Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

6 Steps to Planning a Sweet Summer with Your Family

Tuesday, June 18th, 2019

From our marriage & parenting contributor, Mary Carver.

Since she was a preschooler, I’ve taken my oldest daughter on a date after the last day of school. It’s an opportunity for us to have some sweet, one-on-one time, but also a time for us to reflect on the last nine months. I ask about her favorite parts of the school year, the hardest parts, and what she learned. But then, we turn to the future.

Making plans for the summer is one of our favorite things to do. Because yes, I’ve trained my daughter to love lists and schedules and plans just as much as I do. Parenting win! But seriously, we do love it — me because we come up with a plan on how to survive the summer months and her because she gets to share her ideas and have a bit of influence on what we do.

That’s not to say I show up at our lunch date with a blank calendar. No, by the time school is out, I’ve already registered my kids for camp parents’ night out or open houseparents’ night out or open house, made hotel reservations for any trips, and started talking to possible babysitters for the days I just have to get some work done. But we still have plenty of summer hours to fill and plenty of days to plan.

Are you worried that I’m that uptight mom who over-schedules her kids? Wondering if my girls even know how to play on their own? Longing for the days of old, when kids got out of school and then spent three months playing pickup ball, riding bikes, and catching fireflies?

I know. Me too! So don’t panic. I promise that’s not what I’m about. If you crave structure and need to have a general idea of what you and your kids are going to do this summer, but also want to leave plenty of space for regular old playtime, I’m here to help. This is not possible. We can do it! Read on for tips for planning a sweet summer!

Do your homework.

Pull up all the websites in all the tabs. Camps, churches with VBS programs, library programs, bucket lists from Pinterest, summer school listings on the district website, road trip itineraries — get it all in front of you.

Are you going to do all these things? Heck no. But you want to know what your options are before you start picking and choosing the few things you’re going to do.

Try something new.

Summertime is the perfect time for trying out a new hobby, activity, or sport. I couldn’t fit a full week of art camp into our budget, but I signed up my youngest for a morning drawing class. And I’m not sure my oldest will like karate (we’ve tried it before, but I’m determined to have her try again), so rather than commit to a weeks-long session, she’ll attend parents’ night out or open house at the local martial arts school to test it out. 

Include your favorites or family traditions.

Do you always watch fireworks from the park down the street? Do you kick off the season with a big barbecue or just by pulling out the fire pit? Are summer afternoons time for bubbles and sidewalk chalk and bike rides? Do you let the kids set up a lemonade stand every year or go geocaching in the woods behind your house? Are they (and you) looking forward to their annual visit to the grandparents’? Whatever you’ve made a habit of doing year after year — big or small, at home or on the town, silly or serious — make sure to include these things on your summer agenda. And if you’re not sure which activities or outings your kids are counting on this year, just ask them! You might be surprised by the things they remember and love the most.

Give the kids choices.

Speaking of what the kids want… Now’s the time to get them involved in the process of making plans! You might not want to give them carte blanche with your calendar, but you can give them some leeway. Perhaps come up with 10 ideas for summer projects and ask them to pick three. Or sit together and sift through all the ideas you found when you did your homework. Make a giant wish list, then pare it down to what’s doable for your family. 5.

Make margin and leave room to breathe.

While we want to keep our kids (and maybe ourselves) busy during our break and while we want to do everything we can to make summer fun for everyone, there’s something to be said for downtime. Unscheduled time. Blank space on the calendar and breathing room in our souls. Let them be bored sometimes. Stay up late and take naps. Leave room for spontaneous playdates or game nights or pizza picnics on the back porch.

Only you know what the right amount of rest is for your family. And this is something that will change from year to year (maybe from day to day)! So, give yourself time to figure it out and room to adjust. And just know that what works for other families might not work for you. And what worked just fine last year might be completely different from what you need this year.

It’s all about balance.

Now, don’t get me wrong. If your family is all about baseball and that’s all you do, all day, every day, that’s awesome! I mean, it is not for me — but I’m not your kid! If your family is all in with an activity or hobby or sport, go for it. But for many of us, a little balance goes a long way.

When I’m making summer plans for my family, I try to balance all the things: indoors and outdoors, sports and art and science and music, active and resting, fun and learning and chores and more fun, planned and unplanned, time with friends and time reserved for family. Do you think I ever get that balance right? No, of course not. But I try, which means we end up with more balance than if I didn’t try at all.

That’s it. That’s how I plan our summers and what I recommend to you. But more important than following my steps and suggestions is following your heart and what you know about your family. Choose the things that work for you, that bring you joy, that keep you sane, that create the summertime memories you — and they! — will treasure forever. And let the rest go.

Love these ideas? Here are a few more you might enjoy!

7 Promises I’m Making to My Kids This Summer

Using Technology on Summer Break

DIY Summer Time Capsule Craft for Kids

DIY Fluffy Slime Recipe (so fun!!)

DIY Rainbow Bubble Snakes

Have you started making plans for this summer?

Mary Carver is a writer, speaker, and recovering perfectionist. She lives for good books, spicy queso, and television marathons, but she lives because of God’s grace. Mary writes with humor and honesty about giving up on perfect and finding truth in unexpected places on her blog,MaryCarver.com. She is the author of Fast Talk & Faith: A 22-Day Devotional Inspired by Gilmore Girls and co-author of Choose Joy: Finding Hope & Purpose When Life Hurts.She is also a regular contributor toincourage.me and MothersofDaughters.com. Mary and her husband live in Kansas City with their two daughters.

Planning a Spring Break Staycation

Monday, March 18th, 2019

Today we have gathered the best tips, easy projects, and fun activities you can play for the ultimate family staycation. Be sure to bookmark this for some of our favorite boredom busters!

From our marriage & parenting contributor, Mary Carver.

Last year, on the Friday before our school district’s spring break began, my daughter went on a field trip with her class. It was her first experience roller skating, and all week my husband and I joked with her, saying more than once, “Don’t break your leg!”

Well, the joke was on us, because just a short hour after I dropped her off at school that morning, I got a call from the school nurse. My daughter had, indeed, broken her leg. That ordeal is a story for another time. But what I’m remembering today, as we head into spring break season once again, is how so many people reacted to the news by asking if we’d had big spring break plans.

Apparently, many families plan big trips for their kids’ spring breaks. I feel silly admitting it, but I really had no idea. I had assumed most families would be staying home, juggling work and childcare, catching up on home projects, and possibly taking a trip to the movie theater or park before sending their kids back to school.

After all, that’s about all I had planned!

After hearing about other families’ more extravagant and adventurous plans, I didn’t feel guilty that we couldn’t afford that kind of travel or time off in the spring. But I did feel bad that I hadn’t put more thought into what we would actually do instead. Last year’s spring break was consumed by pain medicine, follow-up doctor’s appointments, and begging my daughter to JUST TRY TO USE THE CRUTCHES. But this year, I was determined to make the most of our five days off school!

Here’s what I did:

Evaluate your free time. Plan your work time.

Because of the nature of my work, I can’t simply take a whole week off. (Okay, I can, but it requires a level of nose-to-the-grindstone intention that I just didn’t pull off this time.) But I also don’t want to spend five days trying desperately to finish projects while hearing my kids ask, “When are you going to be finished?” So I’m planning three half days of work (and probably a chunk of time on the weekend to catch up). That way, they know they’ll have to entertain themselves during those times and I know I will need to focus so I can maximize those times.

Now we’re left with two full days and three half days. What will we do?

Take a look at your to-do-someday list. Get something done.

I’m not the only one with a Someday To-Do list, am I? A list of house projects, inconvenient errands, or seasonal tasks that always seem to get pushed to the back burner during the regular school year?

The trick with this part of a spring break staycation is positioning your to-dos as adventures or fun projects. If your kids are anything like mine, half the fun of spring break is spending extra time together — so why not use some of that together time to accomplish something? You’ll be relieved, and they’ll be proud they helped.

