Thursday, June 29, 2017

7 Steps for Savvy School Set Up

Back to school.
Hip Hip Hooray!
Back to school.
Let's not delay!
Back to school?
The kids run and hide.
Back to school!
Here’s their ride.
Back to school.
Just more to do.

Back to school?
Oh no! I have the flu!

Seems depressing, right? But it is time to get ready for school. Now is the time so that you can take advantage of the back to school sales, get into the mindset of school, and ease into the routine later. Plus, it will be less stressful when the time comes.

Every year you have found yourself getting the supply list and then rush around to find all of the items. Your child may not like the colors of the folders that are left on the shelves or they wanted the one with the latest superhero on it. The school is starting in 2 days and you just realized that all of the clothes are too small, most of the socks have holes and the shoes are missing because everyone has been wearing flip flops or went barefoot all summer.

Sound familiar?

This year will be different. 

Don't know where to start? Need some tips on getting ready? Let's get started with these 7 easy steps to get school savvy!

1. Get the school calendar and supply list. Get it now! School calendars are generally found through the school’s website or at the office. Make sure you have a couple of copies. Add the start date, off days and last day to your family calendars. The school supply list needs to be added to your master shopping list.

Now you have a goal date! The goal is to have everything ready at least one week before the first day of school. Mark that down too! Give yourself a reward when you get everything done by that date.

2. Get a storage bin or box to corral all of the supplies. It is a good idea to keep these items separate. This will hopefully tell others in the house that these items are for the upcoming school year and not to be used for anything else.

Each week there will be sales and special for the supplies. Compare ads to your supply list and purchase the items that are on sale. Every item that is bought for school should be put into the bin. We tape a page protector sleeve onto the box and keep a copy of the list in it. Each item that is placed into the box is checked off the list and slid back into the sleeve.

3. Set up a file for school and class information. You will also want a home for this year’s projects and papers that you will want to keep in their memory boxes. There will be tons of information coming in and you will want to be ready.  Keep it mobile at first because much of it will need to be filled out and returned. You can do that at soccer practice!

4. Keep an eye on sales. Purchase items from your list when they go on sale. Watch for coupons too. Ads are available online to compare prices.

5. Clothing list. Are there items that will need to be replaced? Do you need to order a uniform?  Did your child grow too fast this summer?  Make a list of the necessary clothing items and add them to your master shopping list so that you can catch sales for the items.  Check the school’s dress code for any changes. Don’t forget about picture day outfit too. And shoes!

6. Menu Prep. Now is a good time to start looking for lunch and snack ideas. The summer break is a great time to test out recipes and tweak the prepping process. There are so many ideas available over the internet to keep lunch interesting.  Even if your child buys lunch at school they will be home on the weekends. Substantial snack options should be available for those active kiddies when they get home from school since it will be hours before dinner time.

7. Practice a routine for school. Practice it during that final week if possible. At least have the kids get their stuff ready the night before. This cuts down on the frantic search for shoes in the morning.  Try to have them wake up and get ready for the day in the same amount of time they will have when school does start. Start as many of the routines as possible. Homework times should also be introduced by reading together or playing games to review skills. Planning and prep reduce the stress of the initial chaos of the first week of school.
Now that you have a plan, let’s get it started! Practice and preparedness will reduce the stress and craziness of the new school year.  Hopefully, everyone will be excited to get started (even the kids).

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Top 10 Tent Traditions

What to do on rainy days?
What to do with sunny rays?
We can rough it!
We can tough it!

Finding things to do as a family can be time consuming and expensive. There is one activity that can be for all ages and experience levels. 

Pitching a tent is a fun way to change things up a little bit. Camping is a favorite activity in our family and we have done both types of camping, backpack or car camping. We will continue to expand our experiences but we have also done the ‘quick’ camping quite regularly.

Everyone should experience some style of camping. It is a great way to spend time with the kids. Every age can participate in at least one of the following ways to pitch a tent.

1. Indoor Sheet Tent Tradition
      Almost every kid has built a fort or tent with bed sheets. This can be fun all around, from figuring out how to build it to enjoying the hideaway. Kids are pretty ingenuous when it comes to trying to build things. Get those creative juices flowing and release the builder in you. You don’t need to buy anything and you can build one anywhere in your home. Sheets, chairs or table is all that is required. You just drape a sheet over the backs of two chairs or a small table so that there are walls and an opening. Pretty simple!
      2. Outdoor Tarp Tent
         Clothes line or ropes can be extended between two trees or sturdy structures. Tarps, or sheets, are thrown over the ropes. Just like hanging them out to dry on a clothesline but the ends will be dragging. The edges are then pulled out and staked into the ground. The structure will resemble a triangle. Tarps are ideal for this type of tent because they have holes along the edges to use for tying down. The ends are open so you may want to use something to hang down or just let the breeze come through.

