Side Hustles for Stay at Home Moms

 

I have been a stay at home mom for nine years now!  I am so grateful that I’ve been be home with my kids and be there with them for all the big and small milestones in their lives.  I feel like staying home has kept my focus on my family and allowed me to give my all at being a wife and mother.  I have no bad feelings towards moms who work full time…. rather I tip my hat to you for being able to juggle all those balls!  I did go back to teaching after I had my first child to finish out the school year.  I was a full-time working mom for about 3 months and it was no easy task!

My husband is a teacher and for the first six years after my choice to stay home, he was usually working on extra college classes for his certification and then a masters in school counseling.  Staying home was a difficult financial choice for us, but we both agreed it was worth the sacrifice.  Over those six or seven years we were living on one teachers income and able to have three kids, buy a home, buy a mini-van, pay $30,000 for a masters degree and come out of it debt free (other than the house of course).  It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t always pretty, but looking back at those years, it was all worth it.  I really can’t tell you how we did that other than Divine intervention and huge tax returns!

One other thing that has always been helpful over the last nine years, is my entrepreneurial spirit.  I quickly learned that I needed something that I could call my own (other than my kids and home) and I might as well make money with it.  Here is my list of the many things I have done over the years to make a little money on the side:

1.   Coaching

This one fell into my lap one year after staying home.  I was asked to coach middle school volleyball.  I can’t remember what our logic was, but my husband also coached with me!  We hired a 6th grade girl (she was my former 4th grade student) to come to practice and babysit Kylee, while we coached.  During most games, my parents were able to watch Kylee, but I do remember having to take her with me to one.  I rode the bus with the volleyball girls and my husband followed behind the bus in our car with Kylee.  It was a little tricky because both 7th and 8th grade teams played at the same time, so we asked a parent to watch Kylee during the game.  But that parent was running late and I ended up having Kylee in the stroller while we were warming up.  I’m sure it was quite a site…  the stroller next to me as I’m hitting balls at the girls and they are passing back to me.  I probably gave someone’s grandma a heart attack as she worried about my little baby in the stroller!  Anyways… it worked out and we only coached this year.  I had my second baby right as the season started the next year, so it was not good timing to coach again.  But this was a great way for a new stay at home mom to do something just for me, make a little extra money, do something I enjoy, and get out of the house for a few hours each day.

2. Babysit

Shocking, I know.  I’m sure this is the most obvious one.  You’re home already with a kid or two, so you might as well have 5, right!?  I actually was never up for babysitting several kids or starting a day care.  (And just FYI, if that is your interest, make sure to check out your state’s requirements on being licensed.) I did however, babysit my friend’s daughter just a few hours a few days a week.  That was something I could handle and ended up being great for my own daughter as well.  I did the same thing a few years later for a different friend who had a daughter that was my son’s age.  It works great if you can find a friend with kids that your kids like… it’s basically like having a play date.  I personally was not up for watching kids all day.  My kids’ nap time is sacred and I am not willing to give that up.  So, set some boundaries and stick to them.  You will end up burnt out and hating life if you say “yes” to everyone and every thing.  Decide what you are ok to sacrifice and don’t forget your limits!

3.  Sell something.

I think it is a rite of passage that every new mom first, cut her hair short after giving birth and second, sell something.  I know I did it and I watched many of my friends do it as well.  I can count on one hand how many of those friends are actually successful with this one and are still selling that product, but hey, I can at least name a few.  I decided to sell Usborne Books.  It was a great side gig for about a year maybe 15 months.  After that, I started to loose my fire and ambition.  I learned that relying on other’s decisions to show up and buy something in order to make my money was not something I was a fan of.  I did make some “good” money for that first year and it was exciting to bring home a few extra hundred dollars for a while.  I also now have several wonderful Usborne books that our family loves.  I don’t want to sound skeptical of this choice for a side gig, but I just know that it is not for everyone and that is ok.  You may need to try it out before you know.  I do have one friend who is killing it as she sells Rodan and Fields, plus she has amazing skin!

4. Teach something.

Teaching is my talent and something I enjoy doing.  I went to school to be an elementary teacher and I did teach for 2 years and loved it.  I decided to try and use this skill to make some extra money.  I started out by tutoring out of my home.  I did 30 minute sessions and charged $10 per session.  I would either help kids with their homework or work on them with related material that I came up with on my own.  My mom was still teaching at this time, so she was a great resource.  But I also found that if I talked with the student’s classroom teacher, I could usually get an idea of what skills needed work.  Tutoring worked well because my kids would play or watch TV or sit at the table with us and do their own “homework.”  I enjoyed the one on one and the short times and it did help financially with small surprises or some extra groceries that month.

I then decided to go bigger, and planned to start a preschool out of my home.  I did not want to mess with licensing and I guessed that it wasn’t a big deal.  I advertised on Facebook and had several interested.  I also got chastised by a local lady in town who did think licensing was a big deal.  I thought the idea was over, but then had a thought to try talking with our rec center about teaching a class there.  They loved the idea!  This particular rec center was awesome and unique in that they allowed me to charge any price, they advertised and handled the payments and they kept 10% of the profit from my class as rent.  I brought home 90% of what I charged and I did not have to pester people to pay me, or clean my house before or after school, I used their tables and chairs to paint on, and I was given cupboards to use for my supplies.  It was the best thing that could have happened.  I did this preschool for 2 days a week, 1 hour each day.  It was mostly for 3 and 4 year old kids before they went to a longer preschool.  I charged $52 plus a $3 supply fee to cover disposable supplies.  I finally started making good money and this extra income was a huge blessing for us.  I did this for 3 years before we moved.  I enjoyed it so much that I added classes. During the summer I taught a science and art class for elementary kids.  I really enjoyed teaching the art classes, so I continued doing that during the school year as an after school class for kids.  With my combined classes, I was usually making around $500.  That was very helpful for us.

I started a preschool again after we moved, but our rec center in our new town did not offer the same great deal.  They wanted to pay me $7-$10/hour, which did not feel worth my time when I was making $50/hour before.  So I decided to use my home, but this time I did not advertise on Facebook and I am keeping it small enough that I don’t need a license.  I am mostly doing it this time so that my 3-year-old son can get the benefits of preschool without having to pay for it.

If teaching preschool is not your thing, don’t give up!  There are so many things you can teach: fitness classes, swim classes, private lessons in your favorite sport, art, reading, math, animal care, horse riding, what ever you are interested and skilled in; you can find a way to teach it to others.  It will hopefully make some extra money, but more importantly, hopefully you will find joy doing it.

5.  Blog

If you have ever had the itch to try blogging… I say go for it.  Today is my one year anniversary of starting my blog.  I had big dreams of using this blog to make extra money as a stay at home mom.  Although this did not come to fruition, it did lead me to my current job that is making a great financial contribution to our family.  Blogging is a creative outlet for me that I enjoy as a hobby.  For now, that is all it is and that’s ok.  You never know if yours will be the one that “makes it” as a business and you’ll never know if you don’t try.  I will always encourage everyone to try blogging if it’s something they are interested in.  There are sooooo many success stories of profitable blogs, so why not yours?  I used site ground to get started.

