Tips…from a tired but grateful Mama

Sometimes we just need a hand.  Everyone has times when they are strong for others…and then they need someone to be strong for them.  I see it like a roller coaster.  We are all on a roller coaster ride called “life.”  Maybe your life is more calm than mine…it’s actually very possible.  But everyone likes to know they can help someone and then also feel that help from others when they need it most.

So, here’s my random post about ways you can bring some relief to those around you (from the view-point of a stay-at-home-mom with small children):

– Going to the grocery store?  Text a few friends who live nearby (especially stay-at-homers who might be dreading the trip to the store for a gallon of milk) to see if they need anything.
– Offer to plan a playdate with a friends’s kids so they can just have some time alone.
– Making a dinner that is easy to double or triple?  Make a few extra batches to deliver to friends.
– Going through the Starbucks drive-through for a much-needed caffeine boost?  See if you can bring a drink to a nearby friend.  (THIS IS HUGE – for me, thanks to a dear, sanity-saving, friend on many occasions!)
– In need of a date but don’t have a budget for a babysitter on-top of the date activity?  Arrange a date-swap with a friend…put your kids to bed, the friend comes over, have a snack and glass of something delicious and return the favor!
– Spring is almost here – a walk or run in the fresh air does wonders!  Have a playdate and take turns going for a walk or run alone while the kids play.

Above all, I want to encourage you to have a good attitude.  Our attitude is everything.  If we let ourselves have pity-parties in times of trial, it can only lead to a downward spiral.  Pray for strength to look up, take a deep breath, put on the armor of God and LOVE.  I try to challenge myself to think of others when I might be wanting to think of myself.  Who could use a hand?  Or a cup of coffee?

Press on…your kids are watching you.  Bless you.

Play Date Swaps

Play Date Swaps…”what is that?” you might be wondering.  Well, it’s something that has truly been a delight to participate in with fellow stay-at-home-moms and their kids.  The idea is rather simple…and once you have a good routine down, it is AWESOME.  Both Sarah and I have enjoyed it and would highly recommend finding a way to make it work!

I will explain how we have done it and you can decide what would work best for you and your “people.” 🙂

– I have 4 kids…one goes to all day school now.  So, the 3 remaining kids and I have gotten together with 1 and/or 2 other moms and their kids.
– This all depends on how many kids you have, how old they are, and how well they get along.  It can be spectacular if the kids enjoy each other and play nicely.  There are bound to be moments of chaos, but it’s just moments.
– We have always done it in the morning hours, with a lunch, and then everyone goes home for naps…so, roughly 9:30 to 12:30.
– The BEST part is, while the 1 or 2 moms are taking care of the group of kids, that other mom gets to go and do whatever she pleases!!!  Grocery shop without kiddies, have coffee alone, go for a run, clean the house, read, study, shoe shop, haha, whatever she wants!
– Actually, the best part is having your kids enjoy this time with others…growing, learning, exploring, socializing and respecting another adult while you are away.

A few more things that seemed to work well for us in the past:
– Take turns hosting…come up with a rotation.
– Whomever hosts stays while the other mom gets time away.
– Whomever hosts makes the main course of the lunch.
– Whomever is the “visitor” brings a snack and fruits/veggies.
– We usually do easy meals like PB&J, mac n’ cheese, pasta with veggies sauce, or quesadillas…something that everyone in that crowd likes.
– It’s also kind of nice to have a special “mommy lunch” but not necessary…it’s not like the moms get to sit down and leisurely eat 🙂
– A craft is nice to have planned, but free play is great too.
– Scholastic videos are awesome to pop in while the hosting mom is making lunch!
– If there’s a mom with a newborn, she can have some quality alone time with her baby…which might be rare if she has other children.
– If you are doing this with more than 1 mom, you can even break up the time frame, so 1 mom gets away for 1 1/2 hours and the next mom gets away for the last 1 1/2 hours…or whatever your time frame is.

One of our larger-sized groups…10 kids this time!

One of the challenges (for me at least with 4 kids) is I feel like my kids catch an illness so often and out of respect for the other kids (not spreading germs) I have to cancel.  That’s such a bummer when it’s the other mom’s turn to get time away.  If that happens, you can always work to find another day to make it up, but it’s just a bummer.

