Dec 142017
 December 14, 2017  activities, family, food, Sacramento Comments Off on 3 Simple Ways to Reconnect with Your Kids

As parents, life can get so busy that often we have to stop and catch our breath and wonder, where did the time go? I always look forward to spending time with my kids, but practically speaking I actually spend most of my time running errands and doing household chores. Someone is always tugging on my leg asking to play freeze tag or build a fort in the living room, but I usually put them off because there is always a diaper to change, or a meal to cook, or laundry to fold. Trust me, I would much rather build a pillow fort! If you also find yourself struggling to find time to enjoy your family, here are three simple ways to reconnect with your kids – even when you are really busy!

Disclosure: I received complimentary samples of Mighty Kong Muffins for review purposes; however, all opinions are my own.

3 Simple Ways to Reconnect with Your Kids |

3 Simple Ways to Reconnect with Your Kids – Even When You Are Really Busy!

1. Take Play Breaks

My four year old could play freeze tag all day long. From the moment he wakes up until time to brush his teeth at night, anytime there is a pause in activity (and usually when there isn’t), he asks to play freeze tag. Somehow it always seems like he asks just as I need to change a diaper or when I’m in the middle of cooking. Rather than put him off completely, I try to take short play breaks with him. Be realistic about how much time you have, then set a timer and give your child your focused attention – no checking Facebook, no picking up toys off the floor, or straightening the furniture – just playing with him.

For me, this is usually 10 or 15 minutes at a time on a weekday. (I make sure to do non-timed, longer play times together on the weekends, but these are usually not practical during the week).  This seems like a really short amount of time, but it always seems surprisingly long, considering I am really focusing on him and not multi-tasking like I usually do.

It doesn’t stop him from asking to play again 5 minutes later, but he is more understanding when I have to say no, and I feel less guilty about getting my work done.

2. Play a Game after Dinner

Our kids get screen time in the evenings, yet we noticed that this often resulted in a race to leave the dinner table and get back to electronics. So now we have instituted the rule that we play a game (or do a puzzle, etc) after dinner before we all retire to our corners to relax before bedtime. The kids love it, especially since Daddy is home to join in as well, so no one is watching the clock and rushing to leave the table. As much as I love game nights, this abbreviated version works for us during the week, so we can still get in play time together as a family and make sure we really reconnect with our kids in the evenings.

3. Do Read Alouds

We all know how important it is to read together, and most of us tend to do this at bedtime, which is such a snuggly, cozy time to share a good story. Yet I noticed that we tend to do this with our kids individually (as they all go to bed at slightly different times), plus the stories tend to be shorter because of the late hour.

I loved that old-fashioned idea of a family sitting around reading a great book together, so I started doing family read alouds during the day. It is wonderful bonding time, plus it is a great way to engage kids with slightly more challenging material or to read stories they might not have considered. For example, a younger child might be more inclined to stick with an easy chapter book because of the excitement of reading with older siblings, and another might be surprised to find that they like a story outside of the genre they tend to favor. (For great reading ideas, see my book reviews!)

I have found that the easiest way to keep everyone’s attention, despite the range of ages and interests, is to involve food. Give the kids something to eat at the table, and they are more likely to be sitting quietly and listening as you read. As homeschoolers, we can often do our read alouds over lunch, but it’s also a great way to relax together over an after school snack. This is especially true if you have a child that doesn’t like to sit and talk when they first come home – here is a great way to reconnect with your kids without forcing conversations they aren’t ready for.

Finding a Great Snack to Share

We have recently discovered a new favorite snack, which is perfect to share during our family read aloud. While we do have the occasional treat, I am rather picky about making sure my kids have healthy snacks. So I was excited to find out about Mighty Kong Muffins, a family-run and locally-owned Sacramento business that makes the most delicious gourmet bran muffins in a staggering 22 varieties. (See their interview on a local news show).

3 Simple Ways to Reconnect with Your Kids and Might Kong Muffin Review |

I know what you’re thinking: Gourmet bran muffins? Yes, it’s true! The ingredients are all high-quality and non-GMO, with fresh fruits and nuts and high grade dark chocolate. You won’t find any flour in these muffins – or any preservatives or artificial ingredients, for that matter. These mini-muffins are a great snack you can feel good about sharing with your kids.

We received a variety pack of the Mighty Kong Muffins and so had fun sampling four different flavors: Ape Dates (date walnut), Naner Naner (banana walnut), Wapple Apple (apple raisin), and the seasonal Rumplepumpskin (cranberry pumpkin). (Note: all flavors are available without nuts). My younger son loved the Wapple Apple, which my older son couldn’t decide between the Ape Dates and the Naner Naner. Personally, I loved the Rumplepumpskin. In other words, every single one was a hit!

3 Simple Ways to Reconnect with Your Kids and Mighty Kong Muffin Review |

Related Post: Healthy and Fun Lunchbox Ideas

Which flavor will become your favorite? Check out Mighty Kong Muffins and order yours today!

