Screen time can be tricky. Here's how we're currently handling it.

How We Handle Screen Time

Screen time is a never ending struggle here. Owen thrives on screen time–he engages with his iPad, pays attention to videos, and really needs the stimulation.

At night, his iPad has allowed me to get at least some sleep. We’ve even installed a TV in the boys’ room, connected just to our Apple TV in case his iPad dies in the middle of the night.

But, the other kids don’t need as much screen time.

Instead of calming them down, the stimulation causes the opposite. They get wired, and definitely need a way to shake their excess energy.

Of course we run into the–it’s not fair, why does Owen get to watch a movie and we don’t. Our standby answer is usually along the lines of life isn’t fair–why do you get to talk and he doesn’t? That usually puts things into perspective.

Still, our kids probably have more screen time than many other families. We all have to do what works for us!

Here are some of our thoughts for handling screen time in our family.

1. No TV/Wii Until After Lunch

During the school year, this keeps the kids accountable for what they HAVE to do before doing what they WANT to do. They’ve accomplished school and chores by lunchtime, and we’re okay with them taking a break.

During the summer, we’re a little more lax 🙂 it’s summer! But they still have things they HAVE to do before it can go on.

2. Weekends Have More Screen Time

On the weekends, we don’t have the lunchtime rule. We’ll often watch a movie as a family in the morning, or play a competitive game of Mario Kart.

3. Each Child Gets 1/2 an Hour of Wii on Their Day

The kids each get the Wii for 1/2 an hour on their day. They’ll often invite a sibling to join them, which is fine with me. I really like to keep close tabs on the video games–so this gives everyone something to look forward to instead of just wanting to play all the time.

4. I Put Educational Games on the iPad

The kids enjoy playing on the iPad with Owen. So I put some educational games on there. If they’re going to be playing, they might as well be learning! 🙂

5. I Accept that Life is Crazy and Some Days We’ll Watch More TV

Life around here is hectic. We never know when Owen will have a massive seizure and need to go to the doctor/hospital, or when a cow will get out.

Things happen.

And when they do, I usually turn on the TV. It’s something that will keep the kids out of trouble while I take care of the crisis.

And I’ve slowly learned to accept this. My kids will watch more TV than others, and that’s okay. We just try to balance it out with other fun, non-screen related activities.

How Do You Handle Screen Time?
I’d love to hear what works for your family! I know we’re all different!

Inclusive toys let everyone join in on the fun. Click through to discover our five favorite.

Our Five Favorite Inclusive Toys

Finding toys that all the kids can play with can be challenging. It can’t be too small or the littles or Owen will eat them. It can’t be too babyish, or the older kids won’t be interested. But, we’ve found success with these five inclusive toys.

If you’re looking for ideas to integrate a child with special needs, or a wide-range of ages, you might consider these. They’ve been sure boredom busters around here!

Just so you know, this post does contain affiliate links. If you click through and buy something, I’ll receive a small commission, at no extra cost to you.

1. A Bubble Machine

This was Owen’s most recent birthday gift. He has always loved bubbles. This little device spits them out so fast.

We have to be careful to keep it out of reach, but it’s fun for everyone. We’ve:

  • Put on music and had a bubble dance party
  • Brought it outside and just played in the yard with bubbles all around
  • Counted how many bubbles we could pop
  • Compared sizes of bubbles
  • Tried to catch bubbles

Bubbles are definitely fun for all ages. I can see gallons and gallons of them in our future!

2. Mega Bloks

My kids all love building with construction bricks. While many of them can’t yet play with actual LEGOs, we all enjoy getting out the big drawer full of Mega Bloks.

We have building challenges, work together to build something, or even just try and make baskets while throwing them.

Owen will sit and play with them for a long time. He puts them in the drawer and dumps them back out on his head. Then he takes apart towers that other people build for him. It’s so nice to have something he can’t eat!

3. Our Rescue Bot Collection

We have almost all of the Rescue Bots, and they’ve been a blast to play with. They are super simple to transform, and hold up well to Owen’s roughness.

