barrette

19 Teacher Appreciation Ideas

Mason Jar With Chalkboard Printable Tags @ The Crafted Sparrow

First Day of School Journal @ Happy Clippings

School Year Time Capsule @ Family Volley

DIY Command Center :: MomAdvice.com

Life Organization Tips for The School Year

 

DIY Command Center

DIY Homework Station

The Top 7 Apps to Organize Your Life

Simplifying Your To-Do List

Organizing School Papers @ One Creative Housewife

Simplifying the Morning Routine @ Homey Home Design

After School Routine with Free Printable @ Living Locurto

Clothing Organization @ The Idea Room

DIY Lunchbox Creation Station :: MomAdvice.com

Organizing Dinners, Lunches, and Snacks

 

DIY Lunchbox Creation Station

Dorm Mini-Fridge Healthy Makeover

Free Weekly Menu Planner Sheet

15 Back to School Treats @ Rainbows & Honeysuckle

Quick Tips for Packing Lunches @ House of Hepworths

Pantry Organization for Easy Weeknight Meals @ BHG

I hope this helps you all get off to a successful school year start. And I hope you share with us some of your favorite back-to-school organizing tips!

 

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First Day of School

Thursday, August 25th, 2011

We survived the first day.

One of us…

*ahem*

Barely. Survived.

I hope you all have a wonderful back-to-school day too!  We wanted to share the pictures of our day with our friends here!

xo,

Amy

Back to School Recipes, Organization Tips, and Other Hidden Resources

Monday, August 23rd, 2010

Good morning, friends! Today my daughter heads back to school and my son will be shortly following behind her on Wednesday. I am a sappy momma and tend to sob on both days that the children head to school. I also am the one in sunglasses for the entire day to hide the tired circles and red eyes from all of the crying. They do drive me crazy sometimes when they are here, but I miss them when they are gone.

It has been a flurry of activity- uniform shopping, clothes shopping, shoe shopping, backpack shopping, school supplies shopping, back-to-school nights,  ice cream treating, lots of individual dates with each kid, and plenty of talking about the exciting year to come.

I just wanted to point out a few of my favorite resources for moms that might help you as you ease back into your busy school year! These are my favorite resources for organizing and feeding my family during this busy time!

Back-to-School Breakfast Ideas:

Blueberry Pancakes (make and pop them in the freezer for the school week)

Fluffy & Light Pumpkin Pancakes (make and pop them in the freezer for the school week)

6 Amazing Waffle Recipes & Tips for Getting Your Waffle On

Protein-Packed Strawberry & Banana Smoothies

Banana Cream Pie Smoothies

Slow Cooked Oatmeal

Homemade Hot Cocoa Mix

Homemade Cinnamon Rolls (a great way to celebrate your week at school on Saturday morning)

Honey Nut Granola

Vanilla Scented Granola

Deliciously Homemade Granola Bars

Getting Organized for Back-to-School:

One Month of Slow Cooking (perfect for those days filled with after-school activities)

The Essentials for Saving on Back-to-School

Weekly Planner Sheet

Weekly Menu Planner Sheet

Transforming the Paper Clutter

Choosing a Great Family Organizer for Your Family

Simplifying Your To-Do List

Ideas for Celebrating That First Day of School:

Back-to-School Celebrations

World’s Greatest Homemade Slushies

Throw a Frugal Pizza Party

For Capturing Those Back-To-School Photos:

Capturing Your Children Through Photography

Making Lunch Special:

Free Printable Lunch Box Notes

Writing Love Notes to Your Child

Fun with After-School Snacks:

Deliciously Easy Raisin Bran Muffins

Deliciously Homemade Granola Bars (I think I like the word deliciously)

Lemony Blueberry Muffins

Simple Oatmeal & Chocolate Chip Muffins

Delicious & Easy Cereal Bars

Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

Good luck to each of you that are on this journey again with your kids! I hope you all get off to a successful school year start!

Rediscovering the Simple Pleasures in Life

Tuesday, August 17th, 2010

Summer is coming to an end soon for our family and that will mean sliding back into the hustle and bustle of busy school days and extra curricular activities. As a mom, it can feel a little overwhelming preparing for the start of school especially if you have had a jam-packed summer like we have had.