What’s your favorite way to reconnect with your kids?

Oct 272017
 October 27, 2017  family, parenting Comments Off on Stop Constant Interruptions from Your Kids: Printable

Do your kids interrupt you constantly? Tug on your sleeve every time you’re on an important phone call? Bang on the door whenever you sit down to nurse the baby? It seems whenever I try to put my youngest down for a nap, suddenly her older brothers have a dire situation that needs immediate attention. Usually the “emergency” is an argument over who gets to play with a toy, or wondering if they can do screen time (“No!”), or letting me know that the other brother just took a cookie out of the pantry even though it’s almost lunchtime. To stop these constant interruptions, I’ve laid out some ground rules for them about what actually constitutes an emergency (scroll down for a printable version).

Stop Constant Interruptions from Your Kids: Printable Checklist |

It usually gets them to laugh as they recognize that what they had been interrupting about really wasn’t an emergency. It has cut way down on the interruptions I get as I try to get my little one to sleep (a more difficult task the older she gets!), but it also gives me reassurance that they will come to me if they truly need it.

One time, for example, the boys really thought there was a fire in the kitchen. It turns out they had just heard the “sizzle sizzle” of lunch cooking in the oven, but I thought it was appropriate that they came to me since they were genuinely concerned and it could have really been an emergency.

If you have trouble with constant interruptions from your kids about things that really can wait then this printable checklist will definitely help!

Stop Constant Interruptions from Your Kids: Printable Checklist

If your important phone call or baby’s bedtime is constantly disturbed by unnecessary interruptions from your kids then print out this easy checklist for them to use! Not only will you eliminate being interrupted for something that can wait, you can have peace of mind that your kids will still come to you if there truly is an emergency!

Please note: This checklist should only be used after reviewing with your children what real emergencies are. Role playing is a great way to help them so that if a real emergency happens they know to come get you (or call 911 if they can’t find a trusted adult).

Click on the image below to save and print your free printable checklist!

Printable Checklist to Stop Constant Interruptions from Your Kids |



Jun 272017
 June 27, 2017  activities, family Comments Off on Favorite Family Games and Activities

I always looked forward to family game night as a kid. It was a break our everyday interactions, where we were often caught up in chores and homework. Instead, we could really all sit down and play together. Family games are a fun screen-free way to spend time together on rainy afternoons or to unwind after a busy day. Here are some of our favorite family games and activities, especially for those with young children.

Disclosure: I received complimentary copies of some of the products below for review purposes; however, all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no extra charge to you.

Favorite Family Games & Activities |

Fun Family Activities


One of the things I love about charades is that you can do it anywhere, with no preparation, so it is great for those times when you find yourself in need of an activity to entertain the kids for a while. It can also be adapted for different ages, so that even very young children can play. I would often use this as a reward at the end of our Spanish lesson as a way to practice vocabulary!


In this activity, someone starts a story then the next person continues it, and so on until the last person brings it to an end. You could have a ball or other object that you pass as you take turns telling the story, or each storyteller chooses the next person to continue the story. You can also have the person act it out as they tell their part of the story!

Drawing Together

I’m not sure I ever would have thought about doing a collective drawing except that my son (now 4) got us started on this several years ago. Both of my boys now love to draw with us, often with rather elaborate stories that they invent as we go. They prefer doing battles (where you each pick sides and “battle” each other in the drawing), but it can also be a great way to create inventions, design houses, and tell stories together.

You can also pick a coloring book to work in together. I love the gorgeous A Touch of Asia Coloring Book: Serenely Elegant Designs from the East from Tuttle Publishing. It is an adult coloring book, so I often enjoy working in it by myself, but I’ve also found that it can be fun to do with my kids. At an age when they are usually focused on cartoons and action figures, they are still naturally drawn to beauty, a quality that is often not nurtured in boys especially. But mine love helping me with “my” coloring book and filling in some of the simpler designs, while I save the more intricate ones for solo work.

Build Together

Creating together is also high on our list of family activities, and what kid doesn’t love paper airplanes? Making paper airplanes is a classic skill that is often passed down from parent to child, so why not up your game with these fantastic looking, high-performance versions that are actually easy to make? Talk about being a hero for your kids!

Favorite Family Games and Activities |

The High-Performance Paper Airplanes Kit comes with pre-cut models that are easy to put together. The kit also comes with a Catapult Launcher. Need I say more?? And if origami is your thing, try Michael LaFosse’s Origami Airplanes. It includes a DVD and instructions for 28 origami paper airplane projects. (Note: does not include the origami paper). The planes are so realistic looking and really do fly well! I also love having the DVD tutorials to follow.

Favorite Family Games and Activities |

But my personal favorite is the Flying Dragons Paper Airplane Kit. They are just so cool looking! There are 12 original designs, like the Flame Dragon and the Flying Shark, plus 48 folding sheets, an instruction book, and YouTube tutorials.

