Tricks To Keep Your Household Running Smoothly & Still Have Time For Fun This Summer

It’s a beautiful summer day and you have big plans! Maybe it’s going on a wilderness hike, checking out your local zoo, a day of playing in the pool, or a family movie or game day! Nothing is more exciting, and nothing can derail it more quickly than the infamous “Oops Moment”. If you’re a mom I know you, like I, have had this happen once too often. You’re all set for the day when *bam* something like this comes across your path and derails your plans faster than you can check for a backup.

Yes, whether it’s no toilet paper, squeezing the last ounce out of the toothpaste container, or the very last diaper, there are many everyday essential items that take the household to emergency status when it’s discovered you’re all out. And nothing is more of a bummer than having to hold off your plans to battle the holiday or weekend crowds in store, full of other moms with kids in tow who happen to be there for the very same reason.

You see, summer is this beautiful, crazy mess. On the one hand, the bustle of the busy school schedule and extra circular activities are done and days can be full of staying up late, sleeping in, and those extra fun activities instead like playing games and building blanket forts (what summer should really be all about!). I’ve noticed for us, however, that the lack of the disciplined schedule makes it way too easy to let things slide and fall through the cracks, which leads to those “Oops Moments”!

That’s why as a busy work from home mom I’ve come up with some handy tricks that I use to keep myself from having these “Oops Moments” anymore! Every moment with my family is precious, and I try to make the most of them while still keeping on top of all the jobs that being a mom involves! Because I know most of you are busy moms as well I wanted to share my tricks to keep your household running smoothly & still have time for fun this summer!

Shop For Your Household Essentials Online

This is a huge one! I’ve been a fan of shopping online (especially for Christmas!) for years, but until recently the thought of combining my “every day essentials” shopping and online shopping just didn’t happen. I’m so excited that I realized I can now stock up on all of my very favorite brands online at Walmart.com , they even have a super handy “Avoid The Oops” page set up right now www.avoidtheoops.com to make stocking up a breeze. The best part is that you get the great prices you love and if you spend over $50 you get free shipping! This works perfectly for me because another part of this trick is buying plenty of the things so that way you’ll be well stocked up (the best way to avoid and get it delivered right to your doorstep! For this shopping trip I literally got to place my order while watching the kids splash around in the pool, how’s that for convenient one-stop shopping?!

Less time running around for errands means more time to run around for fun! Here are the products that made my “must have stocked up” list:

  • Charmin Ultra Soft — As I mentioned before, few things cause bigger “Oops Moments” than realizing you’re completely out of toilet paper. This is something that you always want to have an abundance of on hand!
  • Cascade Platinum Dish Packs — Going to tackle a stack of dirty dishes after dinner and realizing that you’re out of dishwasher pacs is a disaster as well, so I always have at least two of these big containers on hand.
  • Febreeze Air Effects — Summer means wet towels, dirty clothes, and lots of extra smells floating around the house- we help keep those smells be of the good variety by always having several of these throughout the house.
  • Mr. Clean Magic Eraser — A complete oops moment saver when you notice that weird smudge all over the door just before guests arrive (don’t even bother trying to figure out what it might be, just scrub it away).
  • Crest Complete Scope — In case you’re unsure why you need to keep stocked up on toothpaste, just picture hearing this ringing through the house at 8 PM at night, “Mooommm!!!! There’s no more toothpaste!!!”
  • Aussie 3 Minute Miracle — Because summer for us means the Texas heat we’re all pretty much living in the pool these days. This is awesome but is also brutal on our hair! This is a definite must-have product to keep bad hair days away and things running smoothly!

Once you have all these items on hand and stocked back up it’s time to tackle how you’ll handle the rest of your grocery list.

Meal Plan Once a Month & Shop In Store Once a Week

Can you tell I’m all about getting things done at once these days? It’s amazing how dedicating a chunk of time to getting a task done at once saves so much time in the long run! I have a spreadsheet where I keep track of all the different meals currently on our menu rotation and then schedule them out using my Google Calendar a month at a time, having it online makes it easy to swap around days and make last minute changes if we are invited out to eat or something comes up. Once you have monthly menu planning in place it makes it much easier and faster to come up with a grocery list and go shopping once a week at Walmart in-store. Only having to pick up fresh items thanks to shopping online makes those trips quick and easy as well, and planning ahead let’s you pick days and times where you can avoid the rush, which leads into our next trick.