6.  VIP KID

I started teaching with VIPKID about 10 months ago.  This has definitely been my most profitable side job in 9 years.  I wish I had found this one sooner.  I teach Chinese kids English.  I did not have an ESL background and I do not speak Chinese.  These kids know enough English that we are able to communicate and I help them advance their English speaking, reading, and grammar skills.  The lessons are preplanned, so all I have to do is show up and teach!  I teach out of my home using my laptop camera and high speed internet.  If you have a bachelors degree in any field and some kind of experience working with kids (does not need to be professional experience), you can apply. 

The reason this job is so perfect for stay at home moms, is because I teach when my kids are asleep, so my daily schedule of being with them is not affected.  In order to teach the Chinese children in the evenings after school, I must wake up early in the morning.  I live in Mountain Standard Time Zone, so I teach from 4:30AM-7:00AM or 3:30AM-6:30AM during daylight savings time. It is also an option to teach evenings-midnight, but I prefer the mornings.  I get to choose my own schedule and open as many or as little time slots as I want.  Each class is 30 minutes, so I work in 30 min. intervals.  

It can take a few months before all of your open time slots get booked, but once you get a few good parent reviews, it’s easy to fill your slots.  After about 3 months, I became busy and my slots filled up.  Now that I have a full schedule I make over $1,500 each month!  I choose to work 3-3.5 hours/day, six days a week.  This is my highest pay check so far.  This includes a $100 bonus.

If you are interested in applying or learning more you can do so here.  You can also read about my first month with VIP KID here.  I do make $100 as a one-time referral bonus if someone uses my code (COURT0213) and gets hired.  It is not a pyramid business, just a referral bonus.  I would love to get that bonus and earn it by helping you through the interview process, so let me know if you are interested and would like some help!  

A friend of mine that I referred to VIP KID recently told me that her kids told her she was happier since she started working.  I feel much the same way.  It is so therapeutic to have something to call my own, to use my brain again, to feel that I contribute financially, and having a responsibility outside of laundry, dishes, diapers, and dinner!

I hope that this list might help you come up with an idea to use your talents and creativity to take on a side job.  Motherhood is a wonderful primary full-time job, but it is also nice to have a reason to take a break from that job!

What side-jobs have you done and would you recommend them??

I hope whatever you do, you can feel nice and happy!

 

The Importance of Having Family Traditions

I love to listen to podcasts on parenting.  One of my favorite is Eyres on the Road by Richard and Linda Eyre.  They wrote my very most favorite parenting book, The Entitlement Trap: How to Rescue Your Child with a New Family System of Choosing, Earning, and Ownership On one of the most recent podcasts I listened to they talked about developing strong family traditions and how doing this helps create a strong family bond and encourages kids to  want to be with their families.  Richard said when talking about teenagers that they “cling to traditions.”  We have all probably experienced for ourselves or seen  it in our own families that kids love traditions and it is important to keep those traditions.

The Eyres talked about how traditions don’t have to be only the big ones at Christmas or birthdays, but traditions can also be at bedtime, when kids get home from school, Sunday dinners, etc.  I love that they stressed having traditions for even the small and simple things we do every day as well as the big events.  After listening to this podcast I felt motivated to take a look at the traditions that I grew up with and the traditions that we are doing as a family now.  I think that we passively are doing traditions in our families (good or bad), but they suggest to be more focused and intentional about these traditions.  The Eyres suggested that we do three things to make our traditions more intentional:

1. Review our traditions and make a list of the ones we want to keep or add.  (This is best done in a family meeting)

2. Record our traditions in a way that helps everyone in the family anticipate and remember the traditions (write it on a calendar, or a written list that is posted).

3. Carry out these traditions with joy.  Parents should be enthusiastic about these traditions.

I love these steps to follow and I can see how each step is important.  I’ve heard that writing down goals can make them more likely to happen and I think it’s the same way with traditions.  Including the kids would be a good way to get everyone on board and agree to the family traditions that are important.  Reviewing the traditions is also a good way to evaluate our traditions to make sure that they are valuable.  For example, during Christmas is there a tradition in place to focus on Christ and serving others rather than just the fun/commercialized parts of Christmas?  To record these traditions you could make a poster to hang on the fridge or write it on the calendar and then after the tradition, the kids can write about it their gratitude journals.  The Eyres have a tradition book that they use to write about all of their traditions and record their memories about them.  I’m sure that some traditions are easier than others to be enthusiastic about as a parent, because let’s face it… some of our traditions are a lot of work for parents!  So if the kids are wanting a tradition that you really don’t think you can maintain year after year, then find a compromise that you are willing to repeat and be excited about.

I haven’t had that family meeting yet with my own family to decide on traditions because I wanted to gather a list of traditions first.  Here goes my traditions brainstorm….

Family Traditions

Birthdays:

  • Let the child choose a tradition for his/her birthday (The Eyres mentioned bowling, jumping in leaves, floating a cake)
  • Decorate the house the night before
  • Big friend party
  • Family party
  • Same event/place every year (sporting event, play, movie, water park, park, amusement center, etc.)
  • Tape balloons in plastic behind a shut door so that when kids open the door the balloons fall on them
  • Cake (nicely decorated, doughnut cake, certain kind of cake, etc.)
  • Birthday person chooses dinner
  • Morning pancake in the shape of the age they are turning (a 3 on their third birthday)
  • Sparklers in cake instead of candles (Warning: Do NOT do this one indoors.  My poor mom had a burn in her dining room table ever since my 16th birthday because my friends thought this one was a good idea…)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christmas:

  • Get pajamas on Christmas Eve
  • Recreate the nativity scene with all the kids and cousins
  • Choose another family to secretly buy gifts for
  • Decorate sugar cookies
  • Christmas cards & letter
  • Each child gets a new ornament
  • 12 days of Christmas service activity
  • Donate toys and clothes to a family in need or a thrift store
  • Ugly sweater party
  • Rotating which kid gets to put the star on the Christmas tree
  • Elf on the shelf (I personally hate this one, but the kids love it so I feel stuck…)

Beginning of School Year:

  • School clothes & supplies shopping (give kids a certain amount of money and they have to budget that money to make sure they get everything they need)
  • Have a talk with all school aged children individually about pornography and sex (age appropriate)
  • 1st day of school picture by the front door
  • Record in their journals what they want to be when they grow up and what their current interests are (read about kid journals here)

 

 

 

 

 

Dinner:

  • Everyone eats at the table together as often as possible
  • Sweet and Sour Service (read about it here)
  • 60 Second speeches- The Eyers talked about this one and it sounds fun.  Each person has 60 to give a formal speech on a random topic.
  • Assign kids to help cook the meal and to help clean up after the meal.  They can earn rocks for their jar- read about that here)

Bedtime:

  • Family scriptures and prayer
  • Gratitude journals (read about these here)
  • Dad and mom each take half the kids and put that half to bed then they switch the next night.
  • Make a dice out of a wooden cube and write 3 M’s and 3 D’s on that die.  The kids gets to roll the die to see who puts them to bed that night (M=mom, D=dad).
  • Read aloud as a family
  • Read books individually
  • Read stories about ancestors
  • Lay out clothes for the next day

Other times you can brainstorm traditions you want to do as a family could be:

  • Season traditions (Summer, Spring, Fall, & Winter) (We go to Lake Powell and Flaming Gorge every summer and my kids look forward to these trips all year)
  • Holiday traditions
  • Last day of school traditions
  • Early-out from school traditions
  • Sunday traditions (church, dinner, family game night, etc.)
  • When kids get home from school and leave to go to school
  • When kids leave to the house each day (for example, my husband’s mom always said, “remember who you are” before kids walked out the door).
  • Making a family theme for the year
  • Memorizing a scripture or quote as a family

I’m sure there are so many other times that your family will want to define your tradition, but these ideas should get the ball rolling.  I’m also guessing that as kids get older that these traditions will change.  It would be good to have a family meeting once a year to reflect on the traditions and decided if any changes need to be make.  I like the idea of having a traditions book that can easily be added to and changed, but at the same time will be a place to remember all the traditions from the time the kids were little.  I will add an update to this post after I have had a meeting with my own family to let you know how it goes.  I would love to hear some of your favorite family traditions and if you try to make them more intentional as well.  I’m hoping that these family traditions can help my family feel nice and happy!