We have the larger ones–here’s what Chase looks like:

We use these to act out the TV show as we watch it (my kids were so glad when season four finally started!). We also pull them out with our other character based toys and create our own crossovers.

4. Our Lycra Swing

This one was blessing to Owen from the local Elks. He participates in the therapy program, and was the guest of honor at one of their dinners. They did a fundraiser that night, and raised enough so Owen could get this swing.

All the kids LOVE it! We used to have it hanging in our living room, but because of the drop ceiling we have we weren’t able to secure it to a beam and it eventually pulled out.

We’re building an outdoor swing set this summer, and this swing will be going up. Until then, we bring it out and hang it on the clothesline.

Owen also has the tunnel, sheet, and sack from this company and they get a lot of use!

5. A Parachute

I picked this up at Toys R’ Us a while back, and we’ve used it a lot. It takes me back to grade school PE class.

We try to keep balls in the air, raise it up high and have someone run under it, and are working on switching places while it’s up.

Owen loves having it raised up and down over him.

Do You Use Inclusive Toys?

I’d love for you to share your favorite toys for either a wide-range of ages, or for kids with special needs in the comment section. I’m always on the lookout for new favorites–and having suggestions will make shopping for Owen much easier in the future!

Some tips I've learned for memorizing hymns with kids.

Memorizing Hymns with Kids: Tips I’ve Learned

We’ve been memorizing a hymn a month for almost three years now! That’s a lot of songs committed to memory. I’ve learned a bit about memorizing hymns with kids during this time and wanted to share those discoveries with you.

Pick a Song with a Chorus

Some of the songs we’ve memorized didn’t have a chorus. I found them a lot harder for my younger kids to learn.

When there’s a chorus, there’s a section of song we’re repeating over and over again each time we sing it. It’s the first part everyone memorizes.

So when Bryan and I are picking songs to memorize each year, we tend to select those with a chorus over those without. As the kids get older and more of them can read fluently, it won’t be as big of a deal. But right now, it makes it more enjoyable for the younger kids.

Be Consistent

During months When we consistently sing our memory hymn twice a day, we all memorize the song. Not only that, but we can still sing it months later.

Months when life happens, and we’re sick, and we don’t sing, we struggle to even remember the first verse.

So as obvious as it sounds, you actually have to sing the song to commit it to memory!

Listen to the Song If It’s Unfamiliar

Most of the hymns we’ve memorized are familiar. They’re ones we’ve sung at church or listened to on the radio. Those ones are easier to memorize!

Some other hymns aren’t as familiar. When that’s the case, we do much better when we listen to the hymn several times. It helps us learn the tune.

I’ll also have Jayme play the song for us on the piano or recorder. It helps her practice her music skills and gives us another opportunity to listen.

Review

In addition to singing our memory hymn of the month each day, one child gets to pick another song that we’ve learned to review.

We also keep a list of memorized hymns in the bus to pull out and go through when we’re on a drive. Reviewing these songs is a great way to pass some miles.

Talk About the Meaning

These hymns are full of wonderful praises to the Lord, and we want our kids to know that. We frequently talk about the meaning of the words we are singing.

If there’s a word we don’t know, we take time to look it up. That way we understand what we are singing.

Keep It Up

There are months when we fail at learning a song completely. But, instead of giving up, we keep going. We make it a priority to be more consistent the next month.

We continue to practice the hymn that isn’t as familiar, and we just pull out the hymnal again.

We believe there’s value in learning these beautiful hymns, and so we’ll keep learning them.

Have a Plan

If I were to just say we were going to memorize a hymn each month, but never took the time to actually work with my husband to decide which ones, I’m sure this would get thrown to the wayside. Other things would come up, and we’d just forget.

By planning out each month’s song every July, it’s something I don’t have to even think much about. We’ve already had the discussion. We’ve picked songs that coordinate with holidays (like Christmas or Easter). We’re set.

I’m looking forward to picking our songs for the 2016-2017 school year next month. When we get them selected, I’ll be sure to share them with you.

Do you memorize hymns with kids? I’d love to hear what ones are your favorite, or have you add your tips in the comment section below.