We also love building sets like this Plants vs. Zombies Wild West Skirmish Set from K’nex. A must-have if you have a Plants vs. Zombies fan in your house! The characters actually look just like the ones in the game. And best of all, once you’ve had the fun of building it together, you still have unlimited play time left with the assembled scene. Really great for doing pretend play together!

Favorite Family Games

One of my favorite childhood memories was getting together with my cousins during the holidays. I vividly remember all of us kids in the back room of my grandparents’ house, playing favorite family games like Deluxe Pit together and laughing our heads off. Pit is a fun, loud, rowdy game that everyone will enjoy. It is something like Go Fish, in that you have to try to get all the cards of one kind, but everyone is yelling and trading cards at the same time in the race to be the first to make a set. My kids love ringing the bell when they finish!

Guillotine is the game that my 7 year old always shows people when they visit us. Believe it or not, it is a game all about the French Revolution and – yes – people getting their heads chopped off. Sound macabre? Perhaps a little, but it’s so silly and fun (and sneakily educational) that you will soon forget! The premise is that you are a bunch of guillotine operators competing with each other to see who can execute the most valuable nobles. Each noble card is ranked by point value, with, for example, the King being 5 points and a minor functionary being worth only 1. Just don’t accidentally execute a hero of the people, worth -1 point!

I love cooperative games like those from Peaceable Kingdom. If your kids are anything like mine, most games can bring out a competitive streak that can sometimes lead to arguments and hurt feelings. Cooperative games like Feed the Woozle are not only fun, they also encourage teamwork and skill building. In Feed the Woozle, for example, players take turns trying to carry food tokens across the room on a spoon – but they might have to spin or march or bunny hop while doing it!

Favorite Family Games and Activities |

Everyone works as a team to take 12 tokens to the Woozle before they run out. It is great for both fine motor and gross motor skills, as well as counting. Even my toddler likes to get in on the fun!

Favorite Family Games and Activities |

Stack Up! is another great team-building game from Peaceable Kingdom, in which players try to stack blocks as high as they can, while doing challenges like matching colors or singing songs as they stack. Hoot Owl Hoot is a simple strategy game that even young children can play, as players work together to help the owls reach the nest before the sun comes up.

Of course, you can’t forget the classics! Hasbro Connect 4 Game is another one of the family games that I grew up on, so it’s especially fun to play it now with my kids! And if there is a younger sibling that doesn’t quite get the game yet, it is also just a fun board to use to make designs and patterns. We even used it to make our own coding game.

This is one that my 4 year old adores, and now you can get the Candy Land 65th Anniversary Game. It is designed for pre-readers and doesn’t require any strategy, so it’s a great first game for children to play.

What are your favorite family games and activities?

Jun 082017
 June 8, 2017  Book Reviews, family Comments Off on New Picture Books About Grandparents

One of the most special relationships a child has is with his grandparents, whether they live nearby or far away. They can help ground children and teach them patience, but the influence is not just one way. Children also have a special ability to touch the hearts of the grandparents that love them. Here are some wonderful new picture books about grandparents you need to see!

New Picture Books About Grandparents |

Disclosure: I received complimentary copies of the books below for review purposes; however, all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

New Picture Books About Grandparents

Skyfishing: (A Grand Tale with Grandpa) is an wildly imaginative book about a young girl trying to help her grandfather overcome homesickness. When her grandfather moves from his cottage by the lake to live with her family in the city, the girl notices immediately how much her grandfather misses fishing. She tries to interest him in new hobbies, but when that doesn’t work, she comes up with a creative answer – sky fishing! As they “fish” out of their apartment window for creatures like Waste-Munchers (garbage trucks) and Signfish, they discover the power of imagination and companionship to overcome homesickness. Through patience and love, the girl helps her grandfather see the city with new eyes and begin to enjoy his new home. This is such a sweet story and addresses a common situation of when a grandparent moves into a family’s home (similar to Mango, Abuela, and Me) and also the special way that children can touch the hearts of their grandparents.

Ladybug Girl is back, and she’s off on an adventure with her grandpa! In Ladybug Girl’s Day Out with Grandpa, Lulu and her grandpa explore the museum. There is so much to see, that Lulu simply can’t make up her mind, flitting from one exhibit to the next. Ignoring her grandpa’s warning that they won’t be able to see everything in one day, Lulu does her best to prove him wrong – after all, she is Ladybug Girl! She can do anything! But soon she begins to despair. There is just too much to see! Gently, Grandpa explains that if she will learn more if she slows down to appreciate one thing at a time. I love how this book showcases the patience and wisdom with which grandparents guide children and how they can help focus that boundless energy and center them in stillness.

And don’t miss these Filipino books about grandfathers!