 

7 Habits of A Highly Effective Stay at Home Mom

Have you ever read the book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective PeopleIt’s a great book and I love the idea of developing habits to help me to be more effective and productive.  This gave me the idea to ask some of the most highly effective stay-at-home-moms what HABITS they have that help them to be highly effective at their many responsibilities.  Now I get to share the ideas I’ve gathered with you!

7 Habits of Highly Effective Stay at Home Moms:

 1. Make your bed.  I know this one is not a new concept to anyone and that’s because it really does help get your brain in the right mindset to be productive.  My sister who offered this as one of her habits said it like this; “Messy Bed = Messy Head.”  I had never heard that and I love it!  What a simple way to clear your head!  If this truly becomes a habit, then you will do it no matter what!  I have made my bed at 3:00 PM before, just because I hadn’t had a chance to do it yet and it really did help me feel better about the whole day!

2. Wake up early to get in YOU time.  My friend said that she likes to wake up early, before anyone else, to study and exercise so that she makes sure to get in something for herself.  I love the analogy that in an emergency on an airplane, we are told to put our own air mask on FIRST before helping anyone else (even our children) so that we can ensure that we have the ability to continue to help others.  The same thing goes for moms during their day to day routines.  If we don’t take care of a few of our own needs first, then we are not as likely to be helpful to others (including our children).  I know that when you are up in the night with waking children, that you probably feel like the “YOU” time you need is to sleep.  I also know that I have never once regretted getting out of bed, but I have regretted more than once when I sleep in. It can be difficult to start, but if you make it a priority, it will become a habit and become easier.

3.  End the day with 5-10 minutes to pick up the house.  I know that sometimes we think, “what’s the point of picking up anything” because the house is so messy and we feel like it will take too much time to even put a dent in the mess.  But I bet we would be surprised what can get done in just 5-10 minutes.  Set a timer, so that you don’t get sucked into cleaning the whole house.  I usually choose one area of the house that matters the most to me to be tidy and focus on that area.  For me, it’s the upstairs living area (kitchen, dining room and living room).  If that main area is somewhat picked up, I feel better about starting the day tomorrow.  My basement, where all the toys are, can be left messy without it bothering me the next morning.  So decide what area is most important, set a timer, and make it a priority until it becomes a habit.

4.  Do a little cleaning every day.  Cleaning the whole house in one day is not an option for me.  That would take at least 2 hours without interruption (which is also not an option) and by the time I finish one room, there would be a new mess in another room.  I just have to accept the fact that my house for now, will not stay clean for long.  My sister is great at this.  Her house always gets cleaned during the week.  She makes sure to clean the bathrooms one day, floors another day, dust another day, etc.  She said that she does not do it all at one time, but throughout the week and she knows that her house is staying CLEAN.  This is different (at least in my mind) than staying picked up.  A house with toys laying around is not a dirty house, but a bathroom with pee stains on the toilet is a dirty toilet.  So do a little actual cleaning every day to ensure that the basics are being done.  It’s best to set a schedule:

Monday: laundry

Tuesday: bathrooms

Wednesday: Sweep & mop

Thursday: dust & vacuum

Friday: run errands and/or extras at home

5.  Do the dishes before going to bed.  There is not much that I hate more than waking up to a messy kitchen filled with crusty dirty dishes.  I usually aim to do the dishes and clean the kitchen immediately following dinner, but if we have to be somewhere before I can do that, then I make sure to take 15 minutes and do it after kids are in bed and before I go to bed.  Our mornings are busy with getting ready for school, eating breakfast and making lunches.  These things in and of themselves can be stressful, but if I have clean kitchen counters and a clean table for my kids to eat on and an empty sink for the kids to pile their breakfast dishes in, it is more enjoyable for everyone!  Again, this might feel like a huge burden at first, but if it becomes habit, you will wonder how you ever used to sleep knowing what was waiting for you in the morning!

6.  Do ALL of the laundry in one day: wash, dry, fold, put away!  This is a new habit of mine that has been LIFE CHANGING!  Maybe a little dramatic, but seriously… life changing!  I used to wash whites and darks on Monday, colors and kid clothes on Tuesday, towels and sheets on Wednesday.  I washed those things during the day and usually left them in the laundry basket to fold later that night while sitting on the floor and watching a show.  Then I put the folded clothes back in the laundry basket to put away the next day.  Basically, I was never DONE with the laundry. Ever.  Every day I had something that needed done with the dang clothes!  I have now set aside Monday’s as my laundry day and that is the only day I deal with laundry… for the whole week!  I make sure that I can mostly be home all day on Monday and I start first thing in the morning.  I do the 4-5 loads of kid clothes first.  As soon as one load is washed and dried then I fold it on my bed and leave the piles there.  After all kid clothes are washed, dried, and folded on my bed then I sort them into their own laundry baskets.  This is usually getting finished by the time that kids are getting home from school.  The three oldest kids put away their laundry right when they get home from school.  Then I do the three loads of adult laundry and by then my husband is home to help get those loads folded and put away while I’m working on dinner.  Every once in a while I do need to do towels or sheets on Tuesday, but I’ve noticed that when I do that, they sometimes sit in the dryer until next Monday when I do laundry again.  Aiming to get it all done and put away in one day helps me to feel like I can get other stuff done during the week and we all have clean clothes in our drawers for the whole week.  Try it!

Kid’s laundry folded…

Washed, dried, folded, and ready for my big kids to put away!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

7.  Have a schedule and routine and write it down!  I am a list person.  Big time.  I use my notebook and write my schedule for the week in the exact same layout and usually the same things week after week.  Seeing your schedule written out will help you prevent double-booking your time, forgetting out of the ordinary things, and will help you feel great about how much you’ve accomplished.  Daily routines help you stay on track with some of the habits we’ve already discussed like cleaning something every day, doing the dishes, laundry, and having time to do something for you.  A schedule helps make sure that you are getting out of the house and meeting the needs of other people (story time, play-dates, volunteering, etc.).  There is something wonderful about consistency!

