Why We Buy 'Cool' School Supplies

There are very few times my kids get 'spoiled'. They don't get candy, cookies, or pop except on special occasions. They get toys on their birthdays and holidays (and that's it). We buy clothes and bedroom d├ęcor from thrift shops. But when it comes to school supplies, we splurge a little. My kids do have the cartoon backpacks, the stylish pens, the multi-colored highlighters, and the metal insulated sport water bottles. Why?

It's not a stature thing. I don't want my kids to be "the cool kids". And my kids are avidly nagged to -share- a majority of their items with kids who don't have them. But each year, we spend a big day going out to a few different department stores picking out all of the notebooks and pencils we want to use during the upcoming school year. And here's why...

It Gets My Kids Excited About School
First and foremost, having brand new personalized school supplies gets my kiddos excited about learning. They have folders with their favorite SpongeBob character on the front (and they can't wait to put some homework in that folder). They have gel pens, which makes taking notes so much more colorful and exciting. And they have backpacks that they legitimately want to take care of (no they are not going to throw their special Spiderman bag in the mud, or leave it on the bus).

It Motivates Them To Stay Organized
As a momma with ADHD, I unfortunately understand the struggle to stay organized. And I'm a pretty awful example myself. I have lists upon lists sitting around my house (and most of the time, those lists get lost half-way upon completion). With that being said, not all of my kiddos have ADHD- and some are naturally organized. And all of my kids, whether or not they struggle with organization, become a bit more motivated to stay on task when they're using supplies that they actually want to keep in good condition.

My Foster Kiddos Haven't Always Had 'Nice' Stuff (And They Deserve It)
We have birth kiddos and foster kiddos and they're all treated and loved equally. My birth children have had the privilege of having nice new school supplies every year, but not all of my foster children have. My foster kids do get a bit of special treatment during our school supplies shopping, because I do find it especially important that they know they're worth a nice new set of school supplies. Especially if they are going into a new school, having school supplies their proud of really can be a small, but much needed, confidence boost.

We Still Have A Budget
My children, by no means, are supporting designer messenger bags and $20 personalized pens. No, absolutely not. But they do have the right to choose the slightly more expensive 'designed' notebook that fits their personal style and interests. They know we have a budget and they are aware that we are not rich. In fact, they go into our school supplies spending spree knowing exactly how much cash mom has to buy everything. And we take it as a family responsibility to stay within budget.

9 Daily Habits of A Calm Mom

I’m going to let you in on a secret- I’m a stressor. I become stricken with anxiety at least once a week. I worry about things that need to get done, or haven’t gotten done and needed to be done (yesterday). I continually have to make an effort not to freak out. But ever since I became a mom, I’ve been dedicated to setting a calm, patient example for my kids. And here are a few small daily habits, I’ve learned, definitely help me achieve the ‘mom zen’ that I want to have.

Eat Breakfast
I used to skip breakfast and opt for coffee instead. Coffee was great at waking me up in the morning, but I would crash around noon. After my first pregnancy, where I completely eliminated coffee, I began eating a hearty breakfast instead. No pastries or sugary cereal. I opt for healthy filling options. Eggs, turkey sausage, whole grain toast, oatmeal, yogurt and fruit. There are a lot of great healthy options out there, and I change it up frequently. A filling start gives me energy and gets me through the rest of the day.
Eat Healthy
I feel like crap when I treat my body like crap. Sugars and fats make me bloated, they make my skin feel gross, and overall I just don’t feel good. But when I eat healthy, I have energy. My body just genuinely feels better. And when my body feels better- so does my mind. It’s a lot easier to be in a good mood when I feel healthy, and eating healthy is a must for that.

Declutter And Clean
I’m very unorganized. It’s something my husband almost constantly has to nag me about. So I’ve made a sincere effort to take at least an hour a day to clean. I’ll choose a room or a task and just focus on it. 1 hour a day, goes a long way. I stay on top of basic chores and try to declutter at least one space a week- whether it’s the kitchen counter or the bedroom closet.

Breathe Deeply
Deep breaths actually work. I teach my children to take deep breaths to calm down, and I’ve had to teach myself to do the same thing. When you’re exhausted from being a parent and your emotions are running high, it’s very easy to overreact. Take a deep breath. Think before you speak. Breathe before you act. Just one deep breath can go such a long way.