Come Up With a Loose Schedule

As I mentioned the beauty of summer is the lack of structure, but without some kind of a schedule things descend into chaos and it’s too easy to forget things or realize that the kids have been watching the screen for hours on end. Planning your week out loosely at the beginning will help keep you on track, make sure you’re taking care of essentials, and also make sure you’re knocking some things off that fun summer bucket list. Alternating days where you stay at home and days where you’re out running around makes for a great variety so you don’t feel exhausted or cooped up, as will varying days to take care of tasks like shopping and cleaning and your all-day fun days. If you’re wondering how you’ll manage to fit those in you’ll need my next trick!

Have The Kids Help Around the House For Screen Time

I just mentioned on Instagram that one of the things that “stuck” from our ticket system that we used a few years ago was that our kids have to work to earn any screen time. This is especially great during the summer when they have more time at home and free. It also really helps you out as a mom because it frees you up to focus on other things that need to get done, so you can have more time for fun together!

Hopefully, these tricks will help you keep your household running & still have time for fun this summer! Don’t forget to stop by www.avoidtheoops.com. Do you have any amazing ones I didn’t mention or that I need to know about? What about a hilarious “Oops Moment” that happened to you (surely I’m not the only one!)? Leave me a comment and let me know!

Save

How to Decide if Your Child is Ready for Music Lessons (and how to inspire your child to practice)

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and it advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #SongsToShare #CollectiveBias

practice box, ad, ready for music lessons

After high school band class one morning, I heard some girls talking about a cute saxophone player. I knew who they were talking about but that was the first day I really noticed him. Fifteen years later, that cute saxophone player is my husband and father to my three kids. It’s hard to believe that some of the most amazing parts of my life started with high school band class!

Taking music lessons, first piano and then guitar, has added so much to my life over the years. As a child and teenager, music helped me learn to set goals, work toward those goals and face the fear of performing in front of a group of people. The aspect of music I enjoyed the most as a young person was the relationships I developed. Some of my best friendships (and my marriage) were developed through the common interest of playing music. Beyond my personal experience, there is a large amount of research on the benefits of children learning music.

I want my kids to have the chance to experience the personal and relational benefits that being involved in music can bring to their lives. When my kids were infants and toddlers I focused on exposing them to music through singing and allowing them to play with kid friendly instruments. I have also always allowed them to play on the real piano, as long as they did not get too rough. With my oldest son I debated about when to start him in private music lessons. Here are a few things I learned about how to decide if your child is ready for music lessons and how to inspire your child to practice.

Let them get started with formal education before putting them in private lessons. My son did not go to daycare or preschool, so his first exposure to a structured learning environment was kindergarten. Even for kids who did go to preschool, kindergarten is a big adjustment. It is tiring because there are new things to get used to, so starting music lessons and kindergarten at the same time might be overwhelming. I also found that having some reading skills is very helpful for learning music. At the very least, it is important for children to be able to recognize and identify letters to help them in the process of learning to read music. I started my son in private piano lessons during his second semester of kindergarten and that worked for him. He was used to the idea and role of a teacher and he knew how to read on a basic level. I think that is the earliest a child should start, with few exceptions. I plan on starting my other two children a little later, in first or second grade.

Consider their emotional maturity before starting private lessons. Private music lessons can help children develop many important life skills such as discipline and goal setting. However, children need the ability to think ahead in order to realize the importance of practicing. When children are very young, they live completely in the moment and do not have the ability to understand that their actions now can impact things later. As they mature, children start to understand the concept of cause and effect to varying degrees. If children start private music lessons without fully understanding the benefits of practicing, getting in practices may become a battle.

My son is at the point now, in second grade, where he fully understands that practicing today is how he becomes a better piano player tomorrow. He likes piano lessons and he loves his teacher. However, there are weeks when he does not get in his four practices. He is the type of kid that likes to see evidence of his progress, so I have been trying to think of a way to give him a visual reminder of where he is on his practice schedule. I was recently in my local Brookshire’s  (I’m always in Brookshire’s trying to rack up YourPoints so I can save on gas) and I noticed that the bottle of Coca-Cola Zero™ I was about to buy had the song lyrics ‘takin’ care of business’ printed on it. The music notes reminded me of my son and got me thinking about ways I could get him to ‘takin’ care of’ his practices. I decided to make him a practice box to hold his music and prominently display his total practices for the week and inspire him to reach his practice goal.