May 082017
 May 8, 2017  Book Reviews, family, Father's Day 

When our oldest son was little, and our bookshelves started to fill with colorful, engaging board books, my husband made an observation that has stuck with me ever since – nearly all of the books focused on the child’s relationship with the mother, but very few included the father. Thankfully this is not universally true, but I was surprised to see how widespread this pattern was. Ever since then, I’ve sought out books that also include the father and especially ones that celebrate their special relationship with their children. And so, in honor of Father’s Day next month, I’m happy to present to you some favorite children’s books that celebrate fathers, plus we have a giveaway for you, so be sure to scroll to the end of the post to enter!

Books that Celebrate Fathers |

Disclosure: I received complimentary copies of some of the books below for review purposes; however, all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Books that Celebrate Fathers

I love the adorable new book Daddy Honk Honk! Set in the Arctic, it is the tale of Aput the fox, who is thrust into fatherhood when an abandoned goose egg hatches and the little gosling mistakes Aput for its daddy. With each page we see Aput’s transformation as he learns to care for the baby but more importantly as his affection for it steadily grows. This is also a beautiful tale of the importance of community in supporting families, as Aput’s friends all help teach him what a baby needs and help surround them both with love. Very sweet tale to share with your little ones! My preschooler and toddler both really enjoy this story.

Charlie Rides: Planes, Trains, Bikes, and More! is a cute board book that your kids will love! Like so many young children, Charlie loves getting out and seeing the world using any means possible: trains, boats, bikes, soapbox derby cars, and more! While the main focus on the book is on different modes of transportation, a recurrent element is Charlie’s dad, who is with him every step of the way. This colorful book is a tribute to how fathers nurture children’s curiosity about the world and support them in all their adventures.

Be Glad Your Dad…(Is Not an Octopus!) was a lucky find at the library and has stayed in our regular rotation ever since. It is a funny book that not only teaches appreciation for dads (even when they sometimes get mad or are just totally gross!) but also teaches facts about animals in a really fun way. For example, be glad your dad is not an octopus, because he would always win at tag! My favorite, though, is the tortoise dad – who is so slow getting an ice cream cone that the ice cream actually melts before the kid can eat it! I love the illustrations, especially the kids’ reactions to the animal dads. Cute reminder about why human dads are so cool! More details about the animals can be found at the back of the book.

What are your favorite children’s books that celebrate fathers?

Daddy Honk Honk! Giveaway

I am so excited to be hosting a giveaway of Daddy Honk Honk! to one lucky winner! The winner will receive:

  • 1 set of four magnets
  • 1 button
  • 4 prints (2×9”)
  • 1 deluxe print (2×9”)
  • 1 book

Daddy Honk Honk Giveaway

To enter, simply comment on this post, telling us something you appreciate about a special father in your life. The contest goes until midnight PT on Sunday, May 14. US shipping only. Good luck!

Jan 312017
 January 31, 2017  family, food, natural parenting Comments Off on Healthy & Fun Lunchbox Ideas for Your Kids

Healthy & Fun Lunchbox Ideas |

Now that the school year is halfway over, it is easy to get in a rut with lunches for the kids. Want something fun to pack for them that you can feel good about? Here are some great healthy and fun lunchbox ideas for you!

I received complimentary samples of HONCHOS Organic Tortilla Chips; however, all opinions are my own.

Healthy & Fun Lunchbox Ideas

Put new life into your kids’ school lunches with these healthy & fun lunchbox ideas!

From All Done Monkey: Crunchy Chocolate Peanut Butter Balls

From Maple & Marigold: Spicy & Savoury Chickpea Flour Pancakes

From Mama Smiles: Make It Easy for Your Kids to Pack Healthy Lunches

From Danya Banya: Cheese Monsters

From Kidz Activities: Tuna Sushi & Minion Sandwich

From Kidgredients: Cinnamon Honey Roasted Chickpeas & Date and Banana Muffins, No Added Sugar

From Eats Amazing: Cheese & Tomato Omelette Muffins & Roasted Carrot Hummus

From Mooshu Jenne: Peanut Butter Rolls

Related Post: Healthy Desserts for Kids

As the links above show, “healthy” doesn’t have to mean boring or even complicated to make. There are also a lot of healthy, ready made snack options these days. One recent discovery is Deep River Snacks’ HONCHO Organic Tortilla Chips, which come in fun flavors like Nacho Cheese, Ranch, and (my favorite) Peach Habanero. These tasty chips are gluten-free and use 100% organic ingredients – no GMOs allowed!

I also love supporting businesses that are passionate about giving back to the community, which is why I was so happy to discover that Deep River Snacks helps raise awareness by featuring charities on their snacks, giving in-kind donations, and donating 10% of their net profits to charity.

But enough about why love them – the real test for the lunchbox is what the kids think! Let me just say this was a difficult photo shoot because, well, we could hardly stop eating long enough to get pictures! We got to try all three varieties, and none of them lasted long in our pantry.