At least that’s my hope for having my girls help me recover the dining room chairs. I’ll let them weigh in on the material we choose, and any project involving a screwdriver and staple gun is fascinating to them (even if they don’t actually use the tools themselves). And since we sit on those chairs every single day, they’ll see the fruit of their labor daily. (Plus, at least in my house, anything can be fun if we add loud music, funny faces, or a special snack to eat when we’re finished!)

Other chores or errands might require some incentives, of course — like shopping for new spring clothes, but only after we go through and clean out their closets, or a trip to a special ice cream shop but only after we finally return those Christmas presents you’ve had in the trunk of your car for months and drop off the Goodwill donations you packed up back in January when you KonMari’d your house like the rest of the world.

Because I want to have two full days for full-blown staycation adventures, I’m planning our “project” (chore and errand) days for the other half of those days I’ll work. Now, finally, it’s time for the fun part!

Explore your town. Connect with friends. Make memories.

Whether you have a couple full days to fill, a few hours here and there, or an entire week, planning for fun will make sure your break doesn’t slip away without doing anything to write home about. (I know, you’re already at home. You know what I mean.) Here are some ideas:

  • Does your community have a children’s museum? Or art museum? Or, really, any kind of place where your kids can let loose and have fun (while also learning something because you’re a sneaky mom like that)? Go there. Bonus tip: Look on the museum’s website to find out if they have free days or hours, coupons, or special events that you can plan around.
  • Who are the friends you keep meaning to see but haven’t been able to? Who lives too far away for a simple dinner together during a normal week? Make plans to see them! Invite them over to your house for a playdate or lunch, or meet them at a park somewhere between your homes. (Or, if you really want to mix things up, you could combine an errand with a friend date and do your errands together. Need to stock up at Costco or Trader Joe’s? Why not go with a friend? Then grab lunch somewhere with a playplace so your kids can run free while you catch your breath.)
  • What’s new? Has a big store opened up recently? Or perhaps a new restaurant? Make an adventure of checking out the new place by putting together a scavenger hunt for your kids or giving them a “mission” or mystery to solve while you’re there. Tasks or items might include eating a food they’ve never tried before, spotting specific items or colors or numbers, deciding how they’d like to spend a certain amount of money (either pretend or real), or even figuring out where the public restrooms are located.
  • Take a trip down memory lane. If you’ve lived in your city for a while, take your kids to see some nostalgic sights (like your childhood home, the restaurant you and your husband had your first date, the park you took them to when they were much younger). If you’re new to town, you can use this time to learn about your community’s history. Check out a local museum, ask a neighbor to share one of their favorite spots, or just explore an area, road, neighborhood, attraction you haven’t visited yet.
  • And don’t forget this: My city has a specific website for parents, listing out special events, fun excursions, coupons and promotional codes, and more. I always, always go there first when playing a staycation. Does your city have something similar? (Or, perhaps a local parenting group on Facebook? Or your MOPS group? Whatever source has a collection of information about activities in your city, go there!)

Put the “stay” in staycation.

Finally, you don’t have to even leave the house to have fun during your break. If you have little kids or a health condition or any reason at all that makes going out to find fun more difficult than usual, just stay home! But that doesn’t mean you’re stuck with Disney Channel reruns or another week of mac and cheese lunches. You can mix it up, right from home!

Some of our favorite things to do on those days are trying a new recipe (let the kids help cook), doing simple science experiments we’ve found on Pinterest, trying to imitate the trick shots of Dude Perfect or the dance moves of Kidz Bop after we watch a few videos on YouTube, or doing one of those messy craft projects I normally don’t allow. (Hello, glitter slime!)

Whatever your staycation looks like, you can make it fun. And really? Your kids will enjoy just as much and remember just as fondly the day you let them spend hours in their swimsuits, splashing in the tub with all the toys as they would some tropical trip. Are you together? Are you doing something out of the norm? Are you laughing and letting loose, even just a little?

Then your staycation will be a success!


A few more tips for you:

  • Set a budget. Even if you’re staying home, you’ll likely spend a little more money when all your kids are home and “needing” to be entertained.
  • Plan for rest. Much as I adore schedules and lists, I know we can’t fill up every minute. Both my kids and I need downtime and quiet time, so I might as well plan for that, too.
  • Sprinkle in surprises. Even on those work or project days, you can delight your kids with their favorite dessert, a new Spotify playlist, a quick manicure, or a break to play catch in the backyard.

Want more fun activities for the perfect staycation or family getaway? Here are a few of our faves!

exploring columbus, ohio

exploring saugatuck, michigan

exploring grand rapids, michigan

printable travel games (for those of you hitting the road!)

 

try our diy fluffy slime recipe

mix up our 3-ingredient cloud dough

make these fun rainbow bubble snakes

make an easy dreamcatcher

make pom-pom flower bouquets

dye a pair of canvas shoes for spring

try these fun rainbow science experiments

 

Still bored? Here are 22 of our favorite spring break boredom busters! What do you like to do during a staycation?

Mary Carver is a writer, speaker, and recovering perfectionist. She lives for good books, spicy queso, and television marathons, but she lives because of God’s grace. Mary writes with humor and honesty about giving up on perfect and finding truth in unexpected places on her blog,MaryCarver.com. She is the author of Fast Talk & Faith: A 22-Day Devotional Inspired by Gilmore Girls and co-author of Choose Joy: Finding Hope & Purpose When Life Hurts.She is also a regular contributor toincourage.me and MothersofDaughters.com. Mary and her husband live in Kansas City with their two daughters.

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How to Find the Best Valentine’s Gifts for Your Kids

Monday, February 11th, 2019

From our marriage & parenting contributor, Mary Carver.

Do you give your kids gifts for Valentine’s Day? I know for some families, it is a gift-giving occasion; others not so much.

As I’m writing this, somewhere between Christmas and the month of love, I’m surprised to find myself leaning toward the no-gifts-necessary camp. Since I adore giving (and, obviously, getting) presents, especially to my kids, I’m blaming my feelings on the fact that in my house, our family of four has three birthdays in the few weeks surrounding Christmas.

I’m saying it’s a lot of gifting.

And that maybe my four-year-old asked me just this morning, “But on my real birthday [as opposed to the day of her birthday party a week before], you’re going to give me presents, right? I’ll get presents?”

Sigh.

Yes, of course she will. Because tired or not, I love giving presents. You might even say — and you would be right if you did — gifts are my love language. (Words of affirmation are also my love language, so feel free to include a long, detailed note in the card with my present.)

If you aren’t familiar with love languages, it’s a tool created by Gary Chapman and explained in his book, The Five Love Languages.

Chapman proposes that most of us express and receive love best in one of five ways: gifts, words of affirmation, acts of service, touch, and quality time. (To learn more about this or to take a quiz to figure out your love language, click here.)

Since Valentine’s Day is a holiday all about love, it does make sense to make plans with love languages in mind. And, whether you are a virtual Cupid who adores everything red and pink or a cynic who rolls her eyes at “that holiday the card companies made up,” considering love languages when making your Valentine’s Day plans is smart. Because either way, you want your efforts to be worth it!

Right? You want your people to feel loved and for your time and resources to be well spent communicating how much you value them.

How to Find the Best Valentine’s Gifts for Your Kids

If you know your kids’ love language, I’ve got some great, last-minute ideas for you.

Gifts

This category might seem like the easiest one, but you shouldn’t just grab the fluffiest teddy bear at the gas station on your way home!

Instead, try to remember something they’ve mentioned wanting since Christmas — perhaps something that made you roll your eyes because you don’t need that and we just had Christmas and wait until your birthday! While I definitely use Christmas and Easter as holidays to give some practical gifts, I think it’s fun to give unnecessary, frivolous, fun stuff for Valentine’s Day.