practice box, ad, ready for music lessons

I asked my son to help make the practice box so it would be more meaningful to him. I wanted to use music written out in his handwriting to decorate the practice box. I drew out a staff for him and he filled in the time signature, notes and anything else he thought needed to be added.

practice box, ad, ready for music lessons

When he was done, I took the paper and scanned it into my computer as a photo. Once it was a photo on my computer, I was able to edit it like any other picture. I was inspired by the fun “Share a Coke and a Song” bottles to add a very colorful background. When I originally found the “Share a Coke and a Song” bottles, I couldn’t help but turn each bottle around and look at the different lyrics. On one of the bottles, I noticed some song lyrics I didn’t recognize, so I used my Shazam app on my phone to discover the song. Then, I went over to the Coca-Cola™ website to find out what other songs they were using on the bottles. I read that part of their goal in choosing lyrics was to be fun and uplifting. I love that sentiment and decided to use it as inspiration to use fun colors on the practice box.

practice box, ad, ready for music lessons

Once I got the music staff exactly how I wanted it, I gathered up my supplies so I could get to work. I bought a plain magazine file and printed off enough music staffs to cover it completely. I printed off six staffs on 11X14 paper. Other supplies I used include a small chalk board to display the practice number for the week, permanent mounting squares, chalk, chalk holder, scissors, adhesive, and a clear drying sealer.

practice box, ad, ready for music lessons

I cut out the staffs and started attaching them to the magazine file with the adhesive. I did not try to make the staffs meet up in any certain way or look uniform at all. I cut the pieces into different sizes and attached them to the file. Once the magazine file was covered, I put a coat of clear sealer over the entire practice box to protect the paper.

practice box, ad, ready for music lessons

Once the sealer was dry, I attached the chalkboard to the front of the practice box with permanent mounting squares. The chalkboard is there so my son can write down the number of times he has practiced for the current week. I put a little tin bucket full of chalk beside the practice box for easy access.

practice box, ad, ready for music lessons

Once everything was finished, I displayed the practice box on the piano. Now my son will easily see how many times he has practiced when he walks into the living room.

practice box, ad, brookshiresIf you’re looking for the fun Coke Zero “Share a Coke and a Song” bottles, I found them near the checkout of my local Brookshire’s. As I mentioned before, I couldn’t help but turn each bottle around to look at the different lyrics. It was fun and inspiring to see music used in such an unexpected way! Next time you’re in Brookshire’s, check out the new Coke Zero bottles and see how many of the songs you can identify-you can always use your Shazam app if you get stumped!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fun Ways To Teach Kids About Bugs

Here in Texas, the last few days have crept up into the 80s and the we’re officially tip-toeing into the hot seasons which means lots of gorgeous green, lots of pool time, and, lots of bugs. Arachnids, Insects, Bugs, Pests, Beauties, whatever you are calling them we have them all and in abundance. Since they are so plentiful here, and since I have a very curious five-year-old, I’ve spent a lot of time over the past few years learning about different kinds of bugs and teaching him about them. Here are some of my favorite ways to do so, including a fun giveaway so be sure to read all the way to the bottom!

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Nicole Elliott (@confidentfoundation) on

Take a Pic & Google It — seriously, our favorite way of learning is to take pictures of local bugs and then search for information about them online. For example, this beauty crawled right onto Tyler’s finger!!!! He found it on the ground and stuck his finger out, it later jumped onto his legs then flew away, we were worried it was hurt but I guess it had just picked a bad resting spot originally. When we got home I searched “Bright Green Moth” and found out all about it, it’s a Luna Moth and we were very lucky to see it since they usually only come out late at night! The adults don’t eat any food because they only live for one week, and the one we found was a male because he has especially bushy antennas. Pretty cool, right?! The items in the giveaway below are absolutely perfect for this way!

Check Out Books & Thrift For Them — Of course, your local library is a wealth of information and is the perfect place for finding a bunch of fun, informational books to learn about bugs. This is great if your children aren’t especially interested in non-fiction books and you  just want to do one fun activity or week with them this summer where you focus on learning about them. Since my little guy loves these kinds of books the most, I’ve been able to build up our private library stash by thrifting for them. I’ve had the most luck finding  them at thrift stores and through library sales when they pull books from their stash. These three have been especially fun!

