Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

Passive Income Ideas for Busy Moms

Sunday, September 22nd, 2019

Passive Revenue Ideas for Busy Moms from MomAdvice.com

What if I told you that you could earn be earning thousands by learning about passive income streams? This year we are exploring the best side hustles to help you earn money for a better financial future. Be sure to bookmark this page to learn ways I’m making extra money for my family. 

Many years ago, I was featured on a couple of talk shows to chat about my experience with work-at-home scams. I just couldn’t believe my luck. This broke Midwest woman would be ON TV to teach others how to avoid scams.

Here’s the thing.

I thought that I was going to be the EXPERT.

When the segment began, I quickly realized that I was the work-at-home VICTIM instead.

I Want To Help You Because I Was Scammed

The truth was, I had been a victim of a work-at-home scam and I was really ashamed of it.

When I was a brand new mom , I desperately wanted to find a way to stay home with my kids. This desperation is why I signed up for a UPS & Federal Express refund software software program. With this purchase, I was promised dozens of dollars. I was so excited to get my business started and unlock this secret wealth with only $69 of software!

Frankly, I was surprised no one else had discovered it.

I was sold a software packaged that claimed to track packages to see if they were late for delivery or not.

Did you know that if a package arrives late for delivery, that you are entitled for a full refund?

According to the software company, many businesses send out large shipments, but don’t ever track their packages.

All I had to do was call, on behalf of your clientele, and they would receive a fifty percent refund.

The other fifty percent would go in your pocket for your good detective work.

Obviously, these people will agree to this because this is money that they wouldn’t have had otherwise. Did you know that you can make $50-75 an hour from the comfort of your own home just by tracking packages?

Doesn’t that sound wonderful?

First of all, you need to know that neither Federal Express nor UPS is affiliated with any of these software programs. Secondly, they also had every right to refuse the refund to you.

After all, you were just a third-party who did not pay for the shipping in the first place.

UPS online tracking system can only be used by the sender of the package or by the recipient.

Information, obtained through the tracking system, could only be used to monitor one’s shipment.

You see, this tracking system could not be for someone’s commercial gain unless UPS openly authorized it.

To top it off, UPS prohibits any uses of automated software to access its online shipping-related systems.

Therefore, the software you would be using would be deemed illegal.

I had also been under the assumption that the company would provide a list of people to contact.

What they actually did was provide was a list of categories of businesses to target, like the health industry or retail.

Then, apparently, you just sit back and watch people chomping at the bit to get this amazing service. Who in the world would ever give out any of this private tracking information on their packages to a complete stranger though? The answer to that, of course, would be no one in their right mind.

This was my embarrassing story for the world and I’m so thankful I can tell a different one now.

Passive Income Ideas for Busy Moms from MomAdvice.com

Passive Income for Busy Moms Series

If you haven’t read my book, you might not be aware that our family became riddled with debt after the dot com bomb happened. My husband’s job loss found us deep in debt and struggling to even pay for our groceries.

Financial struggles, honestly, ended up being the hardest and best thing that I could have been given.

Although being broke was so damn hard, it ended up strengthening our marriage and providing a new job for me.

During that difficult chapter, I tried so many crazy things to make our family money. In the true height of my hustling days, I filled out surveys, working to accumulate points through purchases, and even mystery shopped.

Now that we are in a much better place financially, I am looking ahead to new opportunities to save for our retirement. It is also why I’m, personally, taking a deep dive into wealth building.

What fun is it to do this alone when we could do this together though?

Of course, a savvier business woman would make you buy an online course or spend time writing a book. The thing is, I’m a big fan of the blog format and think this would be such a fun exploration.

If you are saving for retirement, not making enough working full-time, or just a single mom who is responsible for two incomes (NO BIGGIE! YEAH, RIGHT!)… I want to help you.

Please keep in mind, I plan to offer realistic strategies. As a working mom, I am already to capacity with how much I can take on my plate so I understand how important it is to not sacrifice a lot more time for money.