One of my daughters has picked up the habit lately of saying, “My friend has [________]. I love it and I want it!” I’ve tried reminding her that she can admire something without immediately coveting it.

But she’s five, so it’s a hard lesson to learn.

(I’m kidding. This is hard for all of us, isn’t it?!)

Still, if your kids mention things like that, it might be fun to surprise them with their own for Valentine’s Day.

Words of Affirmation

If you have a child who insists on saying, “No, I love you more!” you might have a words kid. Now, I have no scientific data to back this up, but I suspect many words people are like me and, as much as they crave the affirmation, they certainly do not want them said to their face!

Because, hello, awkward!

Instead, write your kids a love letter! If they’re younger — still in the coloring pictures stage of life — draw or color a picture to go with your words. If they’re older, send an email or text. Or make a video of yourself telling them how much and all the reasons why you love them so much.

Whatever medium you use, make it something they can absorb slowly, alone if possible, and keep to re-read or re-watch over and over again.

Acts of Service

My kids love when I help them clean their rooms. But I think they’re a little unusual in that (I remember not wanting my parents to clean my room for fear my favorite books, toys, or — let’s be honest — junk would disappear!). However, since we’ve been working on sharing household work as a family (aka, I’ve been making them do chores), I know their rooms aren’t the only things I could clean as a way to show my love.

I’m pretty sure checking any of their chores off the list around Valentine’s Day would earn me major mom points.

So, depending on which chores your kids detest most or which tasks stress them out, taking something off their plate for the day or the week might be a huge gift to them.

You could also fix their favorite meal, drive them to school if they normally walk, or finally get around to replacing batteries in their toys or hanging frames in their rooms (or whatever to-do has been stuck on your list for months)!

Touch

Just give them a hug and kiss, and call it good, right?

Well, maybe not.

For kids who crave physical touch, that’s a great place to start. But what about going a little farther for this occasion? What about…

  • Taking an exercise or dance class together
  • Trying yoga with a video from the library or on YouTube
  • Playing a round of one-on-one basketball on the driveway (or at the gym if it’s too cold)
  • Brushing her hair, massaging his shoulders, or holding a thumb wrestling tournament

Lots of physical activities result in friendly, affectionate touches. So break a sweat or get out of your comfort zone, and show your kiddos just how much affection you have for them. (Or turn on Netflix and snuggle on the couch under your warmest blanket — what one of my girls wants every day, not just on Valentine’s Day!)

Quality Time

Most of these ideas involve spending more and different kinds of time with your children.

But perhaps you want to really go all out and plan a date with your kiddo who needs quality time to feel loved.

You could send an official invitation (via letter in his lunchbox or a Post-It on her mirror) to get started. Then dress up, pick them up at the door, and eat at their favorite restaurant.

If you wanted to do more, you could use your time together to make a bucket list of activities to do together.

Or you could take a list of “get to know you” questions and ask (and answer!) a few of those together.

Or play a board game, look through old photos, or challenge them to a round of that video game they’re always talking about.

Whatever it is you do this Valentine’s Day, have fun! No matter what language you speak or what plans you make, they’ll feel cherished and appreciated by the effort you take and the memories you make together.

Looking for more great parenting ideas? Here are a few of our favorite articles!

teaching your kids the importance of failure

how to handle lying

how to find and write pen pals

diy tween self-confidence kits

How do you plan to celebrate Valentine’s Day with your kids?

Mary Carver is a writer, speaker, and recovering perfectionist. She lives for good books, spicy queso, and television marathons, but she lives because of God’s grace. Mary writes with humor and honesty about giving up on perfect and finding truth in unexpected places on her blog, MaryCarver.com. She is the author of Fast Talk & Faith: A 22-Day Devotional Inspired by Gilmore Girls and co-author of Choose Joy: Finding Hope & Purpose When Life Hurts.She is also a regular contributor to incourage.me and MothersofDaughters.com. Mary and her husband live in Kansas City with their two daughters.

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9 Great Gift Ideas for Someone Living With Chronic Pain (Giveaway with Quell 2.0!!)

Friday, December 7th, 2018

I received a Quell 2.0 in exchange for my honest thoughts & opinions.

Do you know someone who suffers from chronic pain? I have gotten several emails and messages over the past few months asking if I would share some gift ideas for a friend or family member who is battling a chronic illness and/or suffering from chronic pain.

Today I wanted to share with you a few of my favorite ideas for gift-giving AND share a giveaway with you for the newly designed Quell 2.0 (!!!).

I can tell you already that this would be the most incredible gift to share or to gift to yourself this holiday season.

I was lucky enough to give the new Quell a try and I can’t wait to tell you more.

Be sure to scroll all the way down to enter today’s contest!

9 Great Gift Ideas for Someone Living With Chronic Pain

 

Heated Throws

One of my most relied upon items for relieving pain, especially in the winter, is my heated throw. I treated myself to a sherpa version of the Sunbeam throw (it’s a tad pricier, but I feel like the fabric holds up a tad better)  and it has been such a game-changer for me throughout the day.

Thanks to this blanket offering three settings, you can be warm without getting overheated or you can crank this baby up and get some relief from those brutal Midwest temperatures like I do.

The sizing is perfect for two or one really cold woman who wraps herself like a burrito in it.

Gift Certificates to Offset Costs

In case you didn’t know, having a chronic illness can be very expensive, especially when so many of the alternative care options aren’t covered by insurance.

You don’t need to necessarily spend full price on a gift card for a loved one though.

I rely a lot upon sites like Groupon to try to get the most bang for my buck when splurging on myself.

I feel a tad less guilty when I am paying half price for these services.

Packaged up with a note that they are being thought of by you is a very special gift and will be greatly appreciated.

Each person is different in what they might be looking for so be sure you have a good understanding of what services will be helpful to the recipient.

Groupon covers everything from massage to discounts on meditation apps to discounts at my local natural foods store to help offset some of the costs on my supplements.

You may not know that they also offer prepared meal services which can help your recipient get a night off from cooking.

Once again, just check in with them about what would be most helpful, places they like, or dietary restrictions that would need to be addressed when planning your gift.

Supportive Slippers

It may sound a little silly, but a good pair of slippers has really made a big difference in my pain and can be a great gift for anyone who suffers from back pain, diabetes, Raynaud’s disease, or foot problems. I have had good success with these UGG slippers and am even giving them to my mom this year for her holiday gift.

The nice thing about this brand, in particular, is that you can switch out the inserts and make them feel like brand new again from season to season, offering that continuous support that you need.

To save on costs, be sure to check sites for coupons or even check eBay for brand new slippers at a fraction of the cost. Almost all of my shoes and slippers have been found there and have saved me half the price.

If your recipient has a wider foot, I have found the ABEO brand from The Walking Company to be amazing and they offer incredible built-in arch support.

Elevate Their Evening Soak

Many chronic pain sufferers get relief from a warm bath and the people in my family have learned that they can never go wrong gifting me something for my bathtime.

In fact, pictured here is my favorite weekend setup! My hubby’s parents gifted me this amazing full body bath pillow that completely cushions all my sore joints while I soak in the tub and has become my absolute favorite thing. The best part is that it can be thrown in your washer and it dries quickly so no mildew issues at all.

I pair it with a bath tray, a good book, a few scoops of epsom salts, and a glass of wine for the perfect night in.

On bad pain days, I have added an evening dose of CBD oil to my evening routine to help me unwind and this muscle roller is amazing for rolling out tight muscles.

 

Make Their Grocery Day Easier

I have been so thankful for the grocery delivery services that we have in our area, but to save money, I am still doing some of our shopping myself.

I have found that a rolling shopping cart is really invaluable for getting our groceries into our home.

Not to mention those library hauls we have been making (*ahem*).

It is such a simple thing, but it saves me several trips of going back and forth to my car!