       3. Indoor Tent Camping

       Small tents, two- man or four-man, can fit in a small space inside. There are many styles and are generally inexpensive. Most will fit in a living room even if the couch needs to be pushed back. Get all the pillows and the flashlights. Enjoy a night spending it in the tent making a shadow show or silly faces. Get creative and make an adventure out of it.

       4. Backyard camping tradition

           Take that tent you have for indoor camping and set it up in the back yard. If you just purchased a new tent or new to camping, then this is a perfect way to practice how to set it up and to figure out all of those other tricks to stay dry. Larger tents are available for families to sleep together and encourage everyone to sleep outside.

          All of the other skills to camping can also be honed in the backyard. Learning to cook over a fire, or just the grill, is easier when you have a backup plan in the kitchen. Many wrinkles are ironed out when you can practice at home.

         Pitching a tent in the yard is also ideal to make extra space for visitors. We have also taken a tent with us when visiting friends and family and need to spend the night. 

       5. Local park camping

       Local parks generally have sites that are set up for people to pitch a tent. They can as simple as areas that are marked off for each group or have water and electric ran to each site. Other campgrounds will have shower houses and playgrounds

      This is the next step for expanding your experiences at camping. Starting out so close to home and civilization helps give a sense of security and an easy exit if some are not ready to partake in sleeping outdoors away from home. Other families are also close and you will be able to meet new people and learn from their experiences. 

      Another way to share in this experience is to plan this with friends. Sites can be rented together so that your campsite will be bigger and as the saying goes, “the more the merrier.” 

      The car is also handy to use for the storage of coolers and other items that need to be stored away at night. Remember food attracts animals.

       6. Weekend getaway

       A park, or campsite, can be found almost anywhere. Find one that is a couple hours’ drive away so that you can visit other towns and what they have to offer. Campsites can be cheaper than hotels if you have most of the equipment that you will need. This can be an alternative when going out of town for other events or visiting relatives. 

       7. Vacation camping

      This is a more in-depth camping trip. You can pitch a tent for one or two nights at each site and enjoy the local attractions. The possibilities are endless when you take a camping vacation. Campsites are located all across the country and it will take some planning. The whole family can participate in mapping out a route and finding things to see and do that are on the way and around the next campsite. Some people invest in RVs or pop-up campers but living in a tent for a while is fun too. 

      8. Easy backpacking

      There are parks that have trails marked off for hiking and backpacking. Areas are also cleared for setting up tents and fire pits. The trails are mapped out and the outing can be for a day or longer. Trails like this are good for beginners as well as experienced campers.  For safety reasons, you should always go with a buddy.I would not recommend partaking on an outing such as this until you have more experience at traditional campsites.  

      Research more about backpacking and the items that you should take with you. You will be carrying your sleeping and eating needs on your back.Try hiking with smaller daypacks too before camping with traditional backpacks.

      9. Backpacking Adventures

      This is for the more experienced backpacker. There are outfits that focus on outdoor adventures that include backpacking to reach the final destinations. Trips such as these are generally a 20-mile hike with all of your gear strapped to your back.

      10. Fun time ‘roughing it’ (no tent)

      Sometimes it is just nice to lay out under the stars. This was the way that camping was first experienced. Try it at least once. Of course, it is better when it is not raining, though, you can use a tarp tent to help stay dry.

Camping is an interesting way to spend time with family and friends. Some people may not be ‘campers’ but it can all depend on the type of camping. Turn one of these top ten tent traditions into one for your family. 

Don't forget the S'mores!

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

OneNote Opens Options

Where o where has my little plan gone
Where o where can it be....

I love OneNote by Microsoft!!!  There are many reasons to use this app.  My children use this app for school and we use at home.  I use notebooks in this app to replace a few of the hard copy versions I have at home.

For Family Recipes

One Notebook is labeled 'Family Recipes' and categories are divided with tabs similar to the sections in cookbooks. Appetizers, Beverages, Smoothies, Deserts, Pies, Cakes, Breakfast, Spice Mixes, and Recipes to Try are some of the sections we use. Pictures of recipes can be added as a note in sections along with website links. Personal notes and adaptations can be added when we make a recipe. We can also type in our own or upload it from other Microsoft Applications as well as a pdf file.