Purchase Kits — I just found out the coolest website that sells a variety of scientific observation kits that are perfect for the classroom or home! We’ve already added the Ant Farm, Carnivorous Plant Kit, and the Tadpole Kit to Tyler’s wishlist for December! Having the (nice) versions in your home as pets is an amazing and fun way to really observe and learn.

Now that I’ve given you some fun ideas for this summer, it’s time to test YOUR knowledge when it comes to insects. While there are plenty of fun insects, there are also those that all of us could do without–I’m talking about your mosquitoes! They not only are a nuisance, but they also pose potentially serious health risks. Fortunately, the experts at Orkin study the science of mosquitoes and other pests closely in order to better tailor plans that help keep them out of your home this summer.

To help you better prepare yourself and your family to fight the bite, Orkin presents the “Buzzer Beater” app, which features its deep scientific knowledge of mosquitoes. Plus when you take it you can enter below to win this fun kit!

The Orkin Summer Scientist Bug Catching Kits are fun for the whole family! Each pack includes:

  • Bug Catcher Craft Kits: These awesome DIY bug catcher kits will let your family’s personality shine through while also learning about nature and the world around us. The kits include a variety of foam ladybugs, dragonflies and more!
  • Bug Nets: Explore the great outdoors with these fun mesh insect nets. They can be used to collect and study butterflies, ladybugs, caterpillars and many other backyard creatures.
  • See-Through Bug Jars: Reveal the wonders of your backyard with these clear bug jars. Each transparent plastic box has a magnifying lid for better insect viewing. Young explorers love discovering worms, butterflies, ants and insects. These containers allow them to make homes for their new discoveries.
  • Magic Color Scratch Little Garden Critters: Scratch faces, designs and more on these Magic Color Scratch Little Garden Critters! A perfect kids’ activity for critter lovers, simply scratch away the black coating to reveal vibrant rainbow colors. Includes butterflies, frogs, turtles and more.
  • Glow-in-the-Dark Creepy Crawlers: Turn off the lights and let them glow! These vinyl glow-in-the-dark bugs are lots of fun for all ages.

Enter Now!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Legalese Disclosure Nonsense: A big thanks to Orkin for sending me two kits–one for you and one for Tyler, so that all the kids can have fun discovering bugs this summer!

How To Go on an Epic Mini Adventure With Your Kids!

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser.  all® free clear detergent is not intended to treat or prevent allergies. As always, All opinions are mine alone. #allfreeclear #CollectiveBias

How fun!! Great tips for fun with your kids that's cheap or free! How To Go on an Epic Mini Adventure With Your Kids!

The other day I walked into Tyler’s room to find him filling his backpack. He looks up and exclaims, “Mom! I’m filling up my pack with survival supplies, and then, I’m going to go *exploring*!! In the real woods! But….could you come with me, maybe? You know, to keep me safe?”

After this conversation, I told him that I thought us exploring in the woods was a great idea, and it was also a great idea to bring me along. I just love watching my kids develop their very own unique personalities which are now completely evident. Tyler especially has flourished in developing his interest and desires and communicating them in this past year and his “isms” keep me laughing daily! I am also always looking for ways to raise the kids to be sympathetic and respectful to others, and I believe family time together is a key component to all that!

Continue reading How To Go on an Epic Mini Adventure With Your Kids!

My Babywearing Journey & Baby Sling Carrier WrapyTM

Bekah title photo wrapy

Legalese Nonsense: I have been provided this wrap by Wrapy for reviewing for free, but have the freedom to state my own opinion and thoughts, and all my words and babywearing adventures and snuggles therein are thusly my own.

I can not even emphasize enough how much I love babywearing. Feeling the closeness and snugness of my little one, and their warm breath gently against my chest… smelling that baby smell… oh my…it just sends me and my oxytocin hormones into overdrive!

10592890_10152676984776703_3048668948169865257_n
Ollie and I snuggling when he was a baby!

I can still remember the first time I encountered baby-wearing as a missionary kid in Africa. I saw these fearless, bold warrior women who had survived brutal civil wars in west Africa, and yet had the tenderness and affection to hold their little ones close. These moms were living in the “poorest of the poor” conditions, and yet they knew more about baby-wearing than I have ever known with all my Youtube videos and online tutorials at my instantaneous disposal. They aren’t necessarily aware, like we are in our first-world society, of the benefits of baby-wearing scientifically speaking, but they know it is necessary if they are going to provide for their families. It isn’t a trend there or a fashion statement, it is survival. I always admired that, and long to live fearlessly and boldly in the face of life’s adversities like they have. To be as bold as a lion, but as gentle and tender as a lamb.