I’m not super flexible and quite frankly I suck at yoga. But I try to stretch each day. Something about just keeping my body aligned and flexible helps my mood. After carrying around kids and bending over to pick up countless messes throughout the day, sometimes a good stretch can instantly put me in a better mood.

Pamper Yourself During Bath Time
Bath time is –my- time. I’m talking bubbles, candles, music, and soft bath towels. I have about 30 minutes before the hubby asks for my help with something, but ahhh- do I soak up those 30 minutes of pure bath time bliss. Maybe you’re not a bath person, but you can still find a way to treat yourself. Watch your favorite show for an hour each night. Read a good book before bed. Go and get your nails done. Do something for you, regularly.

Pay Attention To Smells
With dogs and cats and kids- a house can get smelly. I often get so caught up in everything that I don’t notice if the trash smells or the toilet hasn’t been flushed by the 4 year old for… an hour. But smells matter. Pay attention to the aroma of your home. I’m a lover of candles, essential oils, and anything that makes my home smell better. A good smelling home, just feels like a cleaner home. And a cleaner home makes for a calmer family.

Let In The Sunlight
We do open windows in this house. Pull back the curtains, let in the light. I absolutely hate blinds and even on rainy days our windows are wide open. It boosts everyone’s mood and energy. We all need that much needed vitamin D from the shine outside and open windows, I promise, will help out everyone in the house.

Get Outside Every Day
I always thought it was really important my children spend time outside Every. Single. Day. But when I began getting outside for them an hour a day as well, I noticed how much better I felt. Even if I’m just sitting on a bench reading while they play at the park- the fresh air, the sounds, and the sun all seem to make me a much calmer mom.A

Spring Cleaning: Clothing Clean-Out

Kids grow. There are very few times where your kid is going to fit in the same item of clothing they wore frequently a year prior. That’s why every spring (and fall) we usually do a huge ‘Clothing Clean-Out’, where we dig through closets, dressers, hampers, baskets, and the far corners of the laundry room where we never dared trek before. Then go through our 8 step process to getting rid of everything we really don’t need to store any longer.

Is it stained, torn, fraying, or damaged in some way?
Kids wear clothes out. If the item in your hand is irreparably damaged (or you don’t plan on repairing it), it’s time to toss it. Check over every item for bad stains, holes, fraying (especially in the bottoms of pants), and loose seams.

Does it have it’s matching set?
Some items, like socks, shoes, mittens, and gloves require two items in order to be worn. Your kiddo can’t wear one glove to school. If you can’t find the matching pair to a certain item, it’s probably time to throw the lone one left, away.

Can they fit it?
If that pair of pants you’re holding look more like capris when your child puts them on, it’s probably time to get rid of them. If your child can grow into the item, hold onto it. But anything they’re too big for has no use being held onto any longer. They’re not going to get any smaller, are they?

Do they wear it?
You know that suit your son wore 3 months ago to your cousin’s wedding when he was the ring bearer? It’s adorable, isn’t it? But is he truly ever going to wear that suit again? If he hasn’t worn it in three months and you don’t foresee another occasion to put it on in the near future- it’s time to store it or donate it. This also goes for other dress clothes, specialty wear (like sports uniforms, recital outfits, and clothes that only get worn on vacation).

Do they like it?
We as parents have a wonderful habit of buying clothes –we- like for our children. But if our kids don’t like it, and hence don’t wear it, it’s only cluttering up space in their closet drawer. Whether the tag is too itchy, your kid doesn’t like the color, or the style just doesn’t fit their “I’m only wearing pink now” phase, it’s best to kick that clutter to the curb.

Can it be passed down to a younger child?
Before you totally get rid of any wearable item, consider your younger kiddos. Can the item you have be passed onto them? Clothing for very young kids (children newborn to 1 year) typically only gets worn a couple of times before your baby outgrows it. If the item is still in great shape, it may be worth holding on to.
Will that child wear it?
But before you decide to hang onto items your older kids have outgrown you need to do a quick reality check with yourself. Will the child you’re saving this item for, actually wear it? Your older child may be tall and thin, where as your younger kid is a bit rounder around the midsection. Are all of the items from your older kiddo going to appropriately fit your younger kid? If not, they probably won’t actually end up wearing their older siblings clothing.
Does that child like it?
If your kid is old enough to decide for themselves about clothing, get their opinion on an item before you pass it along to them. Do they like the item? Are they actually going to want to wear it? If they seem genuinely excited about the item, great- give it to them. If not, maybe it’s best not to have it still taking up space, just in a new and different area.