Another TWIST to this arrangement…naptime swaps.  I have 2 kids who still nap and 1 who doesn’t, but isn’t in school yet.  So, one of my friends and I have just started randomly taking turns hosting that non-napper for a couple of hours so that just one of our homes has total quiet time.  Those non-nappers participate in “quiet” activities and even “rest” for a 30-45 minute movie.  Just another idea for you!

How-To Time

This summer, I started thinking about a few things that I wanted my kids to learn how to do…but some of them seemed like “heavy” topics to just bring up.  So, I thought of designating a special time called, “How-To Time.”  It is not every single day, but I started making a list of things that we could do for this.  I am sure you can make your own list, but here are some of my ideas.  And the kids get PUMPED when I tell them we are going to have “How-To Time!”

– How to call the police
– How to wiggle your ears
– How to blow a bubble with bubble gum
– How to get out of a locked car
– How to tie your shoe
– How to get out of the house in a fire
– How to do the crab walk
– How to do a summersault
– How to floss
– How to find your pulse
– How to address a letter
– How to set the table
– How to whistle
– How to use chop sticks (which my 18 month old LOVES to do, and loves my veggie sushi!)

Those are just a few ideas!  I hope it can be something fun and helpful for you and your family.

Random Acts of Kindness Day

The kids and I were reflecting over our fun summer recently, and I was realizing that my kids have gotten too used to just doing one fun activity after another for their own enjoyment.  Of course fun activities are a great way to spend our summer, but I wanted to encourage my kids to think of others.  To actually go out of their way to bring joy to someone else.  And this shouldn’t always include a big smile or thank you or hug from the recipient…that just imagining someone receiving something special from them is meaningful.  So, we spent a morning doing “random acts of kindness.”  I am positive that all of you can think of MANY more ideas…these are just a few.  Please, if you choose to partake in something like this, share with us what you did and how your kids felt about the experience.  My hope is that it’s not just a designated day for this, but that our children incorporate thinking of others every day. 

What we did this first time:
– We made little tags that said different things like, “Enjoy this random act of kindness” or “thank you for all you do” 
– Baked cookies and packaged them into small boxes to deliver to neighbors and friends
– Bought a ton of roses and delivered them to: the receptionists at our doctor’s office, grandma, a special friend, the parks and recreation office
– Left random (new!) diapers and wipes in public restrooms
– The kids each hid dollars in the toy section of the Dollar Store (in hopes another child finds it!)
– Picked up garbage wherever we went
– Left spare change in vending machines for a lucky recipient
– Bought food to donate to the food shelf

I am not sharing this idea to give myself a pat on the back for doing something nice.  I want to encourage others to take a few moments to think of some good ideas of how to care for others and take your kids on an adventure to brighten someone’s day. This was our first experience in designating a whole day with the kids for doing random acts of kindness.  I hope to continue these activities often, and encourage you to give it a try!

The Fun Hose

Confession: I mowed over one of our hoses.  But I like to add more information to that story…it was a blazing hot day, my husband was at work, I was trying my best to get the whole lawn done WHILE checking on dinner cooking inside, and changing over loads of laundry AND all of the kids were playing along-side me during the entire process.  We don’t have a gas-powered mower…we use an awesome Fiskers clipper – an updated version of the old-fashioned clipping mower, or whatever they are called 🙂  Anyway, I kept telling myself, “slow down and move the hose” but kept thinking, I can just move around it.  Well, low and behold, I cut it.  I was frustrated with myself but figured maybe we could patch it up with something some day.  

Today, my husband saw the nice gash when the kids turned the hose on to do slip n’ slide.  He laughed and then we said, it could just be called “the fun hose” and enjoy the water squirting out of the huge cuts.  Then, he had an even better idea: drill holes all over it and turn it into a really fun hose!  

I highly recommend this – we’ve enjoyed it on the ground, in a circle, hanging from trees, along the slip n’ slide…it’s all a blast!  We will even set it up sometime by our garden for some easy watering of our vegetables!  

ENJOY!  This along with the Wacky Sponges makes for great water fun! Also enjoy interesting games with kids outdoor houses!

Spring Outdoor Fun!

Here’s one idea for a nice outdoor activity for children of all ages! So far this spring, the kids have spent HOURS playing with this, so I thought I’d share it.