WRAPPPPY
My “bold as a lion/tender as a lamb” pose! Am I convincing? hee hee

Fast-forward years later, I am in my early 20’s and longing for a child after we had lost our Lily Neveah in March 2011. I had long since thrown out of my mind any real remembrance of baby-wearing from those brave West African women, but one Sunday, I saw a gorgeous young mama at our church baby-wearing her little newborn, and it was in an adorable stretchy wrap (although back then I didn’t know what a stretchy wrap was even). I thought it looked SO comfy and cute and stylish even.  I relished the thought and prayer and hope of one day holding my very own baby close in my arms and having the chance to babywear him or her.

Shortly after this encounter with the lovely young mom at my church, to our delight, we became pregnant! I quickly started researching everything I could about baby-wearing and had bought my own stretchy wrap, ring sling, and even a soft structured carrier, and then I awaited in eager expectation for my rainbow child to arrive so I could put the carriers to use.

Oliver - not even a day old yet! <3
Oliver – not even a day old yet! <3

When my son finally came into my eager arms and vacated my womb, I pretty much immediately put him into his first baby carrier the second we left the hospital, which was a linen ring sling. I also wore him in our stretchy wrap we owned, and loved the bond and connection I felt with my son in those moments I would babywear. We tried various carriers, and had many learning curves, but we both grew together not only in closeness, but together in our babywearing abilities as well. Oliver, with his continued trust in me as I attempted various different wraps and carriers with him, and me with learning to baby-wear properly. I still remember my biggest struggle was pulling the wraps strand by strand to make sure they were tight enough. BOY – can it be a workout, but so worth it once it is all done and secure!

WRAPY SUNSHINE
So supportive! Even my back is “happy as a clam” in this carrier!

 

 

With our son we ended up, as he got older, favoring our soft structured carrier and my woven wraps for their durability and support – especially with my back because I suffer from scoliosis, bone spurs, and arthritis in my spine (that is right… I have a horrible back. *cry * Chiropractor once told me that he has 70-year-old ladies with better backs then me!), but there is something so special about those newborn stages with our stretchy wrap and the coziness it brought that I always hold very dear to my heart. I can’t even count the days I spent with Oliver as a newborn in his stretchy wrap as I did my college coursework whiles my husband was at work. Oliver has always been my active child! Even from the womb, he was constantly moving, so it was no surprise that we always had to be moving (which my postpartum body was grateful for) to keep him happy, so our carriers became serious life savers!

Wrapy - Can buy on Amazon!!!
Wrapy – Can buy on Amazon!!!

All that to say, I just delivered our daughter 1 month ago, and so, my dear kindred reader, thou canst imagine my inner thrill when I was offered to receive a stretchy wrap from the company called Wrapy to try their product out and write a review. I just received the wrap a couple days ago, and have FINALLY been able to try it out! I was immediately enthralled with the softness and loved the dark blue color of the wrap. When I put it against my skin, the smoothness and coolness of the wrap just heightened my anticipation to put my darling daughter into it! I loved how easy the instructions were to follow, and before I knew it, my daughter and I were smooth sailings.

Wrapy copy
Such cute packaging!

 

Wrapy looking down
She fell RIGHT asleep once in it! She was super fussy, but this wrap was a miracle worker! <3

Now, because it is a stretchy wrap, I did have to work at making sure she was at kissing level and practice my T.I.C.K.S. (YES, beloveds, I am a stickler for SAFE baby-wearing so please research to ensure you wrap safely before starting), as well as make sure the wrap was tight enough. I also always go ahead and watch several wrapping videos on youtube to make sure I have everything correct and even learn helpful tricks and tips!

Side note: One of my favorite YouTube channels for baby-wearing is Wrapping Rachel, but there are numerous other tutorials on there that are fantastic!

IMG_9077
Ollie enjoying the sunshine!

Within a couple minutes of experimenting, tightening, and following the instructions, everything was super snug and wonderful with my Wrapy, and I was able to go outside and enjoy being with my toddler and husband in this beautiful spring sunshine! I also was able to just sit and cuddle on the couch later and let her slumber peacefully against my chest. I even was able to get some housework done, and work out a little bit, which my body desperately needs (so please give me grace for these photos! I am not in the shape I need to be yet, but I finally have the “all clear” to resume all activities postpartum – aka excercise as much as I want – YAY!) .