Whatever amount of money you are after, I am hoping to provide some new ways to make money for your family.

How Will the Passive Income for Busy Moms Series Work?

Each month I will share one way you can make money for your family through a variety of avenues. These posts will tackle creative ways to make money that you may not have thought of.

I will, personally, be signing up for these programs and sharing my results after one month and what I learned.

If you are interested, you can sign up for these programs too and we can share how we all did.

NO PRESSURE THOUGH!

If there is one thing I have learned from making money through my blog, it is that you should never put all your eggs in one basket. I am using that same strategy this year to build passive wealth.

In a year, I will share how much I accumulated through these passive income streams and what I learned from the experience.

Is This Only for Blogging or Podcasting Moms?

No, this series is for everyone. I do plan to share though about how I make passive income through affiliate marketing and affiliate links in one post. I do think that blogging can be an incredible avenue to financial freedom because it has been for our family.

I started my blog many years ago though and now it seems SO much harder to build a loyal audience. I am not saying that you can’t have instant blogging success, but I do think it takes time.

Now that you know about the series, we will be jumping in with our first experiment together. I will keep the list of passive income stream opportunities below and the one month reflections will also be linked.

What Do I Get Out of It?

We have TWO teenagers that we hope to be able to help financially with some of their college expenses. We also are working hard to save for our own retirement and know that we need to learn new ways to save to reach those goals.

These blog posts are going to hold me accountable to try all avenues to wealth building and share this with you.

While extra money is incredible, I am even more thankful that we can spread the wealth around and bless others with it. We try to do as much as we can to assist others while still keeping our financial safety net in place.

As a blogger, I do make commissions if you sign up or purchase anything through my links. You don’t have to do that, but it won’t cost you anything to use them.

Although it might be taboo to talk about, running this website is a huge expense for our family. There are lots of expenses that go into website ownership: paying to mail newsletters, web hosting, graphic design tools, photography tools, courses, food/craft supplies, and social media scheduling tools… just to name a few!

Running this site (a gift- I promise I’m not complaining!) costs our family thousands and thousands of dollars every year.

Those commissions help this site to continue being a long term free resource to our readers.

Now that you know about the series, we will be jumping in with our first experiment together. I will keep the list of passive income stream opportunities below and the one month reflections will also be linked. Be sure to bookmark this page or subscribe to my newsletter to stay up-to-date with this experiment.

Passive Income Ideas for Busy Moms from MomAdvice.com

Passive Income For Mom Wealth Building Lessons & Results

Earn Money Through Rakuten (October Challenge)

Passive Revenue Ideas for Busy Moms

This post contains affiliate links.

 

7 Habits to Help Your Kids Have a Great Morning

Wednesday, September 18th, 2019

 

7 Habits to Help Your Kids Have a Great Morning from MomAdvice.com

 

Back to school is the perfect time to work on your family’s good habits. Set a goal of getting your kids’ great new habits to stick and make their school mornings a little easier. Just a few minutes a day and some creative thinking can make the school year start off right!

 

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

7 Habits to Help Your Kids Have a Great Morning from MomAdvice.com

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 that studies have shown are the best 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.

 

7 Habits to Help Your Kids Have a Great Morning from MomAdvice.com

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 routineWhen 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 routineWhen 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 breakfastWhen 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!


7 Habits to Help Your Kids Have a Great Morning from MomAdvice.com

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!

7 Habits for Better Mornings With Your Kids from MomAdvice.com

 

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 from MomAdvice.com how to handle lying

 


A New Way to Teach Your Child to Tie Their Shoes from MomAdvice.com 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 from MomAdvice.com teaching kids the importance of failure

Homeschooling a Child With Special Needs from MomAdvice.com homeschooling a child with special needs

 

How to Find & Write Pen Pals from MomAdvice.com how to find & write pen pals

 

DIY Tween Confidence Kit from MomAdvice.com diy tween self-confidence kit

5 Book Series for Kids Who Love Harry Potter from MomAdvice.com 5 book series for kids who love harry potter

This post contains affiliate links.