Recipes can easily be moved, copied, or deleted. Planning for major holidays has become easier because a recipe can be copied or moved to a new tab labeled for the event. Using One Note for our family Recipe Cookbook makes it possible for everyone to access recipes and to share with others.

We do print out some of our most favorite and frequently used recipes for easier access. Our cookbook is continuously being updated with new ideas and this makes it simple to have everything accessible when we are planning our menus.

Household Management Binder/ Notebook

Having a binder with all of the main information for running the household is essential for many reasons. I do not recommend keeping sensitive information in this app because I am not sure how secure it is since the information is being shared over a wireless connection and saved online. Account numbers, passwords, and personal information should be kept elsewhere but in a safe place that other family members will be able to get to in case of an emergency.

Create a notebook on OneNote that will hold other pertinent information. We have one titled 'Household Happenings'. This one has sections such as calendars, Master To Do list, Master Shopping List, Daily Chores, Weekly Chores, Monthly Chores, Seasonal Chores, Vacation Info, and Event Information.

The ability to customize each tab and add information from any device makes this app useful for corralling the information in one place. Sport and school schedules can be uploaded from the internet and photos. The kids have gotten into the habit of taking pictures of the hard copies of their schedules and send them to me or upload themselves easily from their phones.

Adding the information to the main family calendar is easier because I do not have to track them down to get the schedules. My inbox on the counter is also less intimidating!

These are just two of the most frequently used ways that we utilize Microsoft's OneNote. The possibilities are endless.

The OneNote App can be found already installed on many computers and can be downloaded from the App Store for iPhones.  Go to to also download the app or find tutorials directly from Microsoft

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Automobile Activities Appear to Appease All

The Car ride is too long
The Car ride is too short.
Just be careful, you might get a colorful retort!

Car rides, whether short or long distances, can become dull and even a task that many parents don't look forward to.

It's time to make it more exciting!

The trip to the grocery store can become a favorite errand. The family road trip to a long-awaited vacation will be part of the everlasting memories.

As the saying goes "It's not about the destination but the journey that counts."
Keeping everyone engaged in discussions can be difficult especially the older the kids get.  There are a few games or activities that can keep everyone interested and may also lead to interesting conversations as well.

The most you will need could be just a pencil and a piece of paper.

Create a Saying
Sentences and silly sayings can be created from using the letters of the other vehicles on the road. The letters are used as the first letter of each word FLD 1234 could be "Feel Love Day" or "Forever Love Dolphins"  This activity can focus on the theme of the vacation or trip.  A trip to the store can lead to others remembering the grocery list.  FLD could be Fettuccini Lettuce Dill Pickle.

Rhyme Time
As you pass signs for roads, cities or stores, this car activity can lead to some silliness when trying to rhyme with the variety of words and names that are all around. A sign for a gas station named 'Shell' will rhyme with bell, tell, and quell. An exit sign for Louisville can be rhymed with made up words.  The next Dr. Seuss could be in your vehicle. An extension of this activity would be making up short poems or stories using the rhyming words. "I will tell Mel that the Shell has an awful smell."

Name the Residents
When passing exit signs or driving through cities ask passengers "What would the residents be called?" Citizens of the United States of America are called Americans and those that reside in Hawaii are referred to as Hawaiians. So what would the residents of Louisville be called? Stores and restaurants can also be included.

License Plate Bingo
The basic idea for this car activity is to find license plates from the different states, countries, or regions. Passengers and the driver will be able to look for different plates. Classic Bingo boards can be made up at home using pictures of different plates. The number of boards needs will depend on how many passengers are in the vehicle. The driver will not be able to track their plates but could be the primary caller.  Another version of this game could use a blank map with just the border lines.  This can become an educational game as well as a distraction from the electronics and boredom. For older children, the capitals can also be included while playing.

When a specific color of a vehicle is spotted then a word is yelled out. A yellow car goes by then a passenger can call out "banana".  It can be up to each caller what they want to call a color younger children will correct the call.  It may be a theme game such as focusing on fruits, vegetables, or other favorite things like NBA team colors.  Points can be tallied with prizes at the next stop.

The Alphabet
This is one of the most versatile tools that we have to create activities for all age groups during road trips.  The goal could be to find the letters in order on license plates or signs.  Another version is to find restaurants that start with each letter.  Vehicle makes and models can also be used.  Any object that is outside of the vehicle can be the focus of this car game.
These car games and activities are versatile enough to be challenging and engaging for all ages.  They can lead to fun conversations and the bonding that parents and children enjoy.  More than one game can be played at a time so let's have some fun!