Josh and Ava Wrapy
Hubby loving his snuggles with Avonlea in the Wrapy!

She didn’t awaken or stir throughout all of these activites – even during our walk at a local park, which is a testament to how soft and comfy the wrap was against her delicate newborn skin! I was so grateful to have the perfect accessory, in a stunning color, to help me go about my day with success. Even my husband, who never enjoys wearing wraps of any kind, thoroughly enjoyed wearing Avonlea with our Wrapy, and kept on talking about how he couldn’t wait to wear her again!

Baby-wearing has seriously changed my life, and Wrapy is a fantastic brand, to hold your newborn close and get things done throughout the day! It is made of 95% cotton and 5% spandex, which makes sense as to why it is so soft and breathable. It is super comparable to other stretchy wrap brands, and even more affordable then most, which I am all about!

Back view!
Back view!

SAFETY Note: I don’t find this stretchy wrap, or any stretchy wrap brand for that matter, supportive enough to do any back-wearing safely or carry a toddler in, but for the younger baby stage, they are fantastic! I also don’t recommend doing the cradle hold that is listed in the instruction manual (a lot of stretchy carriers offer this carry suggestion, but it isn’t safe due to potential breathing restriction issues.) I am one to always er on the side of caution with these type of matters.

Hubby kept on exclaiming how surprised he was at how much he loved this wrap! He has NEVER liked a wrap before! (PS: Aren't baby-wearing dads the best?!)
Hubby kept on exclaiming how surprised he was at how much he loved this wrap! He has NEVER liked a wrap before! (PS: Aren’t baby-wearing dads the best?!)

In glorious conclusion, I love how with baby-wearing I am able to accomplish all my daily goals at once and even have the freedom to chase around my wild toddle-bear as well! Since I am in school, working from home, trying to be a mom/wife, and look for a job in the medical field… to not be as productive as possible in a day is not really an option for me. I also go stir-crazy having to just sit around, so baby-wearing has given me access to new freedoms and saved me many times! I will forever be grateful to baby-wearing for allowing me to be a present and nurturing mother, as well as a productive and fearless woman in this crazy, fast-paced world!

Have you tried babywearing? What was your experience? What carriers do you enjoy? Tell me about it all, my kindred spirits!

Affectionately yours,

Rebekah M. Clark

PRODUCT NOTE: Here is the direct link to look at purchasing your very own Wrapy baby-carrier! So worth it in my opinion!

How To Organize All Your Little One’s Pool Stuff

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #SwimAdventureContest #CB #CollectiveBias

DSC_0120

We hit a high of 83 today and the kids are counting down (what they hope are) hours until our pool is warm enough to splash into. They’ve already tried sitting on the edges and kicking their feet around till their teeth start chattering and I scold them out of it, there’s just something about water that little ones love!

As you might remember we were blessed to get to move into “the swimming pool house” along with my in-laws over a year ago. Last summer the kids spent hours upon hours in it every day that the weather wasn’t flashing and grumbling, and as a result, they both learned how to swim! It was an amazing time and we all can’t wait to get back to the fun, soon!

Continue reading How To Organize All Your Little One’s Pool Stuff

How To Encourage Your Daughter to Dream Big

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #InspireBigDreams #DreamBigPrincess #CollectiveBias

Writing, photography, and a love of art courses through our blood.

My Grandma has written for the Green River Star Newspaper as a journalist for as long as I can remember, and just recently has scaled back her involvement with them.

My Mom was a journalist until I was born, and now that all her children are out of the house she’s returned just this year to journalism full time for the Rocket Miner Newspaper.

I’ve spent my entire life writing in one way or another, and now have the most amazing job I could have ever imagined as a professional blogger.

So it was no surprise, but delighted my heart, when I saw Amber with a furiously scribbling pen and a deeply intense look on her face earlier this school year. Later that day she proudly came and showed me her story “The Cat” written and illustrated by Amber Elliott. One of her main presents for Christmas this year was a kid camera, and right now her aspiration is to be a Travel Blogger when she grows up. She loves exploring the world and new places, along with having a big heart that adores helping others, and because of that Ariel and Belle are currently her favorite Disney Princess inspirations!

photo credit Danielle Simmons from SimmWorks Family

As a fun surprise and late birthday present, I decided to get her some fun, new Disney Princess toys from Toys “R” Us with the help of my favorite network. By this time it should be no surprise to you how much we love Disney, and especially their princess story lines, in this family! I mean, Amber’s nursery theme was princess and she still sleeps every night under a twin sized fleece blanket that all of us writers in the family made for her that has Belle, Aurora, Snow White, and Cinderella on it.