Are you traveling with kids this summer? Here are 13 tips to make it go smoothly!

13 Tips for Traveling with Kids

We love going on drives. Traveling with kids is a lot of fun, and it’s something the whole family enjoys. Over the years we’ve picked up several tips for ensuring the trips go smoothly.

13 Tips for Traveling with Kids

1. Make Sure Everyone Has Space

Since upgrading to our family bus, trips are a lot more enjoyable for everyone. Before, we were packed into the Suburban. Everyone was a little squished.

On the bus, everyone has space. Even when they’re sharing a seat, there’s room to stretch and not feel like a sardine.

If your family is cramped in your current vehicle, consider renting a larger one for your trip. Space helps keep fighting down, and you won’t have to hear, “He’s in my space!” nearly as often.

2. Bring Snacks

There’s nothing like snacks to relieve the tension and keep the whining down. I love packing each kid their own snack bag. That way they can control when they eat.

I usually include several easy to eat options including:
A granola bar
A baggie of grapes
Trail mix
Beef Jerky
Carrot sticks
A couple of cookies
A juice box
A bottle of water

Of course if it’s a short trip, they don’t get all of that! But the food helps the miles pass.

3. Find a Park

We make it a point to let the kids run around every couple of hours. Otherwise all of that built up energy often leads to no good.

Most small towns have parks. We use Siri on our phones to lead the way. Yes, she’s gotten us lost a few times. But that’s part of the adventure.

We’ve seen beautiful parks and we all enjoy the fresh air. We don’t stay long, usually half-an-hour, but it refreshes everyone’s spirits and prepares us for the next leg of the journey.

4. Play Games

Games are one of our favorite parts of traveling together! I especially appreciate games that don’t require lots of stuff, because the bus gets messy enough all on its own.

Here’s a post with some of our favorite math based car games.

Here’s a post with some of our favorite word/language based car games.

5. Sing Songs

Since the radio on the bus doesn’t work, we make our own music. We take turns picking a favorite song, and then we all sing together.

We’ve sung hymns we’ve memorized, theme songs from our favorite shows, and a ton of other songs. Sometimes I sit by Jayme and we look up lyrics to Disney songs. Then we’re good for a long time!

6. Do an Activity

On our way to the coast a couple years ago, we brought baggies of Fruit Loops and string for each of the kids. They had a great time making their own necklaces. After they were done, we tied them up and they slowly ate them.

We’ve also brought coloring pages and pencil boxes with colored pencils (because those don’t melt like crayons do!). Having something to work on is always a good way to pass the time.

7. Talk Through Your Trip

Our kids always appreciate being kept in the loop. We have them help watch for the appropriate signs, check out the map, and look for places they’d like to stop.

We also tell them a bit about what they can expect–we’re going into two states, and it’ll take several hours. This helps them prepare mentally for the trip. I don’t like the unknown, and many of them take after me in that area!

8. Bring a Change of Clothes

Even if you aren’t planning an overnight adventure, bring a spare set of clothes for everyone. We’ve dealt with puke, spilled drinks, and accidents when the park’s bathroom was closed. You never know who will need fresh clothes, so just stick them in a bag and be prepared!

9. Use Glow Sticks

Will you be traveling after dark? Bring along a pack of glow sticks or glow bracelets. I picked up a container of 65 glow bracelets at Wal-Mart for $5 before our last trip. It made the return trip much more enjoyable. With that many bracelets, everyone could have several. It was fun!

10. Change Seats

We try to change seats almost every stop. We have the room to do it, and it makes the kids rotate who they sit by. It also ensures everyone gets a chance at the window seats for a better view, and a chance to sit with me.

11. Don’t Expect too Much Sitting

Kids can’t sit still for as long as you probably can. Don’t make them sit for hours without a break. Take potty stops. Stop and explore a new area.

We try to get out of the bus every couple of hours. It helps!

12. Take Pictures

Take pictures throughout the day, and at your stops. They’re a great way to document your memories! Also, let your kids take some pictures. I always love seeing the world through their eyes.