Clearing Out Clutter: The ‘Do You Use It’ Toy Challenge

If you’re like me you believe play is a huge part of a child’s ability to grow, learn, and prosper. So we have a lot of toys. It’s hard for me, as a mom who thinks everything holds sentimental value, to purge out the toy box from time to time. But every year my family does a ‘Do You Use It’ Toy Challenge- where we attempt to get rid of everything that isn’t being played with.

Let child choose which toys they’d like to get rid of.
First things first, I let my child decide what toys they want to get rid of. As kids grow they often go through a ‘this is for babies’ phase- where specific toys just aren’t worth keeping any more. We donate our toys to families in need through religious foundations, orphanage / foster care donations, and family shelters. My children are always made aware of the fact that their toys will be going to kids who will love and treasure them.

Throw out all broken / worn toys.
Don’t save that toy that you think you’ll fix someday. Don’t save the doll who’s had her left arm missing for at least 3 months now (and we’re fairly sure it’s never going to be found). Toys that are too dirty to ever be clean again, missing parts, or are somehow broken are probably ready to be put in the trash.

Keep all sentimental toys.
Yes- it is totally fine to keep sentimental toys. But be realistic about what ‘sentimental’ actually is. A toy that your child slept with for most of their childhood? Yes- that’s sentimental. But a race car that they trucked through the mud for one summer probably isn’t going to hold a ton of value compared to the 10 other race cars that they also played with.

Place all toys in bins outside of child’s room.
Once you’ve gone through all of the toys, place every single toy you’ve kept in a bin outside of the child’s room. Yes- every toy (except the sentimental ones that you are absolutely sure you want to keep).

As child uses toys they remove them from the bin and place them back where they keep them.
Explain to your child that they can take any toy they want from the bin if they are going to play with it. Then, if they play with that toy- they can put it back where it’s supposed to be stored in their room when they are finished. Then; let them play.

After three weeks all unused toys can be donated.
Once three weeks have gone by you will be able to look into the bin and see all of the toys your child has chosen not to touch. Some toys you may know your child will want to play with in the future- those can be taken out. Some toys may also be better suited for a sibling- those toys can also be taken out. Everything left in the bin can be donated, as it isn’t being used.

Tips For Running Your Own Business As A Stay At Home Mom

I am blessed to be able to stay home with my children and work from the comfort of my living room… or kitchen… or bedroom. But sometimes staying home with the kiddos AND working can become immensely overwhelming. I still struggle with time management, and the best way to get better is simply to practice effectively. So here are a few of my best tips (through trial and error) for the moms who work from home.
One thing I struggle with is constantly catering to the kids. I am lucky to have an entire spare bedroom that I use as my office and work space. There is a child gate near the door that keeps the little ones out. The bedroom overlooks the living room where my kiddos can safely play while I work. Even just having a child gate zoning off a small portion of your kitchen where you can sit and work really does help eliminate distractors and allow you to focus. If you have a specific place where you always work, you’ll be more organized and more inclined to actually focus on work when you’re in that place.
Schedules mean everything for stay at home moms. We all have hectic lives. Between school, extra curriculars, medical appointments, and day-to-day fun stuff it can be really hard to actually make time to sit down and work. That’s why having a schedule is so important. Have specific times set aside throughout your day for certain tasks. Then DO those tasks during that time. Time to work. Time to clean. Time specifically to meet the children’s needs.
When the kids are asleep the house is at peace… sometimes. But quiet can help anyone focus. Wake up an hour early to check emails, update social media, or make phone calls. And stay up an hour or two after the kids have fallen asleep to work on finishing projects and interacting with customers. Those few hours when your children are in bed are completely absent of distractions and a great time to focus on activities that require a lot of attention.
Each Sunday I sit down and get together 2 activities each day that I can give my kids to keep them independently entertained. I’m not a huge fan of TV and try to avoid movies (although they are a great way to keep the kids still for a minute). I’ll print out coloring pages, get craft kits and science kits together, look up fun recipes they can do on their own, and even buy small toys, games, and books. Then, when they are “bored” and I desperately need a minute to finish something- I can give them a quick activity and have a moment to focus on my business.
Sports, clubs, classes, and volunteering opportunities are all great ways to keep your kids constructively entertained AND give you time to work. Let your children choose activities that they personally are passionate about or interested in learning. Then sign em’ up. It’s a win win for everyone involved. Your kids get to do something they enjoy- and you get an hour or two to focus on your business.
I allow my children to help with tasks depending on their age. And yep- I pay them too. They can earn money helping me, just like they would earning money for chores. Help is entirely optional, but if a child expresses interest in helping I don’t turn them down. My younger kids can help pack and put sticky labels on products and packages. My older kids can read through my emails and delete spam- or weigh packages and print shipping labels.