Last summer, we got a water table – it provided WEEKS of fun on the deck. It was designed and sold as a “sand and water table,” but I just wasn’t pumped about mixing sand and water with so many little kids around. However, now that the sun is shining and it’s so wonderful outside, I pulled it out of storage, set it up on the deck and poured two bags of colored sand into both compartments. It will now be a sand-only table. They play with cars, toys, tools, etc. in it. When summer hits and the kids need some cooling off, we will turn it back into a water-only table.

This is not a novel idea, but a little tip that works well for us; have it on top of a large tarp, so that when the sand spills out, it can be put back in at the end of the day with a broom and dustpan. We also cover it each night with a giant tarp so that if it rains or animals get curious, the sand stays protected and clean.

There are lots of options – but here’s a basic one on Amazon for about $40. Just a side note: If you order things through our site on Amazon, we earn a couple of pennies!
>> By the way, if you are rising a cat, let’s check the best outdoor cat house and shelter reviews!

Independent Time, “Siesta”

During my six years of parenting so far, I have found myself discussing “the magical hour” of 4:00 – 5:00 pm with many of my other mom friends. I call it “the magical hour” because once the clock strikes 4:00, things seem to get hairy! For some reason, my kids just seem extra fussy, easily annoyed by each other, and extra whiney. Maybe it’s because they are hungry for dinner or maybe it’s because we fill up our mornings with playing, crafts, and projects and they just have ants in their pants! I decided to bring some structure into the equation (at least for the 3 to 6 year olds).

We have a new routine that we began calling, “Independent Time.” Most days, at 4:00 pm, we turn on some music and each child chooses an activity or project that cannot require any assistance from anyone else. The other rule is that they have to have their own space – no bothering anyone else. This felt strange at first because I am usually always involved in everything they work on…they can obviously ask for help if they need it, but it can’t be a project

that I do with them. They embraced it right away! After we started this, I read about a similar idea in a parenting book and they call it, “Siesta” – the idea that it is a restful, quiet time, so that everyone feels recharged by the time it is dinner and/or evening activities. It also helps me get a start on dinner preparations!

Some “Siesta” Ideas:
  • Quiet play, building things, puzzles
  • Very often, the littlest one fills her time as you can see to the right here ———> Fine by me!
  • Coloring, drawing, cutting, stickers
  • Looking at books (Where’s Waldo is a good one for this!)
  • Play-Dough
  • Legos
  • Listen to books on tape/CD
  • Tell them to create a “surprise” for someone
  • If needed, set a timer so they can visually see how this is a structured time frame for independent play
Music Ideas: We go to the library often and get different children’s CD’s to listen to. Some of our favorites include:
  • James Hersch, website here
  • Instrumental Music is awesome – a family friend: Kyle Pederson is a very talented local artist. Find his CD here.
  • The Wiggles
  • Veggie Tales
  • Winnie-the-Pooh or other Disney music
The bottom line is to find something that helps bring a little sanity back to that time frame when you MIGHT feel like you are losing it 🙂

“Squirreling Around Indoors”: Camp IN

The kids have already been enjoying the beautiful fall weather. However, sometimes I need them to stay inside while I cook dinner or nurse the baby. When they seem to get tired of the same old toys and activities, I break out the tent! It only takes a couple of minutes to set up and they spend hours playing inside of it. We have our lunch in it (all finger foods), read books inside of it, and they have even made up games or stories to play. Just another idea to break out of the usual routine!

Kid-Friendly Frisbee

This one is for the young and the agile. It is big and soft, and it flies so easily! Ours got muddy the day I came home with it.  Who ever said 2-year-olds can’t throw frisbees?  And my four- and five-year-olds are figuring out the control factor on this puppy.  My baby likes getting chased by her siblings when she runs off with it.  I scored this one at the Shoreview Target for $4.99. (For the locals: in the front, next to the produce with all the beach gear, and it’s NOT at the Roseville Target and I couldn’t find it at  My kids and I have gotten many a workout in the two weeks we have owned this.  Don’t wait til they’re teenagers to throw a frisbee together…get the frisbee for preschoolers!

What you need:
frisky kids
plush frisbee: Here are two similar ones from “Melissa and Doug” on amazon: 
Crab Frisbee and Ladybug Frisbee

How it’s done:

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