Healthy & Fun Lunchbox Ideas |

When it’s so good you just want to eat your hand

I asked the boys which was their favorite flavor, and they really couldn’t decide. Try doing a taste test with your kids and see if they have any easier time making up their minds! They are all so flavorful, your kids won’t miss the junk food they could be eating instead!

Healthy & Fun Lunchbox Ideas |


Healthy & Fun Lunchbox Ideas |

All that was left by the time I got a picture

Jun 212016
 June 21, 2016  family, food, parenting 

Asian-Inspired Self-Care for Moms |

Taking care of children and household is a rewarding job but can also be draining.  Here are some favorite new means of self-care for moms. Inspired by the traditional wisdom and aesthetic of Asian cultures, these books are unique and beautiful ways to treat yourself, body and soul.

Disclosure: I received complimentary copies of the books below from Tuttle Publishing for review purposes; however, all opinions are my own.

Asian Inspired Self-Care for Moms

I love smoothies and make several a week for the kids and me. So I was excited for a chance to review Healthy Smoothies: Traditional Chinese Medicine Inspired Recipes – Ancient Traditions, Modern Healing. It has more than 30 easy recipes for healthy smoothies, based on Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). It is so much more than just a recipe book, though, as it gives an explanation of TCM and its holistic approach to wellness. You learn how to discover your own constitution and the principles of how to choose the best recipes for you. In other words, some super foods may be really helpful for me and others less so, depending on the needs of my constitution and of the climate/season. So if you have particular ailment, you can use these principles to find recipes that can help. So it’s really a wellness book, not just a collection of recipes – perfect for self-care for moms- plus the smoothies are delicious!


And I love that the recipes are so different than ones you’ll find anywhere else. I’m used to smoothies being sweet, for example, not savory, as several of these are, and would you have ever thought to put beans in your smoothie? What’s great is that this is a book that stretches you to try new things (such as goji berries or mung beans) but it’s also very practical: there were no ingredients that I couldn’t find at my grocery store or at a health food store or nearby Asian market. It is a wonderful introduction to Traditional Chinese Medicine and how it can help you!

Adult coloring pages are very popular now, and it’s easy to see why. Coloring is so relaxing, but sometimes using your kid’s Winnie-the-Pooh coloring book just doesn’t cut it! The Colors of Asia: An Anti-Stress Coloring Book for Calm and Creativity is a gorgeous collection of more than 90 designs inspired by Asian art. Rather than vegging out in front of the TV during naptime – or frantically trying to clean the house – try getting some self-care by taking some time to color in these elegant works of art. I dare you not to feel yourself transported away from the dirty dishes and dirty diapers into a realm where you are an artist. A wonderful stress reliever and active meditation, important elements in self-care for moms.

Many of us have an admiration for Buddhist thought but only a superficial understanding of it beyond the basics. Dharma Delight: A Visionary Post Pop Comic Guide to Buddhism and Zen is a joyful exploration of Buddhist teachings through the use of graphic novel style illustrations and short stories. It is a feel-good look at the path to enlightenment, making use of gentle humor to explain spiritual concepts. One of my favorites is a drawing of Buddha vacuuming, explaining to the dust that He is helping transport it to a better place where it can be a part of the cycle of life. But this isn’t a “lite” version of Buddhism, though the text is simple. It delves into bigger concepts such as how we can be a light to ourselves and who the Bodhisattvas (enlightened beings) were, but in a very engaging, readable way. Wonderful food for any mama’s soul, and would be great to introduce older kids to Buddhism as well.

May 052016
 May 5, 2016  family, Mother's Day Comments Off on 5 Ways to Keep in Touch with Family Far Away

5 Easy Ways to Keep in Touch with Family Far Away |

Mother’s Day is a time to celebrate the mothers and grandmothers in our lives, so it’s a particularly hard time of year to live far away from family.  My parents live across the country from us, while my in-laws are in Costa Rica.  Though we try to visit as often as we can, it is not practical to go as often as we like, so maintaining ties can be a challenge.  Here are some easy ways we have discovered to keep in touch with family far away.  Leave your ideas in the comments!

5 Easy Ways to Keep in Touch with Family Far Away

5 Easy Ways to Keep in Touch with Family Far Away |

1. Homemade Cards and Gifts

I am a big believer in old-fashioned cards and gifts.  For special occasions the kids and I always sit down to make homemade cards to send to loved ones.  Especially when you live far away, having a sweet, tangible gift really means a lot!  And cards are very practical, since they are inexpensive to send overseas.  Hand print cards like this hand trace art are perfect, since they are a great keepsake gift as well.  At our last family reunion, my sister-in-law had all the kids make hand print T-shirts for each other – so fun!  For even more ideas, check out my Homemade Gift Ideas board on Pinterest.