Another great option would be to purchase a gift card for Instacart or Shipt to deliver groceries (if they offer delivery in their area) so they can not worry about the shopping part at all. These services have been invaluable to me on difficult days!

Pitch in for a Quell

Longtime readers know that I absolutely love my Quell and I was so excited when they reached out to see if I would be interested in trying out the newly redesigned Quell 2.0 AND the opportunity to share a GIVEAWAY with you so you can experience it too.

After trying the Quell 2.0 out, I can honestly say that I am so impressed by the improvements they made.

The first thing that I noticed was that the sizing is so much smaller and the device is quicker and more intuitive than their first version. They have managed to shrink all that technology into this tiny gadget.

If you are unfamiliar with the Quell, it  is a wearable intensive nerve stimulation device, that is clinically proven to help manage chronic pain. It is 100% drug free, doctor recommended, and FDA cleared for 24/7 use, during the day while active and at night while sleeping, so you can get relief when and where you need it.

This device is worn just below the knee and activated by simply clicking a button. This position (on the calf)  is where a lot of the sensory nerves are located so the pain can be blocked at the spinal cord, which helps you feel widespread relief from your pain and not just relief in a specific part of your body.

These sensory nerves send neural pulses to your brain that then trigger a natural response that blocks pain signals, leading to widespread pain relief for many people.

The company refers to it its intuitive abilities as “OptiTherapy” technology that can automatically adjust therapy and dose to ensure you receive optimal pain relief.

The best part is that you can start and stop therapy sessions, as well as adjust the intensity of therapy all from the Quell app on your smartphone (app works for both iOS and Android).

SCROLL DOWN TO ACCESS THIS GIVEAWAY!!

Headphones & Listening Material

Many people with chronic illness are often stuck at home because they don’t feel well. A pair of bluetooth earbuds can serve double duty for taking phone calls without putting any strain on the body or for entertainment purposes.

Give them a list of the current best podcasts or get them a gift certificate for Audible or Scribd so they can listen to audiobooks to help them fill the time.

Gifts to Make Their Bed More Cozy

I, personally, love anything that makes my bed more cozy and there are lots of helpers that can make that space better for someone with a chronic illness. A laptop desk tray can be a great gift for working or just catching a few flicks and being able to adjust the tray helps a lot with neck strain.

Need other ideas? How about this bed shelf, a mini space heater, a rice pillow, remote controlled outlets, a cozy throw, a magazine subscription, a weighted blanket, a supportive pillow, a streaming service they don’t already have, compression glovesfuzzy socks, or a sleep jacket.

Also, if you have a larger room (as ridiculously meme-worthy this is), I can’t recommend one of these enough. It is my winter savior, amen.

Cooking Helpers

Losing some of my hand strength has made me more aware of the things I struggle with in my kitchen. If your recipient is low on strength or energy, I have a few helpful kitchen tool ideas.

My favorite things are my jar opener and chopper to help reduce strain on my joints.

Other helpful kitchen items can be a kitchen prep stool (all the heart eyes for that one!!), a cushioned kitchen mat, an electric can opener, and a cookbook stand.

I’m sure there are SO MANY things I’m missing so please chime in and let me know how you manage pain.

By following the steps below, you will be entered to win the NEW Quell 2.0 Starter Kit, valued at $299.99!!

I’m SO excited to share this drug-free pain relief option that has made an incredible difference in my own pain management (you can read my full story and how this amazing tool works over here from their first version). 

Quell also shared a coupon code for our MomAdvice readers to help offset some of the costs. You can use the coupon code HOLIDAY30 for $30 off your purchase

The most important thing that they wanted to share with you though is that if you do not have success with the device Quell offers a 60-day money back guarantee if it doesn’t help alleviate your pain.

You have nothing to lose….especially if you win one!

Please follow the steps below to enter to win!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

This post contains affiliate links.

The Best Gifts My Kids Ever Received

Monday, December 3rd, 2018

From our marriage & parenting contributor, Mary Carver.

What kind of shopper are you? Are you the type who buys everything in a frantic flurry on Black Friday? (I suppose I shouldn’t make assumptions; I hereby recognize you may attack the post-holiday sales with military precision and a budget Dave Ramsey would admire.) Or do you collect presents for your loved ones all year long, stashing them away after entering them into your top-secret gift spreadsheet?

I fall somewhere in between those types, attempting to buy presents ahead of time but occasionally forgetting what I’ve bought, who it’s for, or where I hid it.

And don’t even get me started on all the great intentions I’ve had for saving up for the holidays — or the ways I’ve abandoned those plans with, well, abandon.

Current state? I have small piles of packages in a few places around my house, one in plain sight yet strangely overlooked by my nosy kids, and a spreadsheet about said gifts that was updated sometime before school started. And hopes for a year-end paycheck that comes in time to hit the best sales (on the internet because this mama doesn’t do Black Friday or mall madness).

But as I started to feel stressed while making a list of all the stores I need to visit and purchases I have yet to make, I remembered how I felt on my oldest daughter’s birthday this fall.

As I’ve shared before my daughter is an enormous fan of all things Harry Potter. It was a given that her 11th birthday party would have a Hogwarts theme, and thanks to my tendency to lose my Pinterest-loving mind when it comes to planning parties, going all out for this celebration was also a given.

From the invitations and the decorations to the games and the food, we went crazy.

In a good way.

Planning the party was a blast, and my Griffyndor-wannabe (I get it, I do. But Pottermore sorted her into the house of Hufflepuff, and I do not question Pottermore.) was thrilled.

However, the best part of the whole weekend wasn’t a display of floating candles in the dining room or chocolate treats turned into golden snitches.

It wasn’t even the set of paperbacks I’d found on sale weeks before (though that did earn a whole lot of hugs and thanks).

The best part of my daughter’s birthday weekend happened when one of my best friends drove three hours to help us set up the party, bringing her own Hogwarts robe and magic wand and spending hours talking with her about details of the characters and plotlines I can’t keep straight.

The weekend got even better when another one of my best friends and her husband showed up for the party in full costume, down to preppy vests and scary tattoos.

My girl didn’t stop smiling that day and has yet to stop talking about how amazing it was that, not only did her friends come to celebrate her birthday, but so did mine.

The fact that adults who are not related to her (or obligated to spend time with her) showed up in such a big way was an incredible gift.

When I think about the best gifts my kids have received, experiences and quality time come out miles ahead of any toys, books, or clothes they’ve been given. Trips to the art museum with my brother, pumpkin carving and bread baking and apple picking with my parents, notes in the mail from a Sunday school teacher who shows up every single weekend, questions and conversations from my friend who always takes time to sit down, make eye contact, and really connect with my kids on their level — all of these blow coloring books and stuffed animals and iTunes gift cards out of the water when it comes to gifts that matter.

I do realize, by the way, that this illustrates my family’s privilege.

Our basic needs are met this year, so wishlists and shopping lists can be about presents just for fun, but we’ve had other years when we’ve been exceedingly grateful for winter coats or backpacks for school that the grandparents have purchased. If you’re in a season where the gifts your kids need are sturdy jeans, a new toothbrush, or help paying for dance class or soccer cleats, I get it.

However, if you are looking for fun gift ideas this holiday season, tangible ways to show your kids they’re loved, or answers to aunts or friends or grandpas who ask, “What should I get them?” — my number one suggestion is time.

Here are a few ways you can give (or recommend other loved ones give) your kids the best gift ever:

  • Sign up for a lesson or class together. Learn to cook a new dish, improve your golf swing, or make a birdhouse for the backyard.
  • Buy gift cards to a restaurant or coffee shop, with the plan and promise to use them together.
  • Put together a craft kit to pass on a skill or art you’ve mastered. This could be cross-stitching, calligraphy or hand lettering, or making the perfect pancake.
  • Create a doable bucket list for the next year (or month). Maybe even create it together!
  • Buy passes to a sporting event, concert, play, book signing, or other event they’d like to attend — and go with them.
  • Buy tickets to local attractions, such as the zoo, museums, or parks — and go with them.
  • Create a coupon book of low-budget ways you can spend time together — and follow through whenever they want to redeem a coupon.
  • Make a list of conversation starters and put them in a container. Use them regularly to get to know your kiddo better.