How CUTE is this mini-Belle with Chip? I’m seriously tempted to sneak into Amber’s room and steal her for myself. Kidding. Sort of.

To this day, I will put down my work and snuggle up with the kids just to watch Sleeping Beauty and Tangled (my two favorites)! I’ve already shared with you Life Lessons From Classic Disney Princess Movies that You Need to Teach Your Daughter. Another thing I love about Disney Princesses is how they chase after their dreams, and now that Amber is a few years older than the last post I shared, and starting to Dream Big about her future, this is something I’m encouraging as much as I can in her life and as we watch the movies!

We’ve always loved going into Toys “R” Us–even as an adult I feel like I’m stepping into a fairyland with all the amazing aisles filled with nothing but FUN! I had a blast looking through the latest Disney Princess options, and each store, including ours, has a whole aisle dedicated to Disney princess magic with exclusive options available only there. I especially loved the beautiful Disney Princess Royal Shimmer Dolls. I’m currently crushing on ombre and glitter, so the fact that all 11 Disney princesses are available with a gown in their signature color with ombre and glitter is probably why I loved them so much. Each Shimmer Doll has movie inspired features so it’s easy for your daughter to recognize her favorite, and they even come with removable shoes. Some stores also have an amazing end cap highlighting these dolls like the one you see above, so be sure to be on the look out for that!

Amber’s reaction to the amazing assortment of new Disney Princess toys?!

I wish I would have gotten a video of her first seeing them, but I love this photo completely captures her excitement and delight!

Although she loved all of the toys, as I mentioned she’s especially loved Ariel lately, and she immediately fell in love with the Sing & Shimmer with Princess Ariel! Ariel sings “Part of Your World” when you press her jeweled necklace, and Amber immediately started dancing to it. In fact, she begged me to let her go dance and play with Ariel in our front yard, and of course, I did!

As soon as she got back in we opened up the Little Kingdom Ariel’s Sea Castle. Both of the kids had a lot of fun with it since they’re both in love with “little” toys right now and so the 3 inches tall Ariel with all her fun snap-ins plus the mini-Sebastian were so much fun! I love that it’s compatible with all the other items in the Little Kingdom line, including dolls of other princesses, so it’ll be easy to expand and add new “friends” for Ariel to play with!

After Amber got inspired by play we talked together about how she could use her new Disney toys and their princess stories to inspire her goals for when she grows up. I told her that she could write and illustrate a story, and then I would publish it right here on my blog, her first published work! She was thrilled and got right to work!

If your daughter, or any princess in your life, is also an aspiring author/blogger/artist here is how you can encourage that dream!

Materials Needed

  • Disney Princess toys for inspiration
  • Construction/Scrapbook Paper
  • Markers/Pens/Pencils
  • Glitter
  • Glue
  • Scratch Paper for the Rough Draft
  • Polished paper or a computer for final draft
  • Camera or Scanner (to document the process and take photos of the final artwork)

Step One–Basic Story Skills:

Go over the basics of story writing if your daughter hasn’t been taught it in school yet. Amber’s class just recently went over story development, so when we started to talk about story basics she told me all about starting off the story with a “hook sentence”, creating a rough draft, and about needing a problem and a solution, so we were good to go.

Step Two–Brainstorm Session:

We used Amber’s playtime to have her brainstorm, but if your daughter is a little stuck sit down together and talk through all the different ideas she has for her story. Who will be the characters, what problem will there be?

Step Three–The Rough Draft:

I’d encourage having your daughter do her rough draft on paper. We live in a digital world but there is something about pen and paper that cannot be replaced. Putting a story on paper makes it feel more real, plus it makes them practice their spelling and penmanship skills.

Amber’s a lot like me and while she likes to do a basic brainstorm, she really loves to watch the story develop as she writes. For this story, she knew her characters, and her problem, but how it would be solved she hadn’t decided until she was writing. She got stuck for awhile and was a little frustrated. You might be tempted to jump in and help by providing ideas for the story, but don’t! This is her creation and working through bumps in the creative process is a part of every person’s career. I gave her gentle open-ended questions to help get her wheels turning, and it was amazing to see her face literally light up when her “light bulb” moment hit and she started furiously writing again.