2. Photo Gifts

Photo gifts are also a lovely way to be “present” in your family’s lives even though you are far away.  We send out photo cards with pictures of the kids each year, and often create special family photos to send to the grandparents in the US and Costa Rica for occasions like Mother’s Day.  They are truly cherished, as this way the grandparents get to “see” the kids everyday.

5 Easy Ways to Keep in Touch with Family Far Away |

3. Create a Shared Ritual

One sweet idea is to create a ritual you each can do at the same time.  For example, you could take a morning walk or work in the garden at around the same time then share photos of the flowers or animals you see.  (Especially fun if your kids help take the photos!)  You could also have special candles that you each light as you say your evening prayers, or a favorite bedtime story you read together over the phone, or a decoration that you can both use on special occasions.  My sister, for example, sent us all beautiful handmade garlands that each family uses to decorate for the holidays.

5 Easy Ways to Keep in Touch with Family Far Away |

4. Virtual Parties

Can’t be there for a special occasion? Get on the computer and make a virtual visit!  My family threw a virtual baby shower for us before each of our babies was born, and we have gotten to be a part of the big family Christmas celebration in Costa Rica each year via computer!  We really felt like we were there as my sister-in-law “carried” us around the house to say hi to everyone and even drool over the food!

5. Send a Financial Gift

If we lived nearby, we could take the grandmothers out for brunch on Mother’s Day, or buy them a special gift on their birthdays.  Since this is not practical because of the distance, we often send a financial gift instead.  (Be sure to check out these awesome Mother’s Day deals and egift cards from PayPal!)

As a busy mom, I’m so glad that now I’ve discovered how easy and safe PayPal and Xoom are to manage and move money quickly.  Now I can rest easy knowing our gift was received and they have more time to focus on family rather than chasing down the money transfer.  Managing our money securely is important to our growing family, so using services like PayPal and Xoom helps relieve that added stress that finances can bring.

Xoom is an easy way to transfer money to loved ones

Xoom is the only remittances company that offers instant disbursements, and it has so many options for how your loved ones can receive your financial gift, such as bank transfers, cash pick-up or delivery, bill pay and mobile reload – so easy!  And how great is it that you can track your transfers with SMS alerts, and even get a text message when the money is received?  I can recall so many instances in the past when my husband had to make multiple phone calls to see exactly how/when our family could pick up the money we had sent, and even then we never quite relaxed until we got a call from our family members that they had received the money successfully.  The Xoom system is so much easier, leaving more time for everyone to relax and enjoy the holiday!

How do you keep in touch with family far away?

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

Jan 062016
 January 6, 2016  family, household 

Our favorite household organization tips

Now that we’ve brought home Baby #3, staying on task and organized is harder than ever.  And while part of the answer is learning to be happy with more mayhem, I have picked up a few organization tips to keep things from sliding into complete chaos.

There are two main themes to all of my suggestions: preparation and education.  That is, prep as much as possible ahead of time, as something will always happen at the last minute to throw you off course.  Education could also optimistically be termed empowerment, as it’s all about getting your kids involved in the process and learn to do more things for themselves.

I received a complimentary starter pack from stickerkid; however, all opinions are my own.

Organization Tips for Families with Young Children

10. Start a load of laundry first thing in the morning: I got this piece of advice several years ago, and it really has made a difference.  It’s amazing how much time gets absorbed every morning with breakfast, making sure everyone has gone potty, etc.  Before I turn around, it seems like we’re already halfway to lunch.  So I make sure that first thing I start a load of laundry, and by the time I get through that first round of essential tasks, it’s already done and ready to be moved to the dryer, and I feel like I’ve accomplished something!

9. Have set routines that everyone takes part in: Call them chores, routines, whatever works, these are tasks that your kids complete on a daily basis.  Work together to establish routines that everyone can agree on then be as consistent as possible.  It is worth the effort, believe me!  Not only are you helping your kids be more independent, but you are saving yourself valuable time in the end.  With time, they’ll need less prompting and will be able to do more and more of it on their own.

8. Do menu planning and have a (more or less) set shopping day: Menu planning is one of those organization tips everyone talks about, but it’s not just a myth – it really works!  I have a set of index cards where I’ve written down the meals we make regularly, divided by category: Soups, Weekend Meals, etc.  Then I just have to flip through those to come up with a menu plan for the week.  (See some of my favorite meal ideas on my Easy Dinners Pinterest board).  Then from there is a a cinch to write up a shopping list.  Having a set shopping day is more important as your kids get older and you are adding in set activities like soccer practice, and so on.  For me it’s helpful to know which day I’ll be going to the store, because I’ll plan that far in advance.