 

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A New Way to Teach Your Child to Tie Their Shoes (VIDEO)

Wednesday, September 11th, 2019

A New Way to Teach Your Child to Tie Their Shoes from MomAdvice.com

Are you looking for a new way to tie shoes for your child? Today we are showing you a fresh tying technique that will teach this fine motor skill with this easy lace tying strategy. This helpful advice was recommended by an occupational therapist so don’t miss this tutorial!

I am so darn excited about today’s post and getting to share with you the lace tying strategy that helped me succeed at teaching my children how to tie their shoes. This is, honestly, the best shoe-tying tutorial I could ever showcase and it comes to my site courtesy of my amazing friend, Nancy!

When my son was in first grade he was still struggling to tie his shoes. The fact that we put the kid in Velcro shoes his entire life may have been a big factor in why he struggled so much. 

When I shared this with my friend she showed me a new way to teach shoelace tying to see if it would work for our son. 

Lo and behold, a mere five minutes later my son was tying his shoe like a pro.

If you haven’t heard of this method before, you aren’t alone.

It is called the Cheerio Method, because it really focuses on creating a circle with your laces (that looks like…well..a Cheerio) and allows a space for your child to feed their bunny ears into it. The sizing of that delicious cereal is exactly the size of a circle you need to create space for feeding laces.


I don’t know about you, but I really struggled with this skill, when I was a child,  and remember sitting for hours, with a shoe-lacing board. It took me forever to figure out the granny knot and I still remember singing those silly songs to myself about looping those bunny ears.

A New Way to Teach Your Child to Tie Their Shoes

My daughter is three years younger than her brother and when we taught Ethan, she wanted to learn right along side of him. As luck would have it, she caught on just as fast as her brother and it is how she is tying her shoes still today.

You have to see this tutorial to learn how to tie shoes. While it begins with the same shoelace knot, that we are all familiar with, it evolves into an entirely different method to lace shoes.  

If you are struggling with teaching your children to tie their own shoelaces, this is a parenting game changer. I can’t wait to hear about your own success stories with this tutorial.

An enormous thank you to Nancy for so generously sharing her cheerio method video with my readers!

Note About the First Loop

The first time you teach them, you can show them with your own finger how to create that first loop. After that, it shows them how much space they  need to create it and they can do it on their own.

For double knotting the laces, just show them as you normally would, making sure to stress to pull those loops tight (but not *too* tight).

If you have a child still in those early stages of practicing, I have found one of these handy shoe-tying practice boards (affiliate link)  is helpful for teaching kids how to tie.

What if this technique doesn’t work for my child. Do you have any other recommendations to teach my child to tie shoes?

Have you ever heard of the Ian Knot? I had never heard of this technique until I started researching other resources for you. Watch this incredible video (below) of the fastest shoe tying technique.

I’m an adult and don’t be surprised if you find me curled up with my shoes teaching myself this.

Who says an old dog can’t learn new tricks? 

Let us know what you think about today’s post and if it has helped your child as much as it helped my two!

This post contains affiliate links

Looking for more parenting advice? Here are a few other posts that you might find helpful!

how to find and write pen pals

3 easy rainbow science experiments to try

the best back to school books for kids

 

A New Way to Teach Your Child To Tie Their Shoes from MomAdvice.com

 

 

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The Best Back To School Books For Kids

Friday, August 30th, 2019

Looking for books to help your child as they start school? These teacher-approved books are perfect for young readers. This book list is for parents and teachers to share these beautiful back to school stories with their kids. Whether you are looking for a read aloud book to get your kid ready for kindergarten (and all those new school rules), or you have an anxiety-filled middle school student on your hands, this book list has you covered! 

From our new parenting contributor,  Julie DenOuden

Freshly sharpened pencils. New school shoes. Sparkly clean lunchbox.

It’s that time of year for back to school and while we might not want summer to end, these back to school titles can help your family get ready for the new school year.