All kids want to know they’re valued, that at least for a few hours they’re more important than work or schedules or chores or even their siblings. And the gift of time — a shared experience, a regular “date” or plan to get together — lasts so much longer than toys that fall out of favor and use within months (or sometimes even before they go back to school in January!). I still have some shopping to do, but this year I’m making sure I plan for gifts that focus on quality time, shared experiences, and ways to grow closer to my kids.

Looking for more advice for the holiday season? Check out these posts!

the real santa story

choose your own adventure christmas gift

christmas tree cinnamon rolls tradition

celebrating st nicholas day

free printable advent calendar (for big kids!!)

 

What’s the best gift your kids ever received?

Mary Carver is a writer, church planter, wife, mom and recovering perfectionist. She writes about her imperfect life with humor and honesty, encouraging women to give up on perfect and get on with life at www.givinguponperfect.com.She also contributes to incourage.me and MothersofDaughters.com, and she’d love to connect with you on FacebookTwitterPinterest and Instagram.

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6 More Ways to Date Your Husband in the Fall

Monday, November 12th, 2018

From our marriage & parenting contributor, Mary Carver.

I met my husband in the fall. We went on our first date later that same fall. And, years later, our first daughter was born in the fall. So when the weather begins to cool down and pumpkin spice everything shows up basically everywhere, I find myself feeling a little more lovey-dovey than usual.

Not that I don’t love him in the spring. Not that we don’t try to plan date nights in the winter. But there’s just something special about the fall!

Unless we’re incredibly intentional about it, though, our autumn date nights look exactly the same as every other date night in any other season. Because unless we are careful to be creative and plan ahead, my husband and I will always default to dinner at a Mexican restaurant chain and a movie.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that! We love tacos! And movies about superheroes or spies!

We do.

And sometimes “the usual” is exactly what we need to give us space to connect and remember how much fun we can have together when we set aside the day-to-day for a while.

But other times?

We need to get out of a rut, and we need to try something different. So while we’re still in the midst of this romantic season, here are a few date night ideas I’ve come up with.

Perhaps you’ll find a new way to date your husband this fall, too!

6 More Ways to Date Your Husband in the Fall

 

Go back to school

Don’t worry, I’m not talking about pop quizzes or English papers! No, I’m suggesting you take a class with your husband. It’s always fun to learn something new or brush up on rusty skills — and doing it together will give you something fresh to talk about and a brand-new bond as you find hidden skills or even fail miserably together! Often, you can find classes open to the community through your local college or community college. Or just search online for classes. Depending on your interests (and level of adventure!), you could take a class in cooking, self defense, dance, woodworking, wine tasting, or even massage.

Think outside the box

Don’t tell my husband, but one thing I’m giving him for Christmas is a list of adventurous, totally new-to-us date ideas for next year. I’m hoping to get gift cards or make reservations to go along with the list, so we’ll actually have to stick to outside-the-box dates! I’m planning a taking a barbecue tour around our city, finally trying our skills in an escape room, going rock climbing, visiting a shooting range, and putting a lock on a “lovers’ bridge” in a nearby town. What new, exciting, just plain different activities does your town offer?

 

Try new restaurants

I’ve mentioned our tendency to eat at the same chain restaurant every time we go out. We know what to expect; we know the wait won’t be long. But we also know we won’t be surprised. So I’ve done a little research and looked up lists of the best local restaurants in our community. Some are new, some are just new to us. Some offer the type of food we always eat; some will stretch our palates a bit!

 

I actually made the list a couple years ago and we’re very slowly trying a new place every few months. And the last time we did? We had so much to talk about! Did we like it? What was our favorite part? What was different than we expected? Do we want to go back? I can’t wait to try another new restaurant this fall.

Ditch the kids

I know, I know, you love your kids. They’re wonderful! Your heart, walking around in the world. I know! Mine, too. However, sometimes it’s fun to do kid stuff…without the kids. Every time my husband and I take our girls to a fall festival, parade, pumpkin patch, or corn maze, I find myself thinking how lovely it would be if we could come back the next day, just the two of us. So this fall, I’m going to plan ahead and make sure we have a family day AND a date day at the fun farm.

Change up the time of your date

Dating your husband doesn’t have to happen in the evening. And since fall seems to be one of the busiest seasons our families have, a night-time date might not even be possible. Why not meet for pumpkin donuts and coffee one morning? Or sneak outside for hot chocolate under the stars once the kids are in bed? You could also go to lunch at a food truck park, a chili contest, or your favorite picnic bench. The point is that you don’t have to wait for a free Friday night. Fit in date nights whenever you can, even if it’s at 8:00 in the morning!

Get physical

Hey now, not like that! I’m talking about doing something active together, like taking a hike, going for a bike ride, or participating in a fundraising walk. Take advantage of the gorgeous fall weather, and train for a 5K together (or just take your time walking through a flea market or art show). And who knows…this fall date might shake things up in more way than one!

 

Need more ideas? Don’t miss 5 Ways to Date Your Husband This Fall! What’s your favorite fall date night plan?

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Simplifying Your Holiday Gatherings

Thursday, November 1st, 2018

You will love these strategies for hosting memorable gatherings without the stress.

I’ve got everything from cooking shortcuts to decorations that transition through the seasons to your perfect playlist! 

This post is sponsored by Honeysuckle White. All thoughts and opinions are my own! 

Now that Halloween is behind us, it is time to start thinking about all of those upcoming holiday gatherings. Hostess duties can often feel stressful and overwhelming, don’t they? That is why I’m excited to be partnering today with Honeysuckle White to share some fresh ideas for hosting your next gathering without the stress.

I learned that if I wanted to connect with my friends and family that I often had to be the one to step up to bat and offer to host. I have discovered, over the years, that so many people feel intimidated by hosting and are often self-conscious of things like undone house projects, their limited cooking abilities, or not feeling like they have that perfectly sized space for the ideal gathering.

The thing is, our own intimidations rob us of precious moments with those we love and the people that REALLY and GENUINELY love us will always, always be thankful to you for creating space in your home and day for them.

That is, truly, why I am excited to share that Honeysuckle White recognizes how precious our time is and wanted to take out that intimidation factor by providing a brilliantly easy turkey product that will make gatherings so much easier on busy moms.

Even better?

You can order it right through Amazon.

And, ladies, I KNOW we all have Amazon ordering down pat! (*ahem*)

Say hello to the world’s easiest holiday dish, the NEWS Honeysuckle White Bacon Wrapped Turkey Breast “Turketta”, inspired by the flavor profile of porchetta!

I gave ordering one of these a spin and really was surprised how well-seasoned and easy this was to execute for my Friendsgiving gathering this week.

In your package (that arrives right on your doorstep!)  you will get one of these beautiful roasts that serve approximately 4-6 people.  The packages arrive frozen and you can thaw it for an ASAP gathering or you can tuck this in the freezer for a future meal.

The bird is perfectly seasoned, boneless (no carving- woot, woot!), and requires just a simple quick sear on the bottom and baking.

This isn’t the only option you can have delivered. They also are offering Hickory Smoked Turkey Breast, a Honeysuckle White Fresh Traceable Whole Bird Turkey, & the Honest Turkey Whole Turkey.

Even better, for a limited time offer, MomAdvice readers can get 15% off using my coupon code 15MOMADVICE.

I can really get behind this company and the work they do with farmers, especially after having the opportunity to tour one of the farms.

The company is committed to raising their turkeys without growth-promoting antibiotics and no added hormones or steroids.