There you have it.  I’m sure there are 70 x 7 other habits that I should include in this list, but I felt good about starting with these 7 habits.  I just googled to find out how long it takes to develop a habit.  I always thought it was 21 days, but “new research” has found it to take 66 times before an action is considered a habit.  So give yourself some time, set a goal 2 months out, and hopefully a new habit will have formed to help you feel like a highly effective stay-at-home-mom!  I personally am going to improve #4!  I don’t even want to admit on here how many times I’ve mopped my kitchen floor since we moved to our new home 8 months ago…

Oh, and one more thing.  I asked my sister-in-law (who is highly effective) for her habits and she had an interesting spin on the topic.  She recommended that readers learn about the 4 tendencies that Gretchen Ruben discusses in her book, The Four Tendencies.  The more we learn about ourselves and what makes us tick, the better we can improve our habits and become highly effective in the work we do within our home!

I would love to hear about what habits you have that help you to feel highly effective and nice and happy!

Encouraging Kids to do Hard Things (plus free printable)

Doing hard things is well… hard.  And none of us ENJOY doing things that are frustrating and hard.  But I think deep down we know the value in doing hard things.  My good friend introduced me to the quote “I can do hard things” several years ago and now I see printables and cute signs with this saying everywhere.  I love it.   It is so simple, yet so powerful.  What if we all believed that we truly can do hard things?  What if our KIDS believed that THEY could do hard things!?  How different would attitudes be?  In my own household, I know that this single belief would benefit the overall feeling and attitude in our home.

I have one son who is showing very little confidence even at a young age. Which baffles me.  Before having my own children, I would have sworn that all kids were confident in themselves and their skills.  We’ve all seen a kid say, “watch me!”  as they jump over a crack and truly believe that they are the greatest things since sliced bread.  Now that I have my own children, I know that there is plenty of that kind of confidence going on, but there is also a lack of the belief that they can do hard things.  Since my kids were young, one of my top parenting goals has been to instill a sense of self-confidence in my children.  I’m learning that this is harder than I first imagined… but “I can do hard things!”

So how do we teach our children that they can do hard things and in turn, boost their confidence levels?  In a world that works incredibly hard at making things easy, this can be a difficult task.  I know that there are many times that I have bailed my kids out of hard situations, which is exactly the opposite of what I should do:

-Times that I have taken them a lunch at school when it was forgotten on the counter.

– How many meals have I prepared completely alone simply because it’s easier on me to do it alone, rather than have them in the kitchen helping me and learning how to cook?

-Clean the house and do chores on my own because it is easier and will get done better if I just do it myself.

-Let my kids quite piano lessons and swim team.

I’m sure there are many other examples of ways that I have enabled my children and robbed them of the opportunity to do hard things.  So how can we encourage them to do hard things?

1. Tell them they can.  “I can do hard things” should be a mantra in every home and should be repeated over and over again.  The kids should want to slap us in the face because we remind them of this so often!  This is one declaration that can be fitting in every home and family situation.  It applies to all of us.  There is power in saying something out-loud, so say it and say it often.  There are tons of printables out there, so find one you like and have it hanging on your wall.  Here is my printable.

2. Let kids fail.  This is one of the hardest things for me to do (good thing that I can do hard things, right!?).  In many of the parenting books I’ve read, I have learned that it is good for parents to stand back and let kids fail as they are growing up.  Even if what they are failing at may seem like a big deal at the time.  If we let kids fail while they are young and the risk is low, then they can hopefully learn and not repeat that mistake when they are older and the risk is higher.  For example, if we repeatedly bring their homework to them because they left it sitting on their bed when they are in elementary, middle and high school; what is going to happen when they are in college and forget to turn in assignments on time?  The consequences of missing a deadline in college are much greater than the consequences in K-12 school.  If we see their homework sitting on their bed in 5th grade, we should simply leave it there.  Sure our little sweetie might miss recess that day, but isn’t that a good lesson for them to learn to be more responsible?  I have yet to master this parenting technique, but I do understand it’s value and I’m working on it.

3.  Let kids lose.  What!??  This is practically child abuse in today’s world of “everyone gets a medal,” right?  Most of us have probably witnessed the tantrum of a child that has lost at something.  It’s not pretty.  Unfortunately, losing is part of life.  We can’t win them all, so we must learn to lose and lose with dignity.  It is hard to lose and it’s often easier to let kids win if you have that control of the situation, but it is not helpful in teaching them that they can do hard things!  My husband is  the best at this. He does not let the kids win at any type of competition they are doing: basketball, board games, football, wrestling, or knowledge of random facts.  Most of the time the kids handle this just fine, but there have been tears over losing and he just tells them to buck up.  Mom’s are not always as good at this one.  Letting kids lose and teaching them how to do it without being a poor sport is tough and never-ending, but it can teach them that they can do hard things.

4. Let kids struggle.  This one is most obvious on homework in our home.  Kids figure out quickly that it’s easier to say, “I don’t get it” and then zone out as parents try to explain how to do it and wait for the answer.  This one is hard for me too to not rush in with an explanation.  I’ve found that I do better if I am busy with a task or walk out of the room while they are doing homework so that I’m less inclined to jump in and help at the first sign of stress.  Kids need to struggle to figure out a solution.  Sometimes the answer isn’t clear or easy and they just need time to work through it.  Sit back, remind them that they can do hard things and see what happens.

5.  Don’t solve every problem.  I tend to be a problem solver.  I like to have the answer for everything, but I can see that this does not encourage kids to do hard things.  Last night one son was crying and devastated because the other kids were singing along to The Greatest Showman soundtrack.  He said it “hurt his  feelings when they sang.”  I was truly speechless.  This was one problem I didn’t know how to solve, so I told him, “well, you can’t make people stop singing, so I’m not sure what to tell you.  You are smart and I’m sure you’ll think of someway to solve your problem.”  I let him know that I would love to hear what he comes up with.  That situation was easy to not resolve, because it was so ‘out there.’ But other problems, like fights with friends for example can be harder to sit back and watch when you know darn well how to fix that problem.  Too many times parents step in and try to protect their kid if they believe there is injustice going on, but it is not always helpful for the child.  Sure that one problem might get fix, but what about the next and the next.  Parents will not always be around to tell the other kid to knock it off.  When my daughter is having friend issues, sometimes I tell her a story about a similar situation that happened to me with my friends and how I dealt with it.  Or I ask her for her ideas on how to resolve the problem.  She usually has good ideas on her own.  I have a feeling that this in only going to get harder as a parent as kids get older and problems get worse.  But I can do hard things!

6.  Give kids responsibility.  When they have tasks that they are responsible for they are given the chance to prove to themselves that they can do hard things.  Consequences for not doing their responsibilities should be defined and followed through on.  As they carry out their responsibility, you can praise them and point out how well they did that hard thing.  Household chores are a simple way to do this one.  Even the chores that you want done well… let them learn.

7.  Remind kids of the times that they have done hard things.  Simply pointing out that they’ve done it before can be encouragement that they can do it again.  Share your own stories about when you’ve done hard things.  Keep these conversations going all the time.

8.  Family challenges.  Organizing a family challenge is a fun way to show kids that they can do hard things.  It might be something like a breakout room (I haven’t tried these yet, but if I understand them right, it would be a good way to do something hard together), or a ropes course.  I’ve seen more and more of these lately where you complete a challenging obstacle course together as a team.  Another idea might be to set a difficult reading goal, memorize a quote, compete in a race, or any other type of competition your family might enjoy that provides a challenge for the family to overcome.