13. Stop at Historical Sites

We love stopping at historical sites as we travel. Keep your eyes peeled for those brown highway signs. Recently we explored a historic ranger station in Montana. Here’s a pic that Bryan captured of the kids and me there.

traveling with kids & stopping at historical sites.

What Are Your Favorite Tips for Traveling with Kids?

I’d love for you to share them in the comments section below. Do you have any travel plans for this summer?

rabbit failure

7 Lessons from My Rabbit Failure

Do you remember way back when I bought rabbits a year and a half ago? I figured I’d get them on a solid breeding schedule, and be adding a litter a month to the freezer.

Things didn’t exactly work out like I’ve planned–which is why I haven’t talked much about my rabbits here on the blog. I’ve had rabbit failure!

We’ve had exactly five baby bunnies survive here at the farm. We also lost a litter to the cold.

So much for “breeding like rabbits!” My rabbit experience was an epic failure so far. It’s turned out nothing like I planned.

But since I don’t want it to be a total waste, I’m taking a step back to see where I failed. I can use the knowledge gained from my reflection going forward, and hopefully have more success in the future!

Fail #1. Not Sexing My Bunnies Upon Purchase

I bought my rabbits from a random person on Craigslist. I was supposed to be getting 3 girl bunnies and 2 boy bunnies. I thought they knew what they were talking about, and never bothered to check.

It took several months of breeding attempts before I realized that one of the girls was in fact a boy. Oops. No wonder those previous breeding sessions didn’t result in baby bunnies!

On that note, it is really tough to tell the difference between a girl bunny and a boy bunny. They look really similar! I still need to get better at this.

Fail #2. Picking a Breed Just for Looks

lessons from my rabbit failure.
The rabbits I bought were American Chinchilla. Well, I also got one mixed breed. He’s the brown one in that pic.

They were beautiful! I loved the sleek look of the almost blue coat, and bought them mainly because of their looks.

They were sweet, and cuddly, and beautiful. That made it hard for me to go through with the butchering process.

If I buy new rabbits in the future, I’ll stick with a less attractive breed. It might help me mentally!

Fail #3. Feeding My Rabbits too Much

My bunnies got fat. They were given free access to pellets at their last home, so I just continued that feeding pattern. It wasn’t a good idea.

Rabbits don’t need a lot of pellets, unless they are young fryers growing for butchering or pregnant or nursing. I needed to increase the hay and decrease the pellets, to try and keep them at a good weight. I learned that too much fat is not good for breeding stock.

The extra fat also made butchering harder!

Fail #4. Trying to Breed in Extreme Weather

Our winters were cold. Several weeks of below zero type cold. With that weather, I should have skipped breeding. But I didn’t. We lost our first batch of babies to the cold.

Likewise, our summers have been really hot. Too hot for successful breeding to take place. Next time, I need to plan on spring and fall breeding to increase the viability of each litter.

Fail #5. Not Learning the Butchering Process From Someone

YouTube videos are great for a lot of things! I’ve learned a ton from them.

But for butchering a rabbit? That’s a skill I really should have learned from someone in person. There was a lot I underestimated. Like how hard it’d be to actually go through with it.

Fail #6. Not Preparing for the Mental Process of Dispatching

I’ve taken care of every aspect of the butchering process before. Except for the actual dispatching.

Give me a dead animal, and I can clean it, cut it up, and prepare it for the table or freezer. But, the rabbits were my project, and I wanted to take care of everything.

I’ve never actually killed anything before. I completely underestimated the mental struggle I’d have to deal with. My hesitation came once I’d already begun to utilize the broomstick method, and I caused the rabbit undue suffering. Once I realized what was happening, I quickly bucked up and finished the task I’d started. It just wasn’t pleasant.

Now, I’ll be better prepared. I thought that all of the other butchering tasks had prepared me, but they hadn’t. Killing an animal was different than just cleaning it!

Fail #7. Trying to Use Dull Knives

Let’s just say I was in tears by the time I finally got the rabbit’s hide off. Sharp knives are important. Lesson learned!