My solution to keep me grounded as we transition back into this time is to have a minimum of one day a week where we do nothing. It is a day that I lovingly refer to as our  “detox day” from the busy running and commercialism that we are exposed to.  It is the day where we do nothing, we spend nothing, we are unplugged, and we just spend time together, making time to indulge in the good old-fashioned things in life. These days are filled with time spent around board games instead of  time spent around a television, library books instead of our electronic games, creating instead of buying, and rediscovering those simple pleasures in life.  It is this one day a week where I can come back to center and feel aligned again with my family and what is most important to me.

Forts are built and snuggled under with blankets and pillows from the bed.

Treasured books from the thrift store are lovingly read again.

Fancy meals are abandoned in favor of eggs and toast for dinner.

Homemade treats are baked with my children, while making giant messes in the kitchen.

Sheets are lovingly washed and hung on the line, waiting for each family member to indulge in the crispness after a day filled with nothing.

These days allow me to refocus on the abundance and the simple pleasures that are within my life, instead of the need to go, go, go, buy, buy, buy. After having one day like this,  I often want to continue the trend of simple living and simple pleasures and extend it further into my week.

It is these days when I am…

Thankful.

Centered.

Happy.

It is these days when I feel that I am at my best as a mom and wife.

It is these days that I wish I could fall into daily.

It these days where I know what is important.

Who is important.

Why they are important.

How do you bring focus back to the simple pleasures in life?

A Week of Summer Fun On $20 or Less

Tuesday, June 29th, 2010


I have to admit that our family doesn’t go on a lot of vacations, but we do love to make a wise investment into a great summer staycation each year that the kids will remember (hopefully) for years to come. A summer staycation does not have to cost a lot of money.  In fact, it is fun to see how far we can make our money stretch and still provide beautiful summer memories for our children.

Really, the possibilities for free and cheap summer fun are endless. There are free story hours at libraries and bookstores, crafts and activity days at local parks, church programs and sport camps, VBS, inexpensive movie programs at the theaters, reading programs, ice cream treats, and so much more. Each year it seems we are trying to top the summer bucket list from last year.

Today I wanted to showcase some of our favorite things to do and share with you ideas for making those summer memories fit snugly in your family budget.

Happy Hour Out (Cost $.50-$2 per child)- Our favorite thing to do this year has been taking advantage of those Happy Hour drink specials that so many restaurants are now offering. Sonic, for example, offers a Happy Hour between 2-5 PM where your family can enjoy half price drinks. Steak & Shake is another restaurant in our town that offers a deliciously cool and refreshing milkshake for half price between 2-4 PM.  Don’t be ashamed to inquire at your local restaurants if they offer any type of summer drink special that your family can take advantage of and allow your kids to enjoy a fun summer treat that your budget can live with. At Sonic, two small slushes for my children and one large Diet Cherry Limeade for me is a total mere cost of $2.18. Fabulous!

Happy Hour Time At Home (Cost $1  in supplies or less)- If you don’t feel like venturing out and want to enjoy a little slushie fun or milkshake fun at home, it is easy to do with your blender and a few items that might be lurking in your pantry already! My kids love to indulge in our homemade slushies and homemade frosty shakes that your whole family will flip for!  The cost for creating these is minimal, but make sure you make enough for everyone in the family. This is a happy hour that you definitely do not want to miss!

Have a Park Day (Cost- FREE) - Going to the local park to spend the afternoon is nothing new, but it could be something new if you decide to explore another local park. Pack a picnic lunch, snacks, drinks, and your sunblock and enjoy a day of completely free fun. Go on a park adventure and visit a park that you have never visited before or venture outside of your own town into a neighboring town to explore a new-to-you town treasure. We love to load up the scooters, a ball, and a Frisbee to create even more opportunities for fun in the sun. This year we have made it a family priority to explore new parks that we haven’t tried before.

Have a Roast-Your-Own Dinner Night (Cost $5-7 in Food Supplies)-  One thing that we look forward to all summer long is the opportunity to roast some foods on our little campfire. Stock up on hot dogs and supplies to make s’mores and you can have a fun little night together that doesn’t cost a lot. I also love to keep the fire going after the kids hit the sack and make it into a fun little date night for me and my hubby.