9.  Develop new talents.  I instantly think of piano lessons for this one.  Why do we all think we must torture our children with piano lessons?  I don’t know why we do it, but it is a great way for them to learn that they can do hard things!  This is true for any new skill or talent they are developing.  It is hard to learn new things, but they can do it.  Find an activity that your child finds interesting and let them take lessons and work through the hard beginning phases.  Parents can set the example for this by learning new things as well and sharing their experiences with their kids.

10.  Write it out.  There is something therapeutic about writing something down.  It might be fun to have a family journal where everyone writes about the times they did something hard.  If it’s too personal to be shared with the whole family, then encourage kids to write in a personal journal.  Writing it down, just seems to make it more real and tangible.  It can solidify to the child that they really did do a hard thing and then reflect on how that makes them a stronger individual.

I recently listened to this talk about “hard is good.”  I do believe that doing hard things is good for all of us, even our children.  I am trying to focus more on facing the hard things rather than avoiding them.  I hope that I can be more deliberate in encouraging my kids to do hard things and that it can (eventually) help us all to be nice and happy!

 

 

The Last Time

One of my very favorite activities that my two little ones still at home and I do in our weekly routine is Story Time at the library. I want to make a Meme that says, “All my friends were made at Story Time.”  It’s kinda true as a mom with little ones.  My kids love going, but sometimes I admit, that I go for me just as much for my kids.  Its a great place to see my friends and catch up while the kids enjoy their friends, dancing, singing and a great book.  In our new town we have really grown to love our Story Time lady, Miss. Michelle.  She is seriously THE BEST!  She makes it so fun and entertaining for the kids… and the moms!  She has 4 kids of her own, so she remembers what it’s like to be in this stage of motherhood.  Yesterday, she read this Poem just for the moms and I wanted to share it here:

The Last Time

From the moment you hold your baby in your arms,
you will never be the same.
You might long for the person you were before,
When you have freedom and time,
And nothing in particular to worry about.

You will know tiredness like you never knew it before,
And days will run into days that are exactly the same,
Full of feedings and burping,
Nappy changes and crying,
Whining and fighting,
Naps or a lack of naps,
It might seem like a never-ending cycle.

But don’t forget …
There is a last time for everything.
There will come a time when you will feed
your baby for the very last time.
They will fall asleep on you after a long day
And it will be the last time you ever hold your sleeping child.

One day you will carry them on your hip then set them down,
And never pick them up that way again.
You will scrub their hair in the bath one night
And from that day on they will want to bathe alone.
They will hold your hand to cross the road,
Then never reach for it again.
They will creep into your room at midnight for cuddles,
And it will be the last night you ever wake to this.

One afternoon you will sing “the wheels on the bus”
and do all the actions,
Then never sing them that song again.
They will kiss you goodbye at the school gate,
The next day they will ask to walk to the gate alone.
You will read a final bedtime story and wipe your last dirty face.
They will run to you with arms raised for the very last time.

The thing is, you won’t even know it’s the last time
Until there are no more times.
And even then, it will take you a while to realize.

So while you are living in these times,
remember there are only so many of them
and when they are gone, you will yearn for just one more day of them.
For one last time.

-Author Unknown-

Isn’t that awful!  I mean it’s a beautiful, but so sad too.  Honestly, some of it I like to claim that I won’t miss.  Like the whining and fits

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and trying to feed stinky baby food to a baby who just wants to spit it in my face…

 

 

 

 

 

But there might be a few things I miss.  There really is nothing sweeter than a sleeping baby…

 

 

 

 

 

I want to be more mindful about enjoying the moment.  All the moments.  Even the difficult ones, but especially cherishing the sweet ones.  I have this quote framed and hanging right above my kitchen sink to remind me to do keep my kids and family my priority over all the stuff that needs done.  Here is a free printable for the quote if you’d like.  I’ve also included a printable of the poem. (You can also click on the images to get the PDF version).

I hope I can remember to a be a nice and happy mom today just in case there is a last time.

A Year WITHOUT Toys!

That’s right, I said it! My family has agreed to go a full year WITHOUT toys.  We are not going to go totally crazy and get rid of all our existing toys, but for a full year we will not add ANY toys to our home.  This means birthdays, Easter, Christmas, and school carnivals!!

Why?

Why would we put our kids through such a year??  I will answer with a follow up question, “have you seen our basement!??”  We really do have so many wonderful toys.  And the kids do actually play with them now and then.  But it honestly feels like we are picking up the toys from the floor more than they get played with.  Looking back at the toys my kids got for Christmas, just 2 months ago, I can think of one toy that still gets played with.  The rest of the toys are either broken, like the drone for my 2 year old (imagine that), or out of batteries.  I have decided that more often that not, the fun with toys comes with the excitement of opening the toy and the first 5 minutes following.

Reaction:

I was pleasantly surprised with how this conversation went down during dinner.  The kids were enjoying this amazing homemade chicken Alfredo made from the instapot, which I will post about later; when my husband announced that we had something big we wanted to propose.  We built it up by saying that the kids were going to want to complain at first, but that no one was allowed to say a word until after this idea had been explained fully and that we would take questions and comments at the end.  When they all agreed not to whine or complain until they had fully heard us out, we dove right in.

We explained that we would like for them to go a full year (now until Spring Break 2019) without adding any toys to our collection.  They were a bit concerned about Christmas and how would Santa know not to bring toys, but we assured them that we could write to him and explain.  My 9 year-old daughter said, “good, I was just going to ask Santa to surprise me this year anyway!”  All of the kids were surprisingly on board with this idea.  We gave them some ideas for things they can still ask for on birthdays and Christmas, like clothes and experiences.  My son decided that if a friend comes over after giving him a toy for his birthday only to find it gone, that he could just say that he lost it.  Rather than encouraging this white lie, I told him that along with birthday invitations we will include an explanation that our family is not adding toys this year.  Friends can do other gift ideas, or better yet, just skip the gift altogether!

By the end of the conversation and after these concerns were addressed, everyone was on board.  In fact, my two oldest said that they thought this was a great idea and they think we should do this forever!  We decided that if we can truly go a whole year without any new toys that for Spring Break next year we will plan a big family trip.  I feel like this gives us all a reward and motivation to keep our focus.

Struggles:

I do feel like the hardest part for them will be the little carnivals and dumb toys that they get at random events.  Think of all the little 50 cent toys that find their way under the seats in your car and at the bottom of every toy box.  And think of how excited those kids are to get those types of toys in the moment.  School parties, Christmas parties, summer fairs and carnivals all seem to send home an unnecessary treasure of some sort.  These little treasures will go straight to the trash or thrift store rather than into our home.  The elementary school in our home town puts on an amazing fundraiser called, A Night at Hogwarts, every year and they go all out!  My kids come home with a new wand, new creature (stuffed animal), and new pranks from the Joke Shop every year.  I believe this may be their biggest trial.