I need to begin with sharp knives, and have a way to sharpen them midway through if necessary.

Learning From My Rabbit Failure

Despite my failures, I learned a lot about raising rabbits. I know what I need to do to try and turn my small herd around.

Since most of my stock is getting old, and haven’t been productive, I’m going to be butchering them at the end of the month. And I’ve already enlisted experienced help. That way I learn from someone who knows what he’s doing!

I will be keeping one male and one female. We also have three baby bunnies currently. I’ll raise them until they’re 6-8 weeks old, and then butcher.

By then, the mama should have another litter.

Then I’ll give her a break until fall. She’ll need it after having back to back litters.

I’ll begin raising my herd, utilizing the saying, “Keep the best, eat the rest!”

Have you ever raised rabbits? Did you run into as many difficulties as I did? I’d love for you to share your experiences in the comments.

This simple diaper basket helps me save time each day. Minimizing decisions through simple solutions helps so much!

Save Time with a Diaper Basket

I’m a huge fan of minimizing decisions and making life easy. In fact, I developed a course about doing just that to help other freelancing/blogging moms. That’s why I had to come up with a solution for diapers.

You see, I currently have three in diapers. Owen, Simon, and Brynna. They’re all in different sizes. And digging through boxes for diapers was taking too much time each day.

I knew I needed a streamlined solution. A way to make it easy to:

    • Grab a diaper when I needed it
    • Let the kids grab a diaper easily
    • Have all three sizes stored together so everything was in one place
    • Have the wipes handy too.
  • I needed an easy to maintain solution. Because it was taking far to long to dig for diapers each day. It was also too easy for the kids to grab the wrong size inadvertently, because Simon’s and Brynna’s diapers look very similar.

    We needed a solution.

    Introducing My Diaper Basket

    I took a large basket I found at Goodwill. Every morning, I grab a stack of size 3s, a stack of size 4s, and a stack of the larger diapers and put them in the basket. They fit nicely, sorted by size.

    diaper basket plain

    The basket also holds a pack of wipes. It’s everything I need for a diaper change, all in one place.

    I love it!

    The kids can easily see the sizes. They know where the wipes go if they see them left out. Everything has a home.

    And by giving our diapers and wipes a home, we save time. They’re It’s amazing how much impact a little organization can have on your whole day.

    Organization and minimizing decisions doesn’t have to be complicated. Often it’s just a matter of rearranging things a bit and being prepared for what you know will happen.

    Is there anything in your life that’s taking too much time or causing unneeded stress? Take a couple minutes to look at it from a new perspective and see if there’s a way to tackle it. My diaper basket doesn’t take much time to prep each morning. But it sure helped me be prepared throughout the day.

    Have you recently organized something to save time? I’d love to hear about it!

    Homeschool plans for the summer. Here's what we'll be learning once school's out.

    Homeschool Plans for Summer

    We’re getting ready to wrap up our school year. Bryan’s grandparents are coming to town, and their arrival marks the end of our official school calendar.

    But, learning never ends around here. So I’ve been making homeschool plans for the summer. Here’s what we’ll be working on, both as a family, and as individuals.

    Family Studies

    We’ll continue having our daily Bible times. We meet as a family in the morning and evening each day. We sing the hymn we’re memorizing, recite our annual memory passage and add a new verse if applicable (this year was Phil. 2.) Then we share a Bible story, or some verses that we’ve been thinking about lately. Of course, we end by counting our blessings.

    Unit Studies
    I’m joining forces with another homeschooling mom of seven to create homeschool unit studies. I’ll be testing these out on my kids over the summer.

    A Trip?
    We’re also tentatively planning a trip to the Portland Zoo. It’ll be a fun family learning trip. And the first out of town trip in our school bus!

    Gardening
    I’m not a gardener. I tend to grow weeds and kill plants.

    But, I want the kids to know how to garden. So we’re planting another garden. It’ll keep everyone busy this summer!