Visit a Museum (Cost- FREE)- Free days abound at the local museums although I will admit that you do sometimes have to brave those crowds to take advantage of them. We always try to check the websites for local museums and find out when their free days are offered. If free days are not offered, call your local library and see if they offer museum passes that you can check out. Many local libraries offer passes that can get you and your family in for free!  Make it a family trip and take vacation days on those days so you can take advantage of those free admissions. Don’t forget to pack a picnic lunch that you can enjoy on the museum grounds or in transit to your destination.

If there is a special museum you have always wanted to visit, but they do not offer a free day, be sure to take part in the National Free Museum Day sponsored by the Smithsonian. Tickets can be printed starting July 1st!  This just might be the perfect time to take a road trip to experience a free museum that will cost only the cost in gas.

Take a Visit to a Local Farm (Cost $0-$5 per child)- This year we got the opportunity to visit an alpaca farm that was just thirty minutes from our home. The kids had the best time learning about the animals and getting the opportunity to feed, touch, and even take a few of them for a walk. If you want to  find an alpaca farm near you, visit I Love Alpacas to find a new place to visit in your town!

For other farm animals, see if there are any local farms in your area that you could visit and give your children the chance to have an experience like this. It is one that will long remember and gives them an opportunity to learn about where their food comes from!

Go Berry Picking (Cost $5 or more, depending on amount purchased)- One of our favorite things to do in the summer is to go berry picking. We usually buy around $5 in berries and then come home and create something in our kitchen together. With a variety of fruits for picking, the possibilities are endless for places and things to pick during the summer. Visit Pick Your Own to find places to visit and to take advantage of the foods that are in season.

Last year we went blueberry picking and then came home and created new things in the kitchen that the kids had never tried before. We dined on homemade waffles with blueberry syrup and even created a fancy blueberry syrup for our iced tea for a fun summer drink. We paid $5 in berries and we were able to make a whole day and evening of fun from just that $5 spent.

Sprinkler Fun (Cost- FREE)- Running through the sprinklers is a fun and free relief from the brutal summer heat. A good old-fashioned sprinkler or inexpensive sprinkler toy can keep kids entertained for days on end. More recently we have discovered that our town offers a lot of fun at the parks with the addition of splash pads and fun new sprinkler parks. The cost to visit these is free and can be a great way to keep cool in the summer. If your backyard sprinkler is starting to lose its luster, Google your town and the keywords “splash pad” or “sprinkler park” to see if you can find a fun new place to keep cool!

What are your favorite budget-friendly summer activities in your town? I would love to hear your ideas for inexpensive summer fun!

Make Outdoor Living a Family Priority

Thursday, June 10th, 2010

(this article originally published on 06.30.09)

I love nothing more than lounging around in our backyard all summer long. I will do anything to stay outside with my kids and hibernate in our big backyard. Indiana winters are so long and our summers here are far too short. I really try to make the most of every moment of sunshine.

Wouldn’t we all love to just lounge around in the backyard all day with our feet kicked up? While I can’t say it will be possible every day, I want to share with you a few things we have been doing to make outdoor living a priority in our home.

Chores come first. We all love being outside and in order for me to be able to camp out with the kids in the backyard, we need to have our indoor chores accomplished. The short list for me is to unload the dishwasher, make the beds, and swipe the bathrooms. The kids have to eat their breakfast, get dressed, and tidy up their rooms and playroom. With the promise of fun and relaxation outside, we all are more motivated to do our chores inside.

For work-at-home moms, I try to get up an hour before the kids and tackle any work priorities and I do most of my work on the weekend mornings. I encourage you to read my post on finding balance to work priorities to assist with figuring out a good work-at-home schedule.


Get the dinner prep done. After I have finished the chores, it is time to get together whatever we will be eating for dinner in the evening. Slow cooker meals are a great alternative in the summer because they don’t heat up the house and can be pulled together quickly. Likewise, marinating meats or preparing meat for the grill is another way to keep the house cool and keep one step ahead of the game in mealtime prep.