Here is a list of ideas we gave them of things that are allowed to ask for as gifts or buy with their own money:

  • New clothes
  • Hoodies
  • Hats
  • Glasses (because my 5 year old just bought glasses without a prescription from Walmart)
  • Earrings/jewelry
  • Shoes
  • Batteries for their existing toys
  • Movie tickets
  • Bowling gift cards
  • Restaurant gift cards (Hello McDonald’s!)
  • Jump House gift cards
  • A day at the zoo, aquarium, or museum
  • Tickets to a sporting event (college or professional)
  • Tickets to a play at a fancy theater
  • Disposable art products (paints, oil pastels, paper, crayons, markers, etc.)
  • Disposable manipulatives (play-dough, kinetic sand, etc.), but only if ours needs thrown away
  • Books
  • Posters for their rooms
  • Favorite candy, cereal, or food that we don’t normally buy
  • A day kayaking on the pond
  • Ice skating
  • Swimming
  • Rent 4-wheelers, snowmobiles or jet-ski’s, for a day
  • Flower pot or spot in the garden and something to grow all summer that is their own
  • Special blanket (my sister makes personalized blankets that are amazing!)
  • Bags (drawstring bags, duffel-bags, purses, etc.) these are easy and cheap to personalize too.
  • Water bottle
  • Music (CD or downloads)
  • Watch
  • Electric toothbrush (my kids go crazy for these…)

Who doesn’t want a pair of prescription free glasses from Walmart??

There.  30 things to give the kids OTHER than toys for the next year.  Just so we were all on the same page, we came up with a list of things that we consider “toys” that we are not allowed to add:

Cannot be added to our house:

  • the obvious toys (cars, figurines, remote control things, dolls, etc.)
  • Lego’s (this one might be tough)
  • new things to ride (bikes, scooters, skateboards) UNLESS the one they currently have breaks
  • DVDs
  • Wii games
  • board games
  • sporting equipment (again, UNLESS something breaks and we don’t have a back up)
  • water toys (squirt guns, tubes, noodles, etc.)

After writing it down, we can see that the list of things we will NOT get is much shorter than the list of possibilities.  Throughout the year, we are also going to work on getting rid of some of our current toys.

I’m excited to see how this goes.  I hope we will focus more on what memories we can make than what we can get.  The kids were nice and happy about this idea.  I’ll keep you updated on how long that lasts 🙂

10 Free or Cheap Spring Break Ideas


I know that some schools are starting Spring Break this week (ours is not one of them…).  If we had not moved from Colorado this year, my husband and I would be on our way to Belize for the week enjoying beaches, jungles, under-sea walks, and of course the 20 teenagers we would have brought along with us on the educational tour that my husband organized as a high school teacher.  He has taken students on educational tours to Spain and Peru, but I have never been able to go with him because I’ve always had a nursing baby.  This was going to be my year to go to Belize!  I’m not pregnant and no nursing baby!  But we moved, dang it!!  Instead we are in Wyoming with the snow and wind….

It really is OK though.  I’m glad we are where we are and I’m grateful for the way things have worked out.  I’m sure Belize would have been lousy (this is what I tell myself anyways).

Our Spring Break is the first week in April and we will spend the first part hanging out at home and then head to southeastern Colorado for my Grandma’s 90th birthday party.  We will stop in Denver and have some fun there, but no really big plans this year.  So I thought I would come up with 10 free or cheap Spring Break ideas if you are also NOT going to Belize.

10 Free or Cheap Spring Break Ideas:

    1. Visit local museums.  My two boys that are not yet in school went with me to a State Park visitors center that we have in our town and they really loved it!  It really wasn’t anything overly amazing, but they had such a great time looking at the animal mounts and they haven’t stopped talking about it.  After checking out the visitors center, we played on the playground outside and rode scooters along the trail.  It was new to us, didn’t cost us a thing, and took up a whole morning.
    2. Discover a new hike or walking trail.  Since we are new to this town, almost every trail is new for us.  But I’m sure that you can find an area nearby that you have heard about and never been to personally. Ask around and make a list of new places to check out and then actually go check them out!  Before we moved from Colorado, we had lived there 9 years and the summer before we moved we finally made it to see some local petroglyphs we had heard about, but had never actually been to.  They were amazing and we ended up going there 3 times before we moved.  We just wished we had done it sooner.  So use this as the time to finally go and DO those things you have always wanted to see.
    3. Family yard clean-up.  My kids love to help my husband and I with projects, but we are often in a hurry to do them, so we don’t always take the time to let the kids “help.”  Use a week off from school to let them be your helpers.  We bought our kids work gloves last summer and they love to put those gloves on and help us in the yard.  Unless you are still covered in snow, it’s a great time to get outside and pull out the dead weeds, pick up dog poop from the neighbors dog who always finds YOUR yard to do his business, pick up the trash or leaves that have blown into your yard over the last few months, rake the grass, prep flower beds, transplant flowers or bushes, trim trees and bushes, and whatever else you notice needs done.  I was outside playing t-ball with my son last week and it was my first time in our backyard in awhile and I found a TON of things that needed done, so this will definitely be on our Spring Break agenda!
    4. Family Service Day.  As a family, think of ways to serve your neighbors, friends, or family and actually DO it!  I know that we often have the thought to take cookies to so and so, but I honestly hate making cookies!  It seems like every time I make cookies that I realize part way through that I am out of an ingredient, so I either have to stop what I’m doing and run to the store or look up a substitute for that ingredient or make a different type of cookie altogether!  Then once I finally have the cookies finished it is so hard for me to deliver them before I eat them!!  I’m not kidding! It took me three batches of cookies to finally get some delivered once.  Anyways… use your time off to get those cookies made (make plenty of extras for your family) and then get out and deliver them right away!!  Another service that my family enjoys is picking up pine cones for neighbors.  We developed a great friendship with a lady in Colorado by picking up her pine cones regularly.  She always invited us in for ice cream and she liked to pay the kids for their work.
    5. Swim in a new pool.  This one might require a bit of traveling and possibly up to $20 (depending on price and the size of your family), but hopefully it would be worth it.  Kids love to swim in new pools… have you ever been to a hotel pool with your kids?  We just went on a long road trip for State Gymnastics and stayed in a hotel for one night.  The kids got to swim and that one hour of swimming made the 17 hours in a car over 2 days totally worth it!  There is nothing fancy about a hotel pool, but kids are always excited about it because it’s NEW!  So do some research and find a cool rec center pool that is within traveling distance and make a day out of it.  The kids will love it!
    6. Science experiment day.  There are so many great science experiments on Pinterest that you will have no trouble at all filling up an afternoon.  This is another one of those things that I always want to do with my kids, but just don’t always find the time to actually do!  Have the kids help you make a list of supplies you need, run to the store and buy those supplies, then you could have the kids take turns being your helper for the different experiments.  I created a board on Pinterest just for science experiments and you can follow that board here.  I will also include links to great science kits below that you can use over and over! I used to teach a summer science class and I used these supplies every summer and the kids always loved them!  If you really wanted to go all out, you could get these little lab coats that they will love!
    7. Art Day.  My kids love art! I used to teach an art class (along with the science class) and my kids and I really enjoyed learning different types of art and we created some amazing work!  There are so many resources for you to learn from if you yourself are not an artist.  I would not consider myself an artist by any means, and yet I was able to teach kids how to create some incredible products!  YouTube, Pinterest, and my amazing nephew were my guides. You can do several ideas at home, but it is also fun to take a little field trip to a scenic area and let the kids draw or paint what they see in nature.  We did this during my class and if the gnats had not been so bad, it would have been really fun for the kids.  My favorite YouTube channel is Fun2draw.  My kids love watching these videos and they end up with impressive work. For a gazillion great art ideas, you can follow my Pinterest art board here. I will include links below to the art products that I used and loved in my art class.
    8. Movie Marathon.  Find a series that your family loves.  For my family, that series is Harry Potter.  We are slightly obsessed.  My 2 year old talks about Buckbeak, dementors, Voldemort and “expelliarmus”  all the time to strangers and I think they are a bit concerned…  I haven’t let my kids watch all of the movies yet, but they somehow have convinced me to let them watch the first 5.  I have the remote in hand and skip a lot during numbers 3-5, but they still love them.  You could also include books on tape in the marathon.  This could be an all day sort of thing, or one movie per day as a movie night throughout the week.  Your local library might have all the movies available.  And if you aren’t sure what series to try out, please, please try Harry Potter!
    9. Family game day.  There are so many great family games on Pinterest for family reunions.  But why wait for a big reunion??  As a family, plan a few games and gather all the needed supplies.  Invite another family or two over for appetizers and games.  We enjoy family Olympics, the Amazing Race, Family Fued, relay races, wack-a-cracker, and minute to win it games.  I have created a board on Pinterest for some other fun ideas here.
    10. Go for a Drive.  Simple enough.  It may sound boring to the kids at first, but our kids have come to love our drives.  We don’t always have a plan of where we are going, but we usually have fun along the way.  My husband made up a game to teach the kids left and right.  Every time he drove up to an intersection, the kids took turns directing him to turn left or right.  If they said left, but really meant right then he still turned left.  They quickly caught on which was left and which was right.  It is a fun way to see new places.  We also like to take drives out of town.  We’ve always lived in rural places where we are out of town and in the “hills” very quickly.  We like to take new turns and discover new places in the middle of nowhere.