They also are committed to supporting independent family farmers to provide family farm-raised turkeys.

I don’t know if you know this, but my great-grandpa was a farmer and that is why that commitment and their true love for these families really warms my heart.

Now that you have the turkey covered, here are a few other ideas for a simple gathering of great friends and great food!

Send Out a Small Invite

I have done loads of large gatherings, but I find the best gatherings are often the intimate ones with just a couple of close friends so you can really catch up.

A friendsgiving need not be a large gathering and the invitation does not need to be a formal one.

Text invitations are perfectly acceptable, especially during such a busy season.

Also, allowing mamas to bring kids is a blessing to the mom (who won’t have to cook) and to you (to get to love on your friend’s beautiful kiddos especially since your kids are tweens/teens and you now have to FORCE YOUR LOVE on them).

 

Keep the Sides Simple

Roasted vegetables are an easy side that can be prepared a day in advance.

In fact, storing your carrots and potatoes in water overnight will yield a much crisper roast than if you cut them up immediately.

Toss your prepared vegetables in olive oil, kosher salt, and your favorite dried seasoning (I’m a thyme girl!) and roast them at 450 degrees for 25 minutes.

Love perfectly roasted potatoes?

Cut baby potatoes in half and put the cut side down on a cookie sheet that’s been lined with aluminum foil and is lightly greased. You will get a perfect roast every time AND they are so good that my kids call them mom’s french fries.

It goes without saying, but lining the cookie sheets with tin foil or parchment paper squares is also an excellent way to cut down on dishes!

Skip the Baking

Thankfully, there is no need to bake since we have so many delicious options for desserts that are already made and available for purchase at our local markets.

You can still make these purchased desserts feel really special though with quick homemade touches.

Spicing up your whipped cream, adding crunchy toppings, or adding details with pie cutters or an embossing rolling pin (made from refrigerated pie dough) are all fun ways to make pies feel special and more homemade.

This post offers 5 strategies for making store-bought pies feel special that I think you will find REALLY helpful for the holidays and even an idea for packaging up mini pies as a parting gift at the end of the night.

replicate my table with this easy tutorial

Think Evergreen When It Comes to Home Decorating

In the blog world, evergreen content is king. It means that we really focus on creating timeless pieces that can be shared over and over again and always feel relevant.

This is the SAME WAY we can approach our decorating. Purchase or DIY things that are neutral and can be used over and over again throughout the seasons. A bit of faux greenery, a roll of kraft paper (DO buy this– it’s such a affordable investment for decorating and gift wrapping), white plates, and loads of candles are perfect for ANY occasion.

Adding simple seasonal touches, like the small bundles of sage I gathered with cotton twine feel very Martha-y, but cost only a couple of bucks to pull off.

Stop pulling out and storing seasonal bins and buy a few items that you can use over and over and over again.

You can’t imagine the stress you will relieve yourself of!

Set the Mood

Before I go, I have one more fun fact for you…I used to be a glorified D.J. for my college’s radio station.

Music is essential to me like breathing and food.

Growing up, I played the violin, sang in the choir, did musical theater, and had parents who were crazy about music too.

I am also the one that hogs the microphone if you karaoke with me.

To me, a solid playlist for special occasions is oh-so-necessary.

Don’t have time to make one?

How about if I shared mine with you!

Also, as a thoughtful introvert, I have included three goodbye songs at the end that you can feel free to boot those up after the meal when you just need to retreat to your Snuggie and Netflix.

Hopefully they catch on..I know, “CLOSING TIME,” is a very, very subtle exit song!

I have embedded it here for you so be sure to bookmark this awesome post and give me a follow for more fabulous dinner music.

Now hurry on over to order your turkey and don’t forget to use my coupon code 15MOMADVICE to snag your 15% off!

this post contains affiliate links

This post is sponsored by Honeysuckle White. All thoughts and opinions are my own!

7 Habits to Help Your Kids Have a Great Morning

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2018

 

 

From our marriage & parenting contributor, Mary Carver.

How’s your fall going so far? It’s felt a little chaotic at my house. For weeks now, I’ve been saying, “We’re still getting into our school year routine.” But guys? We’ve been back to school for a while. If I can’t get my people into a routine soon, I’m going to have to change my excuse to, “Well, the holidays are just messing us up.” And then it’s winter break and the new year and the flu and spring break and end of school and summer.

Because the truth is, we’re constantly entering or leaving one busy season or another. During this stage, with two busy kids and two busy adults, we just don’t have a long stretch of “normal” to look forward to. There’s no sense in waiting to get back to normal before getting organized, finding routines, or learning how to live — because I’ll be waiting forever.

The number one thing I’ve found that makes a difference in how my kids — and I — deal with busy seasons? Sleep. Our quantity and quality of sleep makes an enormous difference in everything — in our health, our attitudes, our discipline in the other things that make life easier or otherwise better. Sleep kind of makes our world go ‘round.

And sleep is a funny thing. Everyone needs it, but everyone needs a different amount. And everyone seems to need different conditions to get good sleep. So it’s a universal need but also a personal one. Therefore, rather than tell you one, laser-focused solution that works for my family, today I’m sharing several things that seem to make a difference for at least one person in my house. Hopefully something I share will work for someone in your family, and together we can stop needing excuses for being so out of sorts as we move from season to season.

7 Habits to Help Your Kids Have a Great Morning

Know the facts

When we get busy with evening activities and homework and movie nights and one more story at bedtime, we can easily cut our kids’ nights short without realizing it. That’s why it’s good to know — and then keep in mind — how much sleep is recommended for each child, based on their age. This article from the American Academy of Pediatrics lists the recommended sleep times for each age range from four months to 18 years. 

This chart was helpful for my family as it showed me that it’s not weird for my 11-year-old to need more sleep than my 4-year-old. Last year I let my older daughter stay up later than her little sister, because I assumed she could handle it. But over the past few months I’ve realized that just isn’t true. They need different amounts of sleep, and what I assumed was wrong. Now they go to bed at the same time, which feels weird — but the AAP says is acceptable and not that weird after all.

Bathe at unusual times

Sometimes it feels like I have to choose between hygiene and sleep — for my kids and for myself! But what I’ve finally realized (it only took me how long?!) is that we don’t have to bathe (or shower) at the “usual” times. I can shower before bed instead of in the morning if I have to. My kids can bathe right after school instead of getting to bedtime and realizing we’ve run out of time and skipping it…again. It seems like a little thing, but it’s made a big difference for us. (And this tip goes for any bedtime or morning task. You can have story time right after dinner, and you can make lunches at night instead of after breakfast.)

Brain dump before bed

While I don’t often struggle with insomnia, I’ve certainly spent many nights staring at the ceiling as my worries or ideas or to-do list run through my brain on a loop. I’ve learned it’s better to just turn on my lamp, grab a notebook, and write it all down. That way, my brain can rest, knowing that I’ve captured all the things and I can tackle them the next day.

Sometimes my kids need that, too. I try to make sure I don’t shut them down if they bring up a tough subject or start telling a long story at bedtime, but when possible, I will ask if it’s something we can talk about the next day. And then, to make sure they know I’m serious, I’ll let them see me make an actual note so we don’t forget to come back to that topic or story.



Set alarms!

I use the alarms on my phone to keep me on track all day long, all week long. This is especially important for making sure we all get the sleep we need without being late for school or work. I set alarms for —

    • When we need to go upstairs to start the bedtime routine
    • When my oldest daughter needs to bring her book out to the hallway (so she doesn’t stay up super late reading…like her mama!)
    • When I need to turn off the TV and start my own bedtime routine
    • When I need to get up, at the very least a few minutes before the kids
    • When I need to wake up the kids (I need to get back to setting my 11-year-old’s alarm in her room; that helped her morning attitude a lot when we did it before.)
    • When we need to go downstairs to start packing lunches and eating breakfast
    • When my oldest needs to go to the bus stop

Without those alarms, we would be lost!