Of course, anything that you can do after your grocery shopping will also give you more time to enjoy being outside. Chop up veggies and fruits for snacking on throughout the week, cook pasta for pasta salads and keep it in a food storage bag to make a yummy cold pasta salad, bake chicken for the week to dice in tortilla wraps, for cold chicken salad sandwiches, or to toss into a pasta salad. I also love to wash and chop the lettuce for the week and use it on burgers or for a light lunch for myself or a side salad with our dinner.

Take the night off completely from dinner and roast your dinner on an outdoor fire pit instead. Children will love the novelty of cooking their foods over the fire and you will love having a night off from cooking. We try to do this a couple of times a month as a fun family night tradition.

Scale back those fancy dinners and keep things simple with grilled meats, fresh veggies, and fresh fruit. Summer is not meant to be spent in a hot kitchen so get acquainted with your grill or slow cooker so you can enjoy that beautiful weather outside.


Be prepared for outdoor excursions. The past couple of years, I have learned to become more prepared for those unexpected outdoor adventures. On our door hangs a beach bag that is ready to go for a fun outdoor getaway. I keep sunblock, bug spray, towels, bathing suits, and a water bottle in this bag.

In our car, we have a collapsible bag that is filled with activities for the park. I try to keep containers of bubbles, a ball, a waterproof blanket for sitting on, a Frisbee, and a lawn chair. These activities not only come in handy for when we take a trip to the park, but they also are invaluable when visiting friends who don’t have activities/toys to keep little hands busy.

Revise your homemaking schedule with the weather. Check the forecast at the beginning of the week and try to format your schedule according to the weather. If it is raining on Thursday, make Thursday your day to clean the house. If it is sunny on Tuesday, use that day to accomplish the laundry day outside and hang your clothes on the line instead. If it is sunny all week long, then accomplish chores during your child’s nap time or after they head to bed. By revising your homemaking schedule to fit the weather forecast, you can take advantage of as many beautiful days as you possibly can.


Make the outdoors fun. My children will play outside for the entire day, but each summer we make an investment into outdoor activities that will help keep the outdoors fun. Some of my favorite summer investments have been a sandbox, a small water table, sprinkler toys, a new set of chalk, and a batch of homemade bubbles.

My children also love to create so I also put out a bucket of water with paint brushes for them to paint the cement or to paint their chalk drawings. We also make a batch of sponge balls to play with in their water table or for fun water play outdoors. Nature journals can help them document the changing of the seasons and what they see in nature. Homemade play dough with some cookie cutters and a rolling pin can lead to fun creations, without the mess, on an outdoor table.

Don’t forget that many activities that you can get your children to do outside can also help you. I have my kids use their water toys to water my garden. My children also love to help wash the cars and wash their own outdoor toys. Have them set their own table for lunch or help you clean up after an outdoor dinner.


Make easy evening routines. After a long day of playing outside, I bring the kids inside and we start tackling the baths. After the kids are bathed, they can have a small snack and watch a television show while I work on getting our dinner ready.

This usually leads to a little napping or general zoning out as they are usually so exhausted from playing outside. With this time, I tidy up and get our easy dinner together for us to dine outside. After that the kids play outside until bedtime and I am able to put them to bed earlier after all of their outdoor fun.

Outdoor chores are accomplished by my husband & I trading off the kids to get done what needs to get done. One of us mows in the front, while the other parent is playing with the kids in the back. As I have said before though, many of these chores are just done side by side with the kids while they are playing or helping.


Remember they are only young once. Each summer, I marvel at how much my children have grown and how quickly our time together seems to be passing. I am trying to savor these moments and for me, that means slowing down our summers. While we make big plans for summer activities, I can admit that I become selfish with my time with them in the summer. The school year will begin again and we will be back to the crazy grind of school days.

Savor these moments and revise your schedule so you can enjoy each moment of them. Seek a little shade with them. Create with them. Hop in the kiddie pool with them. Indulge in homemade slushies and popcorn every single day and blame it on “the kids” and “hydration.” Be selfish with them and their time. Treasure them.

As my husband and I say after it takes two hours to put away all the outdoor toys and clean up after the dinner, “We are making memories.”

How do you make outdoor living a priority in your family?