Writing this post has made me even more excited for Spring Break.  I really should be waking kids up right now to get them ready for school, but maybe I will let them sleep in a little longer…

Here are a few links for the science and art things you might want to try.  I hope you have a nice and happy Spring Break!

5 Ways to Make Dinnertime More Meaningful

There are many studies available that demonstrate the importance of having dinner as a family.  There is a great website called The Family Dinner Project.org where I found a list of benefits of having dinner as a family:

  • Better academic performance
  • Higher self-esteem
  • Greater sense of resilience
  • Lower risk of substance abuse
  • Lower risk of teen pregnancy
  • Lower risk of depression
  • Lower likelihood of developing eating disorders
  • Lower rates of obesity

These are pretty good benefits I’d say!  It wouldn’t bother me a bit if my children had these things in their favor.  I’m sure there are many other benefits.  In my own personal experience I have noticed:

  • A stronger bond as a family
  • Greater connections with my children
  • I gain a sense for the emotional state of each child
  • Kids are less picky-eaters
  • A chance to have uninterrupted conversations (at least until someone spills…)
  • An understanding of each child’s eating habits

I’m sure the list goes on and on.  My family is at a wonderful stage right now where we can sit down as a family and eat dinner 7 days a week (my daughter does have to miss 1 day a week occasionally, because of gymnastics.)  I know my family might not be able to maintain 7 days forever, so for now I am soaking it in and enjoying every minute.

I’ve noticed that there are certain meals where we all walk away feeling “nice and happy” and some meals we walk away feeling frustrated.  If the boys are overly hyper and being totally crazy and my husband and I are having to remind them to STOP… chances are, this will not be a real bonding opportunity.  From my experience with the good and the ugly, here are

5 ways you can make family dinnertime more meaningful:

      1. Have a child help you make dinner and set the table.  This is great because that child feels ownership in the meal and is “on your team” when it comes to making dinnertime meaningful.  During dinner, be sure to compliment him or her on how much you appreciated the help.  The rest of the family usually joins in on giving compliments (thus the “higher self-esteem” benefit from above).
      2. Compliment the cook.  My husband is the one to set this example at our house.  Ever since we were first married he has always thanked me for dinner (even when we go out to eat he does this if it was my idea to eat out).  At first I didn’t realize how important this one was, but as my kids get older I have begun to recognize the value.  He is setting a good example for them to have gratitude and good manners.  After he thanks me for a meal, the other kids follow.  More than once, my son has written in his gratitude journal (be sure to read my post on gratitude journals here!) that he was grateful for dinner following his favorite meal.  If one of the kids helped to make dinner then my husband thanks me as well as that child.
      3. No electronics at the table.  We are lucky that our TV is in the basement and nowhere near the dinner table, so we are not even tempted to watch TV during dinner.  However, with phones and tablets we can now watch shows or text people or browse social media anywhere!  We have made it a rule that there can be no electronics at the table.  That means that if the phone rings or dings to notify a text, my husband and I ignore it.  There have been a few exceptions when we need to take a call, so we always ask permission first from the rest of the family.  There have also been a few times that we are having a discussion on something that we disagree about or want to know more about, so we might ask permission to use the phone to look up information quickly.  But overall, this is a strict rule that I know will become more important as my children grow up and get their own phones.  That is why we are setting the standard now.
      4. Eat dinner before starvation sets in. There are a few days of the week that we are out at an activity and come home right at dinner time.  I have noticed that if we come home hungry and I still have to prepare dinner that everyone gets hangry and is less social when we finally do eat dinner. When I am at the top of my game, I have dinner in the crock pot or in the oven with a timer ready to eat when we walk in the door.  That way, we can walk in the house and smell the amazing aroma then sit down and eat immediately.  Attitudes are good and bellies get full before the hangryness begins!
      5. Talk about your day.  There are many ways of doing this.  But the important thing is that you establish how you want to do this and you do it.  When we take turns talking about our day, it significantly reduces the wild and crazy boy stuff I described earlier.  My family does “sweet and sour, service.” Each person takes a turn describing the sweet part of his day, the sour part, and one way how he served someone else.  It has been a great way to teach the kids to be reflective on their day and has helped them understand service.  My little ones still ask me if I know of a way they served, but my older kids are starting to identify the service they provide.  I love that everyone gets a turn to share and it helps teach the kids to be good listeners.

I hope that these 5 things can help make your family dinners more meaningful and I would love to hear other ideas that you are doing in your family.  Good food and good company always help me to feel nice and happy!

Journaling for Your Kids

This has been a year of record keeping for me.  I have always had a desire to improve my efforts to keep a journal, but every time I decided to write I felt like I had to catch up the events in my life since the last entry 8 months ago and it took FOREVER.  The idea was always too daunting to even try.  The last time I probably wrote in my actual journal was when my third child was born.  I should at least make a note that we have since had another child…

I read The Happiness Project (you can read more about this book in my ‘I have a book for that! page.) in December 2017 and my eyes were opened to new ways of journaling.  Since reading that book, I have now started to write daily in three journals: my gratitude journal, my one-sentence journal, and to track my goals in my bullet journal.  I spend less than 10 minutes a day writing in these three journals and yet I feel like I am creating a thorough record of my life.  The other journaling I have committed to improve is the journaling I do for my kids.