    Jayme

    Photoshop
    Jayme loves drawing on her computer. But, she prefers using Paint. That’s because she hasn’t experimented much with Photoshop. Bryan and I have been showing her how much more control she’ll have in Photoshop. So, she’ll have some scheduled time this summer with us to play with it.

    Math
    She didn’t quite finish up her math course this year. I’m not worried, because kids in the public school never actually finish the books.

    But, I don’t want her to forget anything either. So she and Bryan have a weekly math night. I’m so thankful for a husband who’s good at higher levels of math!

    Owen

    We’re really working on some sensory things with Owen. He has a sensory sack that he loves being in. I’ve noticed when I put him in there with his iPad, he’s able to better focus on the actual options on there and not get so overwhelmed.

    So we’re going to try some basic matching games via the iPad this summer. We’ll see how it goes!

    We’re also working on self-feeding some more. Because I’d love him to get better at that so I can stop feeding him.

    Jeffrey

    Jeff needs to practice his reading and handwriting this summer. So, he and I will have reading dates with hot cocoa on the chilly mornings. On hot days, I think he’ll enjoy sitting on the porch swing and reading.

    He’ll also be my list maker this summer. Since I actually have to be able to read what he writes, it’ll be good practice.

    He still needs to finish up his phonics book as well, so he’ll do a couple of pages twice a week. It’ll help keep everything fresh in his mind!

    Ellie

    Ellie will be finishing up her math and phonics book over the summer. She’ll do just a couple of pages once or twice a week. Just enough to keep her learning.

    She’ll also be reading with me. She likes to read while I make dinner. I’m looking forward to it!

    Sydney

    Sydney will be practicing writing her name and the letters to get her prepped for kindergarten next year. Well, technically she won’t be 5 until the end of November. So she’s still a full year away from officially being in kindergarten. But, that’s okay. She loves working on school!

    She’ll also do some basic math practice through board games. My favorite way to learn!

    Simon

    Simon is going to learn about the potty. Because he really doesn’t like it much right now. And I don’t want another school year with him in diapers.

    So he will be potty trained by fall.

    Being able to pee outside in the summer helped Jeff learn at this age, so I’m hoping that tactic works with Simon as well. Yet another reason I love living where I do!

    Brynna

    My sweet little girl. As the baby of the family, she’ll be getting lots of loving this summer. She also likes to dig in the dirt, so I’m sure she’ll do some of that!

    Lisa

    Can’t forget myself–I love learning! Over the summer, I want to write another curriculum for young kids. This one will be Teaching Writing Through Play. It’ll compliment the course I have up over on Schoolhouse Teachers.

    I also want to create some more play things for the kids with all of these tires we have in the junk pile. Might as well put them to use. As I get them finished, I’ll be sure to post tutorials and pics!

    What homeschool plans for summer do you have? I’d love to hear all about them in the comments.

    shopping in real life

    Once a Month Shopping Trip: In Real Life

    You know how I was prepping for my once a month shopping trip last week? Well, surprise, surprise. Things didn’t actually go as planned.

    So this post shares a good dose of reality. No matter how prepared we think we are, things will go wrong. You might as well count on that!

    Are you ready to learn how my shopping trip went down?

    First, I decided to take the Suburban instead of the bus. I don’t really know why–but that was not the right thing to do!

    You see, Owen was in a mood. He was in a “I don’t want to be strapped in my seat” kind of mood. And in the Suburban, we fill every seat. So he was really close to someone.

    That someone was Jeffrey. And Owen started really picking on him. Well, putting Jeffrey in a headlock would be a more accurate description.

    We all (barely) survived the trip in. We tackled our first store, and I was thinking that despite the rocky start we were actually going to get this shopping thing done.

    And then it happened.

    Jeffrey started coughing. And he kept coughing so hard that he puked.

    All over Ellie.

    The poor thing. I think I might have felt more sorry for my little girly girl sitting there with puke all over her than I did for the poor puking boy.

    It was bad.

    To make matters worse, I didn’t have a towel or anything like that in the car. The only thing we had was Ellie’s special blanket that she wraps her special toy in.

    Can you see where this one is going?