Our favorite household organization tips

7. Reusable shopping lists: I started using reusable shopping lists when my oldest was little.  These are really helpful if you and your partner share shopping duties, or if, like me, you have an extreme case of Mommy brain and tend to forget at least one or two essential items with every shopping trip.  For each of our regular stores, I wrote up a list of items we buy from there then laminated them and hung them up inside our pantry.  During the week, I can check off items I can see we’ll need to refill.  There’s also plenty of room to write in items that aren’t on our regular list.  Then before I make a trip, I go through the list and check on all the items to see if there’s anything I missed.  No more coming home from the store just to realize we’re out of my son’s favorite snack!  These lists are also helpful for those times when my husband calls and offers to stop at the store on his way home from work.  It never fails that he calls when I’m in the middle of a diaper change or a heated argument between the boys.  This way I can just glance inside the pantry door and rattle off to him what we need.

6. Kids’ drawers and shelves: Have a number of designated drawers and shelves in your kitchen that are accessible for your kids.  That way they can get their own plates and silverware at meal times, help put away clean dishes, and get their own snacks.  My husband also went through their bedrooms and made sure all the drawers were in working order and safe for kids – important, since we bought several dressers second hand, and originally a few of the drawers didn’t have stoppers, so they’d come all the way out when pulled too hard (as kids are likely to do!)  Besides taking the burden off of you, it’s also very empowering for the kids to be able to take care of things for themselves.

5. Build in “clean up” times: I love to give my kids plenty of time for free play, yet somehow for them this translates into pulling all the cushions off the sofa and dumping every toy box onto the floor.  Rather than let things build up until the end of the day, we have several designated “clean up” times during the day.  That doesn’t mean they have to put away the toys they are actively playing with, but before lunch and dinner, we go through and put away those that they’re no longer using.  Besides making sure clean up time isn’t so overwhelming (and that I don’t go crazy in between), it also helps them get used to a rhythm of play and clean up.

4. Keep your bag stocked with essentials and non-perishables: With three young children, we carry a lot of gear whenever we go out, so rather than have to scramble to get ready each time – on top of making sure everyone has gone potty or gotten a diaper change, gotten shoes on, etc. – I restock my bag after each trip so it’s ready for next time.  And while I do my best to take along fresh fruit as snacks, I also keep a number of healthy, non-perishable items in the bag to round things out or for those days when cutting up an apple is just not happening if we want a chance of making it out the door on time.

3. Keep a donation box in your closet: With young children, it seems like they are constantly outgrowing clothes or losing interest in toys.  For a long time we held onto these for the next child coming along, but now that we have had our last baby, we’re beginning the cycle of gradually passing these on to other families.  I have a box (sometimes several!) in my closet for clothes and toys we no longer need, which we periodically take to charities in our area, like a local school for homeless children.  It’s an easy way for your family to get involved in charity, plus it keeps down the clutter in your house.

2. Library bags: In our house, we have books coming out of our ears.  Every trip we take to the library, we max out each of our library cards to the limit of how many books we can check out.  So keeping track of all of these is a big issue for us!  My solution was to have several designated library bags that live in my closet in between trips.  If I get a notice that a book is due soon (and I’m not able to renew it), or if I see ones that the kids really aren’t interested in, I stash them in the library bags right away.  In fact, I usually do a sweep of the house not only just before we head to the library but just after.  The “just after” sweep is for those books that I’m not sure about – but if they last in the library bag for a week or two without anyone missing them, I know they’re safe to return.  If not, I can always pull them out and keep them for another few weeks.

Our favorite household organization tips

Love these stickers, shaped perfectly to fit inside shoes!

1. Labels: A recent find are these adorable sticker labels from stickerkid.  They are completely customizeable labels for all of your kids’ belongings – from water bottles and umbrellas to shoes and shirts.  Never worry about your child’s backpack getting mixed up with another child’s at school, or your super cute snack cups getting confused with someone else’s at the park.

Our favorite household organization tips

These labels are easy to apply, and – I love this! – you can even pick clothing labels that can be removed later, to pass down clothes to another child or donate them (see #3 above).  So convenient!  I also love that you and your child get to sit down and customize the labels when you order.  We had so much fun doing ours!  You can choose from all sorts of designs and colors, even different languages!  So not only will you make sure your items are safe at daycare or school, your child will have lots of fun with them!

If you’d like to try them out, be sure to use the Discount Code SG10STICKERKI7_R9 to get 10% off!

Find more tips for your home on my Household board on Pinterest, and share yours in the comments!

Dec 172015
 December 17, 2015  family 

10 Tips for Bringing Home Another Baby |

We are still fairly early into our time as a family of five, but while it is all fresh in my mind, I wanted to share my tips for bringing home another baby, based on our experiences so far.  These thoughts are especially geared toward the first few weeks of bringing home a second (or third, or fourth) baby, though many will apply to any family with a newborn.

Bringing Home Another Baby: The Early Weeks

1. Remember it won’t be like this forever: Part of what stressed me out at the very beginning was the thought that the chaos and craziness of the first weeks was what our life was going to be like now that our family had expanded (again).  It isn’t.  While life will never be the same as it was, that also doesn’t mean it will always be like it is when you first come home from the hospital.  Remember that you are still recovering – physically and emotionally – from delivery, plus you are all still finding your new rhythm as a family.  Slowly you will start to get your strength back, the baby will start sleeping more, and you will all figure out your new roles.