Several years ago I decided to start a journal for each of my children where I can record the important, funny, serious, memorable things that goes on in their childhood.  I have a terrible memory so I knew that I would not remember to tell the kids these stories about them as they grew older.  I don’t want to forget the funny things they say and the important conversations we have or the great memories we made together that I know my memory wont remember!  The idea when I started these journals was to write something in someone’s journal every day.  For me at that time in my life it was too much.  So I started doing what I had done with my own journal and just not write anything because I had already missed so much.  I at least tried to write on their birthday’s, but even that didn’t always happen.

My journaling year of 2018 has given me a fresh start and a more realistic plan to keep these journals up to date.  I write in the kids’ journals once a month.  This can still be a challenge because it does take at least 20 minutes to write in all 4 journals, but one time a month is doable.

My kids love these journals already.  I usually have the journals in the drawer of my nightstand, but if I ever leave them out the kids get excited and ask if I’m writing in them and they want to read a few pages.  I think these will be treasures to give them when they graduate and move on to the adult phase of their lives.

If this sounds like something you would like to start for your children here are a few tips/ideas:

  • Buy a small notebook for each child.  If you don’t have many kids a larger binder or notebook would be fine, but I find these small notebooks to be just the right size.
  • Don’t try and catch up for the lost time.  If you start journaling when your oldest child is 15 and your youngest is 3 that is okay.  Just start now.  It will be too overwhelming to go back and try to remember everything from previous years.  For once, your youngest will have the benefit here (unlike in the family scrapbook of baby pictures…).
  • Set a goal, write it down and stick to it.  Decided what is realistic for you.  If you are already a dedicated journal keeper, then writing daily might work for you.  If you tend to start strong and then slack off then maybe monthly is more doable.
  • Always write on or around birthdays.  This is a good time to reflect on who they are and not so much on what they are doing.  I like to make a list in their journal of their traits, their interests, their friends and my feelings towards them.  It’s also fun to write about how you celebrated their birthday.

  • Record mental health habits you notice.  My daughter has anxiety over different issues and my son can focus on self-pity at times.  I think it’s important to write these things down so that if they get older and continue to deal with these issues we can look back and see how they were dealt with as children.
  • Record important talks.  These can be spur of the moment talks about friends or concerns the child has about life, or this can be the “sex talk” or talks about spiritual things, or just one-on-one talks that build the bond between you and your child.
  • Both parents should write in the journals.  I’m assuming that “you” are a mom and will be the main author in these journals.  However, I do think it’s good to let dads or grandparents write important memories in these journals as well.  My husband wrote in my son’s after they walked home from a football game together and had one of those one-on-one bonding moments.  I think it’s important for kids to  remember those moments with other people who are important to them in their lives.
  • Remember the fun.  Don’t only focus on the sensitive/important stuff.  Write about the times where you laugh over silly things together and how the child and his/her siblings couldn’t stop laughing when it was bedtime and mom and dad were getting so mad that the kids wouldn’t settle down, but that only made them laugh harder…
  • Make these journals special for the kids.  I don’t let my kids have these journals and read them any time they choose.  I want them to be a mystery and something they look forward to getting one day.  Once in awhile I do let my kids read certain entries so that they understand what these journals are and they get excited about them, but I want them to look forward to getting these journals when they graduate.

I hope you will try this out if you aren’t already doing something similar.  You won’t regret it and I do think you will notice a stronger bond between you and your children.  I hope it will make everyone nice and happy.

The Rock System (paying kids for chores)


Do you pay your kids for doing chores?  I have heard about parents who pay their kids well for doing chores around the house, and I’ve also heard about parents who say that doing chores is just a part of being a family.  I can see good in both concepts.  While I do agree that chores is just an expectation of being part of a family, I also want my kids to learn how to manage money before they are really making a lot of money and the risks and lessons learned are harder. I have tried several different methods to pay kids for doing chores, but the rock system (as I like to call it) has been the most consistent and convenient way to make sure it happens.  It was completely free for me to make and is easy to start right away.

I gathered up baby food jars for each of my kids.  My two older kids have the taller baby food jars and my two younger kids have the small jars.  I removed the label on the jars and wrote each child’s initial on their jar.  The last step to getting it ready to use is to find your “rocks.” I used the glass beads you can buy in the craft section at the Dollar store or Walmart.  I’m not sure why I call them rocks, when they are clearly not rocks, but oh well.  You really could go out and find different sized rocks and even paint them to make them cute.  You could use cotton balls, dried beans, candy, or whatever you can find around the house.  That’s it.  You are ready to start paying kids for their chores.  Now, here is how is works…

For every chore your kids do, they get to put a rock in their jar.  If they want to do 5 chores in a day then they get 5 rocks.  Some chores are worth two rocks (cleaning the bathroom AND the bathroom floor).  If you try out this hot spot wheel, then kids would get a rock after doing their hot spot.  When the jar is full they get paid.  So simple!  You can decide on the amount that each kid gets paid for a full jar.  When we first started and my older kids were about 5 and 6, they both got paid $2.50 for a full jar.  In our family, we donate 10% of our money to our church, so $2.50 made it easy to figure the 10% the kids would pay for tithing.  Our younger kids received $1 for their full smaller jars.  This was such a small amount of money, but the kids love getting paid and feel so grown up to have their own money to do with as they wanted.  A good idea is to teach kids to give 10%, save 10%, and keep the 80% to do with as they chose, but since I was paying my kids such a small amount I did not stress over the saving part.  They could spend their money on whatever they chose.

Now that my kids are a bit older, I felt that they should have a raise and more financial responsibility along with it.  We had a discussion with the kids to see if they felt they deserved a raise.  At first my seven year old wanted nothing to do with a raise… this was  a good teaching point.  Now he understands what a raise is and you better believe he wants it! We agreed that the kids will earn their raise on a full jar IF they had an overall good attitude while doing their chores.  If we have to remind them to change their attitude more than twice as they work on filling their jars, then they do not get the raise and go back to the $2.50.  We agreed to pay our kids their age in dollars for every full jar.  For example, my nine year-old earns $9 for a full jar and my seven year-old earns $7, etc. In a perfect world I would always have the exact change on hand to pay the kids the minute they fill their jars.  I do not live in that perfect world.  Sometimes they get to empty their jar to start over and I just make a note that I owe them their money.  That immediate reward for a full jar is much more powerful though, so if at all possible try to have several dollar bills available at home.  Now that my kids are making more money we can talk more about saving for college, cars, missions and also saving for big items they want.  My daughter attends a gymnastic camp at her favorite college in the summer and she is expected to pay for a portion of that camp.  So she is working on saving towards that.  My two older sons have decided that they want to buy one of those battery powered cars they can drive, so they have combined their money to save for that. After just a couple of weeks (and some Valentine money from Grandma and Grandpa), these boys are already up to $61 combined!  Any time they ask to buy something at the store I love that I can tell them, “sure you can buy that.  You have your own money now!”  It’s funny how those silly little things are not as appealing if they have to use THEIR money to buy it!

A recap of why this system works for my family:

1. Cheap, easy and fast to put together and get started.

2.  Kids receive an immediate reward for doing their chores.

3. Offering a raise for good work ethic teaches kids a real world concept. (and less whining!)

4.   Allows kids to develop a habit of paying tithing.

5.  Kids can learn about money management.

6.  It is easy for ME to be consistent with this system.

A clean house and watching kids work makes me a nice and happy mom!  I would love to hear your experience with this rock system if you give it a try, or about what other payment systems work for you.