    Yes. I used that special blanket to clean up puke. Just enough so we could make it home.

    I don’t remember much about that return trip. I think my brain has purposefully blocked it forever. I don’t blame it! It was a disaster.

    The car smelled like puke. Two kids were covered in puke. And one was screaming because I’d contaminated her special blanket.

    I wasn’t brave enough to try that shopping thing again until today.

    And I would have put it off even longer, but Owen is sick and I had to go pick up meds in Spokane.

    Today, I left several little ones home with my dad and Jayme. I tackled those stores like a mad-woman, and packed everything into the back of the Suburban.

    Here’s what it looked like–filled to the brim! Except (are you ready for some more reality?)

    I hadn’t yet thrown the pizzas on top. Because after shopping all day, and remembering the struggle from last week–the idea of cooking made me want to scream. So imagine a couple of Winco pizzas up on top.

    my shopping trip in real life picture.

    Life doesn’t always go as we plan. And that’s okay. No matter how prepared we are, life happens.

    We just have to take it one day at a time, and remember that God knows all about it. He’s there for us and will give us strength to get through each day. Even when we’re driving home with puking, screaming kids. And even if we have to take an extra trip to town to actually go shopping.

    What to Do Before a Once a Month Shopping Trip to Make it a Success. Click to read.

    What to Do Before a Once a Month Shopping Trip

    We’ve been doing this once a month shopping thing for a long time now. I still love it.

    Since tomorrow is our shopping day, I wanted to share my seven must-dos before we leave. Here’s what we’re doing today to make tomorrow a success:

    7 Once a Month Shopping Tips for the Day Before

    1. Clean the fridge

    It’s so frustrating to come home from a long day of shopping and have nowhere to put our groceries.

    I’ve been there and done that. The food sits out even longer. My attitude takes a nose dive. It’s not a pretty sight.

    I learned my lesson. I now ensure that both fridges are cleaned up and have lots of room. It makes putting away a month’s worth of food so much easier!

    2. Organize the Cupboards

    It’s so nice to put things away in a clean cupboard. Otherwise, I have a tendency to just shove the new things in without any order. That makes it so hard to find what I need!

    I’m trying to keep a first in, first out style of inventory in my pantry cupboards. That means before each shopping trip I push the old things to the front.

    When I put away the new ones, they just slip in right behind and I don’t have to think about it.

    3. Check the Calendar

    Each month has something going on. If I don’t take time to check the calendar, I’ll be unprepared for events as they come up.

    For May, we have a potluck at church, a birthday, family coming to town, and a gathering with a potluck.

    That means I need to add birthday presents and wrapping paper, paper plates and plastic utensils, and ingredients for a simple potluck dish to my list.

    4. Update My Shopping List

    I love my annual meal plan–it has made grocery shopping so easy. That’s because I use the same list each month.

    But, there are still things I have to do to update my once a month shopping list. I have a section for adding toiletries, household supplies, and items for events. I have the kids help me check our current inventories and we add to the list as needed.

    I also update how many of each item I need to buy. There are some items that last us several months (like a bottle of vanilla) and others that we need several of each month. I make sure to get an accurate number for each item on my list.

    .5. Pack the Diaper Bag

    Having to buy a new outfit for the baby and a pack of diapers at our first stop isn’t the best way to start a shopping spree.

    Just saying.

    Pack the diaper bag. You won’t regret it!

    6. Clean the Bus

    We need room to put all our stuff. Taking time to clean the vehicle makes the trip more pleasant, and means I can buy what I need without having to cram it into the seats with the kids.

    7. Print the Shopping List, Put it in My Purse

    Do you know how many times I’ve updated my shopping list and then left it in the printer? Way too many!

    So now I print it out the day before and put it in my purse. If I forget my purse, I have bigger issues. And we won’t talk about those!

    How often do you grocery shop?

    Do you have any prep tips that make your shopping day easier?

    Our 10 Favorite Quiet Time Activities

    10 Favorite Quiet Time Activities

    Routines help our days go smoothly. Our daily quiet time is one of those routines. We all love it–time to pursue individual interests, enjoy some peace, and just rest.