Step Four–Illustrations/Art/Photography:

At first, I thought I’d have Amber stage and take photos to go along with her tale, but after she wrote her story she decided she wanted to illustrate a “Cover” for her story, instead. Again, this is all about encouraging your princess and HER dreams and goals for her life, so allow her to do whatever she wants in the creative process! I gave her a big variety of materials and resources to use and just sat back and enjoyed the magic. For this, she also created a rough draft and then a final copy! I think they both turned out amazing.

Step Five–Final Draft:

Just as much as I like the rough draft being on paper, I think it’s also vital that we teach our kids how to thrive in our digital world. Amber’s school does a lot of work on iPads and computers, and I try to also adopt the half and half style at home as well. For her final draft, I showed her how to use spell check (my best friend) and the proper way to do capitals and sentences right here in my composition part in WordPress! She thought it was so much fun!

Step Six–Share:

The joy of creating is sharing it with others! Whether you have your girl share with her younger brother, your extended family, or even the wide internet world, make sure you give her a chance to shine! At this age, I believe in lots of encouragement, and gentle help. Tyler loved hearing Amber’s clever story, and here it is for all of you to enjoy now, too!

Ariel’s Adventure

One day Ariel was at the shore. Far away she could see a island. She swam to it. But there was a problem. No one was on the island. When she visited other islands they had people. The ground of this island was gray and smooth, but no rocks and no plants, and in the middle was a small hole. Then a burst of water came out of the hole, and then two huge eyes came out of the water. It was a whale! That is definitely a whale!

THE END!

How will you inspire your princess to Dream Big? Watch this heartwarming video for more ideas along with reading this awesome post by By Jennifer Lee (Academy Award®-winning director/writer of “Frozen,” writer, “Wreck-It Ralph”), and then leave me a comment letting me know, I’m always looking for more ideas!

How To Save Money by Giving Haircuts at Home

IMG_0927final

I love a fresh haircut on little boys! They always look so nice with a new haircut. I like for my boys to get their hair cut once every four to six weeks. The last time my husband and sons went for a professional haircut it was over $50.00 plus a tip. Three haircuts for a little over $50.00 does not sound too bad, especially when women usually spend more than that for an individual cut. However, I have been looking for ways to save my family money and I decided that haircuts at home are a great way to cut costs! It takes a little practice to become proficient but I think it is worth the effort. See the tutorial below to start learning how to give haircuts at home.

Continue reading How To Save Money by Giving Haircuts at Home

Superbook – A Christian TV Series for Kids: Thoughts from a Real Mom & Her Kids

Superbook TV Series
Legalese Nonsense: I love quality entertainment for Amber during Tyler’s naps–it helps me be able to work from home! So when CBN and MomSelect offered to send me Superbook to check out of course I said yes! All afternoon snuggles, parent evaluations, and pictures are my own!

Update from 2/7/16

So after having this TV series as a part of our life for several years now I can even more wholeheartedly recommend it! After being given nearly all of season one to review (as shown here) we purchased season 2. At ages 5 & 8 now this is one of the kids favorite shows ever and I love how much of the Bible they’ve taken into heart because of it. Recently several people at church have told us how much both my children know about the Bible, and I know it’s all thanks to Super Book and our huge variety of amazing Children’s Bibles. Hurray for amazing, fun, not corny Christian entertainment! Stay tuned for a post coming very soon about other kid’s entertainment you don’t have to feel guilty about letting them watch!

Original Post:

I’m sure you remember my recent post about Superbook and it’s July airings–were you able to catch any of the series?

I was so excited to get the entire 14 episodes for Amber to watch! The show is recommended for ages 6 and up–if you didn’t realize it the Bible can get a little “adult rated” at times–even in the classic children stories! I appreciate that Superbook recommends itself to an older audience and also that it even goes so far to give you a heads up before any shows that might have more intense scenes in them.

Continue reading Superbook – A Christian TV Series for Kids: Thoughts from a Real Mom & Her Kids

The Perfect Mommy’s Must Have Purse Kit

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #BeHealthyForEveryPartofLife #CollectiveBias

The Perfect Mommy's Must Have Purse Kit Ad

*BOOM* and just like that, welcome to November! For us October whizzed by at lightening fast speed filled full of school, work, soccer, ninjas, and light-up princess dresses.

Continue reading The Perfect Mommy’s Must Have Purse Kit