These books are also a great way to ease back into the routine of reading if your child hasn’t read very much over the summer.

The Best Back to School Books for Kids

General Books

One thing I learned during my years as an upper elementary and middle school teacher is that kids of all ages enjoy picture books. So just because the back of the books says it’s suitable for ages 4-7, doesn’t mean older kids won’t connect with these books. These back to school books help calm nerves about the first day, provide excitement for a new school year, and emphasize the importance of showing kindness to the people around us.

First Day Jitters

First Day Jitters

This book has a fun twist at the end and is great paired with some of your very own Jitter Juice (1 part 7up + 1 part Hawaiian Punch + sprinkles)

The Day You Begin

The Day You Begin

A wonderfully illustrated book about having the courage to connect with other people even when you feel like you don’t fit in with everyone around you.

The Exceptionally Extraordinarily Ordinary First Day of School

The Exceptionally, Extraordinarily Ordinary First Day of School 

An excellent book for kids who will be going to a new school and kids with a big imagination. 

If I Built a School

If I Built a School 

Help kids imagine what their dream school looks like to help create excitement for the new school year. And if they really like this book, there are two others in the series to continue the fun.

We're All Wonders

We’re All Wonders 

A gorgeous picture book that pairs with bestselling book Wonder to help kids understand the importance of always choosing kindness.

Fish in a Tree

Fish in a Tree 

A chapter book designed to help kids realize that everyone is smart in different ways so it’s okay to ask for help and embrace who you are.

Grade Specific Back to School Books

I love general back to school kids to help build excitement for the new year but it’s also helpful for kids to identify with book characters their very own age. Each grade comes with a unique set of worries and milestones and reading these books is a fun way to prepare for the year.

The King of Kindergarten

The King of Kindergarten 

Help build excitement for this milestone day of the first day of kindergarten.

Junie B. Jones First Grade

Junie B Jones 

First grade is synonymous with Junie B. Jones and this series will accompany your budding reader all year along.

 

Second Grade, Here I Come!

First Day, Here I Come!

A book of poems to create excitement for the upcoming year in second grade.

Third Grade Angels

Third Grade Angels 

Navigating life as a third grade can be challenging but this is a fun look at this transitional year of school when kids really switch from learning to read, to reading to learn.

Fourth Grade Rats

Fourth Grade Rats 

Continuing from Third Grade Angels, now it’s time for these students to become the Fourth Grade Rats.

Tales of a Fifth Grade Night

Tales of a Fifth-Grade Knight

A wildly imaginative book about an average fifth grader whose life takes a turn from ordinary to extraordinary.

Diary of a Sixth Grade Ninja

Diary of a 6th Grade Ninja

Another excellent book about transitioning to a new school and making new friends. As a bonus, this is a series, so if they get hooked kids can keep on reading!

Middle School The Worst Years of My Life

Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life 

A graphic novel that tackles the issues of middle schoolers…buillies, crushes, and fitting in. Another book that is the beginning of a series so kids can continue reading if they get hooked.

About Julie- 

Having taught in both California and Pennsylvania and everything from 3rd to 8th grade, this year Julie is teaching 3rd grade at an elementary school in Southern California. She enjoys helping her students fall in love with reading and reading during the school day is a big priority. Julie loves traveling in her free time and always makes time to pop into local bookshops when she travels. When she’s not reading or teaching, she loves running, cupcakes and Christmas.  You can find her blogging too over on her blog, Girl On the Move.

This post contains affiliate links

Like these parenting tips? Here are 3 other posts you might find helpful today! 

How to Homeschool Child with Special Needs from MomAdvice.com how to homeschool a child with special needs

7 Habits for Better Mornings With Kids from MomAdvice.com 7 habits for better mornings with your kids

teaching kids the importance of failure teaching kids the importance of failure

Book Series for Kids Who Love Harry Potter book series for kids who love harry potter

DIY Tween Self-Confidence Kit from MomAdvice.com diy tween self-confidence kit

 

 

 

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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