    As the kids get older, our quiet time activities are slowly changing.

    The younger kids still nap, but the middles and big are doing their own things. They’re becoming more responsible, and are able to enjoy a bigger variety of activities.

    Here are 10 of our favorite quiet time activities. I hope it gives you some inspiration of ways to keep your kids engaged during quiet time!

    10. Practicing Piano

    Jayme took piano lessons for a few years. While she no longer participates in lessons, she still enjoys playing. Each day she spends about thirty minutes learning new songs, playing her favorites, and just enjoying the music.

    I’m going to participate in a beta test of a program to teach your child piano with Ellie, so I imagine she’ll start spending time practicing as well!

    9. Making a Project

    The kids all love crafting! They’ll drag out an empty box, construction paper, crayons, scissors, and glue and get to work.

    Ellie’s made a pizza delivery car. Jeffrey made a Mario level to run his cutouts through. Sydney created a barn and cut out animals to play with.

    It’s amazing what a few supplies, a little time, and their imagination can create.

    The kids always want to do art during quiet time, but I limit them each to one day a week to keep the mess down! They’re responsible for cleaning their mess.

    8. Playing Wii

    Each child gets 1/2 an hour on the game pad on their day each week. They love it! They can play any game, though they’ve been loving the Mario Maker game lately.

    Jeffrey has been working hard on creating levels that don’t require Mario to move at all. Auto levels we call them. Such a great way to get him thinking while he thinks it’s all about play!

    7. Reading or Listening to Books on Tape

    Yes, I said tape. As in cassettes. When a local teacher retired, we inherited hundreds of children’s books on tape. We have one cassette player that still works.

    Jeff and Ellie enjoy this activity the most. Sydney’s still doesn’t have the hang of operating the player so it’s not a good independent activity for her. Yet.

    Usually the kids will listen to books in the playroom with a handful of paper and crayons to color while listening.

    6. Playing a Game

    We’ve created solo rules for most of the games we own. That way a kid can pull out a board or card game and stay engaged during quiet time.

    It’s one of my favorite quiet time activities!

    These games work well (aff. links):

    Racoon Rumpus

    Snorta

    Pictopia: Disney Edition

    Mouse Trap (setting up the trap solo)

    Jenga (they love playing with blocks!)

    5. Coding/Computer Art

    This is Jayme’s favorite activity. She loves having an extended period of time to write her codes, work on her drawings, and more on her computer.

    Occasionally I’ll let Jeff or Ellie play on PBS kids on my computer. I’m sure they’ll enjoy more computer time as they get older.

    4. Train Tracks

    The kids all love getting out the train tracks and setting something up. We’ve lost the train that actually goes with our set, but they have fun driving a variety of cars or other toy trains over it.

    This is Simon’s absolute favorite! Though he normally naps, if he slept late in the morning I’ll let him play for quiet time. The tracks keep him engaged for at least an hour!

    3. Creating Worlds

    We have so many sets of toys. My Little Ponies. Rescue Bots. Paw Patrol. The kids love bringing them all out, and creating a giant world where all of their favorites work together.

    It’s a great way to get the toys a bit more loving while the kids use their imagination to their heart’s content!

    2. Crocheting

    Jayme knows how to crochet, and she enjoys getting out the yarn and her hook. She typically just makes scarves for the toys, or a tiny blanket for one of her sister’s dolls.

    I’ll let her start a DVD in her laptop and she sits at the table watching that while she works. It’s a great way for her to practice this skill while she doesn’t have to worry about Owen or Brynna coming over and tangling up her yarn.

    Ellie is super interested in sewing and crocheting as well, so I imagine that’ll be one of her favorites when she gets a bit bigger.

    1. Bring Out the Homeschooling Manipulatives

    Pattern blocks.
    Unifex cubes.
    Puzzles.

    The kids love bringing out the learning supplies Instead of having to “do school” with them, they get to have free play. It’s so much fun to watch them learn on their own!

    What are your family’s favorite quiet time activities? I’d love to have you share in the comments!