Why 'Because I Said So' Is Never A Good Answer

We’ve all said it. The famed ‘Because I said so’ response to our child asking ‘Well –why- can’t I do this thing?’. The truth is, sometimes parenting is exhausting. Sometimes all of the ‘why’s and ‘why not’s just get old and we don’t want to have to explain ourselves. Even I am to blame for occasionally throwing a snappy ‘Because I said so’ out there- but I always try to correct myself shortly after. And that’s because I’ve learned that ‘Because I said so’ is never the right response, and here’s why.

Kids deserve an explanation
Kids are likely asking permission for something because they genuinely want to do it. Most likely your child is not asking to do something simply to hear you say ‘no’. They’re hoping you say ‘yes’ (and they may even actually be surprised that you’ve said ‘no’.) Just as with adults, children deserve an explanation. You wouldn’t simply want to hear ‘no’ when you ask for something with no reasoning behind it. Children often can’t reason for themselves. They are incapable of looking at all of the options and figuring out –why- you’ve said no. Explaining it to them, helps them understand.
Kids deserve age-appropriate honesty
I avidly believe in being honest with your children. No matter their age, there is an appropriate way to be honest. If you’ve refused your child a cookie before dinner time, explain to them that they should try to fill up their stomach with healthy food before indulging in snacks. If you won’t let your child go to the park after it’s dark out, explain that it’s unsafe for them to be out after a certain time and that’s why they only go when it’s light out. If you are saying ‘no’, you should have a reason. Even if the reason is simply, ‘I don’t have time to drive you to your friend’s house right now- I’m busy.’.
It forces you to evaluate your reasoning
Explaining yourself forces you to truly look at the reason you’re saying ‘no’. Are you saying ‘no’ because –you- don’t want to do what your child is asking? Are you saying ‘no’ purely because you are in the habit (or the mood) of doing so? Sometimes, it’s fine to say yes. Does your child want to mix two different cereals together for breakfast? Is it really that big of a deal if they do? Is your child asking for something reasonable? Then perhaps, it’s actually okay, to say ‘yes’.
Understanding enforces compliance
If your child can understand why you’re saying no, they’re more inclined to listen to you. They know the reason behind your answer, which will make them less likely to be defiant. The general public follows rules and guidelines, because they are made aware of the reasoning behind those guidelines. We no longer accept smoking in many public areas, because we realize the health risks behind second hand smoke. Children should also learn that by understanding the reason for rules, we have a reason to follow them.
You wouldn’t accept ‘Because I said so’ as a fair answer either
If you asked your boss for a raise and they simply said ‘no’, and why you asked for an explanation they said ‘because I said so’, you would not be very happy either. It’s an unfair answer. And sometimes we forget that our little humans also expect fairness. If we want our children to grow up to be successful adults, we should begin treating them like successful adults at a young age- and one way to do that, is to respect the fact that they deserve answers too.
Rather than saying ‘Because I said so’, you can say ‘I already explained why.’
If your child continues to ask ‘why’ (as children often do), you now have a much better response. You can simply say ‘I’ve already explained why.’. It’s a quick way to end the conversation. Your child deserves an explanation, but they don’t always deserve your attention if they continue to nag. By explaining ‘why’ the first time, you’ve allowed yourself some wiggle room to let them accept the answer and move onto a different activity.