Make expectations clear 

Nearly every argument my girls and I have in the morning is about whether or not they’ve completed their morning routines: making their beds, brushing teeth, brushing hair, putting on clean clothes. It doesn’t seem hard to me, but they struggle — so writing down the morning routine and sticking it on the bathroom wall has helped. I also included what times we do things, so they know if it’s close to 7:30 and they aren’t close to ready for breakfast, they’d better get a move on!

Have your own morning routine

What makes you feel awake? Do you need coffee before you can deal with people? Or perhaps it’s a tall glass of ice water or a few minutes of stretching that gets your blood moving. For me, it’s turning on all the lights, brushing my teeth, and putting on a bra. Without those things, I am a slug — and not a very nice one either. We all win when I make sure to complete my own morning routine!

Take a moment 

Look, nobody in my house likes mornings. So I’m not about to tell you to take hours of your morning to connect with your people. But! If you can take even a few seconds to look them in the face and wish them well (on a test, with a friend, in general) or perhaps play their favorite song in the car and share a smile in the rearview mirror as you do your best car dance, I guarantee it will make a world of difference. And if you have more than a few seconds? Five-minute family devotions, love notes in the lunchbox, or a blessing prayer in the carpool line will take little time and effort, but leave you feeling like you’ve got this morning thing mastered.

Those are just a few things that help us have better mornings. We aren’t perfect, and don’t do every thing every day. But when we do our best to check most these boxes? We are more rested and less frazzled, and mornings don’t seem so bad (even to my house full of night owls).

What helps your family have a great morning? Be sure to scroll down for more great parenting articles!

Mary Carver is a writer, speaker, and recovering perfectionist. She lives for good books, spicy queso, and television marathons, but she lives because of God’s grace. Mary writes with humor and honesty about giving up on perfect and finding truth in unexpected places on her blog,MaryCarver.com. She is the author of Fast Talk & Faith: A 22-Day Devotional Inspired by Gilmore Girls and co-author of Choose Joy: Finding Hope & Purpose When Life Hurts. She is also a regular contributor to incourage.me and MothersofDaughters.com. Mary and her husband live in Kansas City with their two daughters.

Like this article? You might find these other parenting articles helpful too!

how to handle lying

a new way to teach your child how to tie their shoes (my kids learned in 5 minutes flat!!)

teaching kids the importance of failure

homeschooling a child with special needs

how to find & write pen pals

diy tween self-confidence kit

5 book series for kids who love harry potter

This post contains affiliate links.

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DIY Game Day Bar Cart

Tuesday, September 18th, 2018

Entertaining is my thing. There’s nothing I love more than getting friends and family together for a great time.

And with a certain important game day party coming up, I knew just what I wanted to assemble to show off for my guests — a game day bar cart!

My favorite bar cart in our home is actually a tool cart transformed into this super functional and fun bar cart, so you can make your own too!

For my cart design, I decided to keep parts of the original surface paired with a metallic shade, but you can personalize this to your own taste and color scheme.

Just follow along with step two on the inside of your bar cart and apply your choice of paint if you so choose.

DIY Bar Cart Made from a Tool Cart Tutorial



Supplies Needed

Metal Tool Cart (check here or here or here to pick your favorite)
2 cans Krylon Colormaster in Metallic Gold (indoor) Spray Paint
1 can Rust-Oleum Hammered Brown Spray Paint
1 Spray Paint Trigger (should be in the same aisle as the spray paint)
Sandpaper
Painter’s Tape (to tape off your wheels)
Gloves

Directions

1. Begin by removing all of the parts and lining them up on cardboard or a drop cloth for painting. You will want the trays on this piece to be upside down since we are only spray painting the exterior of the tray. This will not only save you time spray painting, but the cart already has a nice finish on it that is easy to wipe and clean.

2. Rough up the exterior with medium-grit sandpaper. This will help our gold paint adhere to this smooth surface better.

3. Apply the trigger handle to your spray paint can. If you haven’t used one of these before it is a life-changing spray painting tool that offers even coverage and saves your poor trigger finger for long projects.

Begin by shaking your can for 1-2 minutes and periodically during use. Hold the can 10” – 12” from your surface, and spray in sweeping motions from side to side with a slight overlap.

Apply multiple thin coats, wait one minute between each.

You can add a top coat, if you like, with a clear topcoat, but it does dull the metallic sheen from this paint.

I chose to leave it without the clear coat, because I like the roughness and loveliness of the sheen of this paint.

I did find that this does adhere a bit unevenly to the surface, but creates more of the hammered metal look that I was going for.

4. Remove the trigger handle and now place it on your hammered metal spray paint that we are using for the handles and wheels on our bar cart.

Using the same technique, hold the can 10” – 12” from your surface, and spray in sweeping motions from side to side with a slight overlap.

Allow these to dry fully and then flip to the other side to spray paint the flip-side of these.

5. Tape off your wheels as best as you can and spray paint these with the same spray paint.

Allow them to dry and then flip to the other side and spray paint the flip-side.

When you remove the tape, if any of the paint has gotten on the wheel, just use your sandpaper to rough up the wheel to remove the paint.

6. Assemble after your cart, and all of its parts, are fully dry.

Keep your spray paint handy for final touch-ups and use a piece of cardboard to block and protect the areas around where you need to touch-up.

Allow this to fully dry before loading it with your drinks.

DIY Game Day Bar Cart from MomAdvice.com

DIY Game Day Bar Cart from MomAdvice.com

Once everything is assembled and dried, you can add your beverages of choice!

I decided to add my favorite beers to the top shelf for easy access, along with garnishes and drink tools.

On the bottom shelf I have glasses and liquors that can be wheeled around as needed.

Feel free to add any additional decorations like small treats, a chalkboard sign to message for guests or paper creations sporting the colors of your favorite team. Most of all, have fun!

Need More Game Day Party Tips?

Keep decorations simple for your game day party

Faux grass can act as a tablecloth for your table and a simple pennant banner can be created with your team’s favorite colors.

Add some fun football trophies to decorate around the food to pull your table theme together.

Have guests make their own food

Make creating your own food fun for your guests by creating a sub or Panini sandwich station from an assortment breads, cheeses, cold cuts, and a variety of toppings for your guests.

Each person can customize their own sandwich with their favorite additions.

Don’t forget to add a few gourmet flavors like pesto, Gouda cheese, apple slices, smoked bacon or prosciutto, & brie to your toppings bar.

These gourmet toppings will take your ordinary sandwiches into extraordinary ones and each guest can create their own unique combination.

The same idea can be applied to a fun slider bar, soup topping bar, hot dog bar, or baked potato bar.

snag my slow cooker pumpkin chili recipe

Host a soup cookoff

Have guests bring a pot of their favorite soup to share for a soup cook-off.

Have guests place votes on their favorite and present the winner with one of your fun football trophies from your table display to take home as the champion.

Not only will this be a fun way to sample some new soup recipes, but it will also relieve you of having to create as many dishes for your big game day party.

Round out the meal

Round out your soup & sandwich menu with an easy cheese platter, dips, a vegetable tray, and a fruit tray. Make the easy dips to go with your favorite crackers, but save some time in the kitchen and visit the deli in your store to pick up a simple fruit or vegetable platter to add on the side to save time spent chopping in the kitchen.

Invest in some inexpensive plastic containers for game day leftovers and send goodie bags home with your guests so they can enjoy the leftovers all weekend long.

Don’t forget to give the guests that stick around to help clean up afterwards a Most Valuable Player award for their assistance with the kitchen clean-up.

Love this DIY project? Here are a few others I think you will enjoy!

rosé strawberry wine pops recipe

slow cooker pumpkin candles

diy thumbtack pumpkins

diy ottoman serving tray

fall burlap wreath

painting pumpkins with acrylic paints

How do you celebrate game days at your house? I’d love to hear your tips for entertaining!