2. Don’t worry about setting a precedent: During the first weeks, you really are in survival mode, so don’t worry too much about your older kids getting stuck into this new pattern.  The early days are a “time out of time,” a transition period where things seem upside down for a while.  That doesn’t mean that your kids will get too used to late bedtimes or eating more take out than usual or rules generally not being enforced as strictly.  It is a bit like being on vacation.  It may take a while to get back into a routine later on, but you will.

10 Tips for Bringing Home Another Baby |

3. Follow your child’s lead about interacting with the baby: My boys were very different about how they reacted to the baby, and each reaction is totally normal and okay.  One was interested briefly, then really wanted to get back to doing his own thing.  The other was much more curious and visibly enthusiastic.  If your child isn’t that interested, continue to offer opportunities to connect with the baby, but don’t push if it.  Sometimes they are just not sure how to handle such a strange little creature, and sometimes the baby just doesn’t seem that interesting compared to their toys and books.  They will come around in their own time.

4. Be kind to your kids: If your older kids are acting out or being extra clingy, remember that they are going through a big transition.  (See great tips in the articles below about how to help them with this!)  And even though you will be tired and so less patient than usual, remember that they really need the extra hugs and attention, so try to muster up some extra kindness for them.

Big brother’s photo of Baby #mkbkids #kbn #momsoninstagram #siblings

A photo posted by Leanna Alldonemonkey (@alldonemonkey) on

5. Be kind to yourself and your partner: Parents, of course, are also going through a major transition.  No matter how many times you bring home a newborn, each time it is a new experience, and a huge adjustment.  You’ll keep saying, “Did the others cry this much?” “I don’t remember having to change this many diapers!” “I am sure we didn’t go through this before!”  Newborns are wonderful and snuggly, but they are very labor and time intensive, and it is a struggle to balance caring for them with caring for older children as well.  So cut yourself some slack.  If you snap at your toddler or burn dinner or generally are less pleasant or “with it” than usual, it’s no wonder!  This too shall pass, so have a little chocolate and try to go to bed early.

6. Ask for (and accept) help: This is not the time to be a super hero.  Often it is physically impossible to do everything yourself in the early days.  First, you are supposed to be staying off your feet as much as possible, and second, if you are breastfeeding, it is difficult to go far away from your baby.  And really, letting others help you is a gift you can give your family, because it means you’ll have more time and energy to focus on them.

7. Kids – and adults – don’t need to bathe every day: Just sayin’!  This tip alone will save you a lot of time and trouble, trust me.

8. Never pass up a chance to go pee, jump in the shower, or take a nap: There are many things you can do while nursing or carrying a baby, but some things are really best done alone.  And when you are sleep deprived and trying to look after everyone else, you’ll be surprised at how much time can go by without you remembering to do one of these.

9. Safety first: Make sure that all the kids are being taken care of – at minimum, that everyone has eaten, gone potty, and is generally being looked after.  Particularly after there is more than one child per adult, it is too easy to, say, drive half a mile down the road with one child unbuckled because you each thought the other was strapping him in (ahem).  And remember that you are no longer able to multitask like you once were – especially when you were up all night with a newborn, your preschooler is clinging to your leg wanting you to play with him, and you’re pretty sure the baby just pooped – again.  So take extra care to make sure the burners are all turned off, scissors and knives aren’t left lying around, and everyone is getting some sleep.

10. Remember it won’t be like this forever: I know I’m repeating myself here, but for me this is the main point to keep in mind.  This time won’t last forever, so take a breath, look around at the beautiful chaos that surrounds you and take a mental snapshot.  These are the moments you’ll always remember, the stories that will be woven into the fabric of your family history – the look on your child’s face when he held his sister for the first time, the way the boys decorated the house before you came home from the hospital, the time the baby peed on her big brother – these are the tales that will be told year after year at family gatherings, the photos you’ll pull out at each birthday.  So don’t forget to enjoy the ride 🙂

10 Tips for Bringing Home Another Baby |

More tips and reflections:

Playground Parkbench – What I Didn’t Expect from My Third Pregnancy: The good, the bad, and the surprising about a third pregnancy.

Mama Smiles – Raising Kids Who Get Along: Bringing Home a Younger Sibling: Great ideas here for positive ways to make older siblings feel special and important.

Tales of Beauty for Ashes – Letter to Myself After Baby #3: Beautiful letter about the ups and downs of bringing home a third baby – and how you will miss it all!

Makesovers and Motherhood – Dear Baby, Meet Your Siblings: Tips for getting kids excited about a new sibling and that special moment they meet.

How did you survive the early weeks of life with a new baby?

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