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Homeschooling a Child With Special Needs

Monday, August 27th, 2018

How to Homeschool Child with Special Needs from MomAdvice.com

From our guest contributor, Jackie Nunes, of Wondermoms.org

For parents, few things are more heartbreaking than seeing your child unhappy. While you know there will be times when they’ll struggle – especially if they have a disability – you want to minimize those hardships. There are a lot of challenging situations you can’t control, but schooling doesn’t have to be one of them.

If your child isn’t enjoying school or isn’t getting the support and attention they need, homeschooling could be a solution. It’s a weighty decision that requires a lot of planning and a big leap of faith. As you consider homeschooling your child, it’s important to make sure you have all the information you need and understand both the benefits and drawbacks. While every family’s experience is different, here are the pros and cons my family has encountered homeschooling a child with special needs.

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The Benefits of Homeschooling

There are many advantages to homeschooling, but they all have one thing in common: flexibility. When your child has special needs, the routines, rituals, and educational strategies that work for most kids don’t always fit. Benefits include:

  • Ability to focus on your child’s strengths and interests. When teaching your child at home, you can tailor the learning experience to their needs. This means that you’re able to focus on your child’s strengths and interests when deciding how to approach their lessons. If your child is obsessed with dinosaurs or loves the color red, you can work that into your curriculum. You can follow their lead and do things that make them feel proud and accomplished.
  • Ability to focus on your child’s weaknesses. If there’s something that’s difficult for your child, you can take the time you need to patiently practice and reinforce it. You might need to try a dozen different approaches before you find one that works, but you set the pace.
  • The classroom becomes a relaxing environment. Homeschooling often helps reduce anxiety among children. Because your child is no longer expected to handle the stresses that often accompany traditional schooling, they can focus more on learning and having fun.
  • You can better monitor your child’s social encounters. When you homeschool your child, it takes a bit more effort to arrange group activities and get-togethers with other children. But you get to see how your child reacts and is treated in different situations and focus on social experiences that are positive and encouraging. Homeschooling greatly reduces the risk of bullying.
  • Homeschooling provides schedule flexibility. You can schedule your day around doctor or therapy appointments, if necessary. You can take as many breaks as your child needs during the day, which helps them feel better and learn better. If you wake up late or your child is having a bad morning, you can move your lessons to the afternoon.
  • Learning at home is less overwhelming. Many children with special needs also have sensory processing issues. Although you can’t entirely tune out things like lawnmowers, garbage trucks, and rainstorms, home is almost always a calmer and less chaotic environment than a public school. It has fewer sights, sounds, smells, and crowds that can overwhelm children with special needs. By homeschooling, you have much more control over your child’s learning environment and exposure to external stimuli.
  • Field trips are more fun and more relaxing. Your child isn’t pressured to keep up with the rest of his or her class, which means they can take all the time they need to read plaques in museums or look at the animals at the zoo. You can also integrate learning and field trips more due to the much lower number of students.
  • Homeschooled children learn constantly. Many families turn to homeschooling to keep their child’s love of learning alive and to kindle that flame that can be at risk of burning out when a child is unhappy in school. Homeschooling enables you to nurture your child’s sense of curiosity and wonder. Learning takes place all the time, not just during the school day. You can follow your child’s lead and let them explore whatever strikes their interest.

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Some Drawbacks of Homeschooling (and Solutions)

As with anything, there are downsides to pulling a child with special needs out of a traditional school. Here are a few things to consider before making your final decision.

  • Less structure. Many kids thrive on routines and no matter how hard you try, you won’t be able to replicate the daily rhythms and predictability of a traditional school. For some kids, it can be confusing to have the line between home and school be blurry. Consider setting aside part of your home and creating a dedicated space for homeschooling to create a clear separation between play time and school time. You can also create a daily schedule, post it in a prominent place, and stick to it as closely as possible.
    • Access to facilities for art, music, and sports. While homeschooling, you may miss out on a few things that a traditional schooling experience would offer your child, like a gymnasium, sports fields, music program, auditorium, and art room. Enrolling your child in after-school art or music enrichment classes and signing up for a Little League or Special Olympics sports team can help fill the gap.
  • Less social interaction. There is a risk of becoming socially isolated when you homeschool a child with special needs because outings generally take more effort and planning. But it’s important for children to interact with peers of the same age to develop friendships and social skills. It is also helpful for neurotypical kids to be around people with disabilities to develop awareness, compassion, and understanding of special needs. Be sure to network with other homeschoolers and make the effort to expose your child to others kids both with and without special needs.
  • Finding specialists and outside professionals. Most school districts employ professionals including speech therapists, guidance counselors, and special education experts. If your child needs therapies, support, or assessments, your child might still be entitled to them even though you homeschool. It could take some extra research and outreach to access these resources, but in many cases specialists will come to your home. Start with your local school district and your health insurance plan. If you run into difficulties and think you’re being denied services unfairly, contact a lawyer who specializes in disability law to find out what your rights are.
  • No school nurse. Since your child won’t have access to a nurse throughout the day like they would in a traditional school, it’s always a good idea for homeschooling parents to have a basic knowledge of first aid and CPR.
  • Exhaustion and burnout. Homeschooling is a huge undertaking. It can be exhausting to serve as teacher, parent, companion, and therapist 7 days a week, 365 days a year, It’s important to pace yourself and schedule kid-free time to maintain your sanity. Be sure to get a sitter from time to time and have date nights with your spouse or significant other. Maintain adult friendships. You will be more helpful to your child if you take care of your own needs.

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Creating an At-Home Learning Space

When children are first getting used to being homeschooled, it’s important to set clear boundaries between time meant for school and time meant for play. In an effort to decrease confusion, many parents set up a classroom space meant only for schooling. When setting up this space, there are some things parents should keep in mind.

  • Choose your room carefully. It needs to be big enough to hold a desk for your child as well as one for yourself with space left to walk around. Spill-proof flooring is also a great idea for the classroom.
  • Get adventurous with your seating. If you have a child who’s particularly restless, try fun seats like bean bag chairs or yoga balls to keep them seated and focused on their schooling. For many kids, a sensory-rich environment is beneficial.
  • Set up lighting. Think about picking a room that has natural lighting, which is proven to be better for learning. In addition to natural light, make sure you have artificial lights as they will be necessary on rainy days or if homeschooling in the evenings.
  • Decorate your classroom. When decorating, it’s a good idea paint your walls a calming color. Add pops of color throughout the room to keep the environment fun and exciting. Hang posters, and chalk or dry erase boards on your classroom walls.
  • Think about making an outdoor learning area. Working in nature is a great incentive for your children to behave during class and allows them to discover new things about their environment.
  • Furnish your classroom. Make sure you keep it clean at all times, as cleanliness is important when it comes to productivity. Consider making a game for you and your child that involves cleaning your classroom at the end of the day.
  • Place a couple of bookcases in the room. Make sure anything that your child will need to have access to is on lower shelves.
  • Make storage space. To create the best experience for you and your child, be sure to establish routines and keep clutter at bay. Buy containers of many different sizes and shapes. Label them with pictures based on what you store in them.

To Sum It All Up

Though it does come with its fair share of bumps in the road, homeschooling is a path that many parents choose to go down. If you’ve properly prepared yourself, your home, and your child for homeschooling, you can not only help your child learn better, but you can strengthen your relationship with them. Studies have found that homeschooling can be a great benefit to both children with special needs and the parents who love them.

Jackie Nunes is a former pediatric nurse who is now a full-time homeschool educator and co-founder of Wondermoms.org. She and her husband have three children, all of whom are taught at home. Their middle child, an 11-year-old daughter, is hearing impaired, developmentally disabled, and uses a wheelchair.

 

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