kids · parenting

15 Fun Indoor Ideas for Kids in the Winter: Screen-Free!

In the past year, just like most families, we find ourselves home more, especially in the winter months. We watch movies, learn virtually, and spend lots of time on zooms. My youngest daughter loves her tablet, and my oldest loves her phone. But it is so important to time aside each week and even daily where they need to find something to do, off screen.

I have tried to become intentional about setting time aside and asking them to put all devices away so that they are giving their eyes and minds a break. In the spring, summer and fall we spend lots of time outdoors and we go on lots of adventures outside the house. It has been more challenging as the weather has turned much colder and the wind can make it downright unbearable to go outside. Despite the weather, it is important to me as a parent that our children don’t grow up addicted to screens and that their hearts find delight in the simple pleasures in life. I thought I would share a list of indoor activities we have enjoyed that bring joy with no screen involved. I hope these help and inspire your family and I would love to know if you have suggestions to add in the comments. We are always looking for new ideas.

  1. Reading: We are regulars at our local library! We check out new books every few weeks so they are always options around that are new and enticing.
  2. Blocks: Wooden blocks (we have these), legos, Magformers, Tinker Toys, Lincoln Logs.
  3. Art: Coloring, painting, cutting and pasting, jewelry making, knitting
  4. Writing: journaling, making lists, goal setting, bucket lists, making cards, writing letters, crossword puzzles, word searches
  5. Board games: Scrabble, Pictionary, Sorry, Connect Four, Guess Who, Checkers, and Yahtzee are some of our favorites.
  6. Music: Play piano (or take up another instrument), play records on the record player, read and learn song lyrics, create a music center (we have harmonicas, kazoos, tambourine, drum, recorder, xylophone and more)
  7. Puzzles: large floor puzzles or consider investing in a puzzle board or table for more complex puzzles.
  8. Build a fort: include blankets, pillows, sheets and flashlights.
  9. Cooking: our kiddos especially enjoy baking and making pizzas.
  10. Chores: there are some they actually like. Both like folding laundry and bringing in and putting away groceries.
  11. Indoor trampoline. One of the best investments we’ve made. It lets them get out energy even when the temp outside is freezing.
  12. Decluttering: Both of my children will take on decluttering willingly. They love the free feeling of getting rid of unwanted things and making space. They also like knowing some other families in need may receive the items they are letting go of.
  13. Make-believe games: Playing house, school or doctor
  14. Tactile fun: kinetic sand, play dough and modeling clay are always a hit.
  15. Bring on the classic toys: Lite Brite, dolls, cars, rubix cube

I hope you and your kids are inspired by this list. Once you are armed with fun ideas, you may find hours go by without anyone wanting to look at a screen. Raising kids who aren’t addicted to screens is really important, and it starts when they are young. The habits you instill in them now will stick with them for years to come.

kids · parenting · wisdom

You are good.

Last school year, when my youngest daughter was in kindergarten, she had homework to write three “I am” sentences. Three sentences that began with “I am” that were true about herself. As I was going through some of her old papers this week, I came across this homework paper again.

Her first sentence brought tears to my eyes:

I AM A GOOD PERSON.

I echoed back to her, “You sure are a good person.”

Don’t we all need to hear that? And to know that is powerful.

But the truth is we all have times in our life when we question our goodness. We feel less than. We allow the words or perspectives of others taint our self-image, or we let our disappointment in our own thoughts, words or actions affect how we view ourselves. The Eleanor Roosevelt quote comes to mind, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

But why did her words cause me to tear up? I think it was for two reasons:

1. I questioned if I ever made her feel she is not good somehow? As a parent, am I affirming her enough? Does she really know she is good? What can I do to make sure this precious child never questions that statement and maintains her self-worth?

2. Am I good? I want to be good – a good person, a good mom, a good friend, a good teacher. I want to be seen as good, perhaps more than anything.

A few of years ago, I picked “good” as my word for that year and thought I would share some words that brought me comfort then and even still as I reflect on them now.

In a world where we see evil at every turn, I want a constant reminder to combat it with GOOD.

When I hear complaining and gossip around me and feel tempted to join in, instead I need to remember to look for the GOOD.

When I have a conversation, interaction, Facebook post, or decision to make, I want to make sure I’m adding GOOD to the world with my words and choices.

When I feel envious, angry, hurt or resentful, I can choose to act on my emotions or I can choose to see it as an opportunity to do rise above and model what is right and good.

When those around me feel less than or unworthy, I will make sure they know that they are good, that there is much more right about them than wrong.

You are good.

 

adventures with kids · kids · Tennessee · Uncategorized

Sweet Charlotte: Adorable Popcorn, Candy, and Soda Shop in Middle Tennessee

Approximately 30 miles south of Clarksville, and 54 miles west of Nashville, this charming sweet shop will surprise and delight you!

Our family stumbled on it coming back from a trip to the beach at Montgomery Bell State Park. That day, it wasn’t in the cards for us. It was a Monday and Sweet Charlotte is closed on Monday. But we could tell from the exterior alone (so cute!!!) that it just had to go on our bucket list and made a point to come back at a later date.

Sweet Charlotte delivers smiles in several ways! You can grab lunch, sweets, and cute photo ops all in one stop.

Their hot dogs, known there as “sloppy dogs” are a must. They are huge and delicious. Be sure to try one of their unique topping combinations. We ordered these for lunch and the  loved their hot dog/shaved ice combo that also came with a bag of chips. My husband and I got our dogs with our choice of one of what must have been 100 different old-fashioned sodas to choose from.

 

Their soda offering is unreal. We found quite a few blasts from the pasts and rare finds including Ale 8, Peach Nehi, Big Red, Double Cola and so may more. These are all in glass bottles.

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My oldest daughter has braces, so we did not go in this direction, but they make so many different flavored popcorns, in-house. It is one of the things Sweet Charlotte is best known for. They do tastings of popcorn so you can try before you buy. Our girl has already asked us to bring her back her when gets her braces off!

Sweet Charlotte also offers so many old-fashioned candies as well as some of the most fun modern candies: sour balls, taffy, chick-o-stick, peanut butter bars, bit o honey, butterscotch and more. My children loved that they had the original Pop Rocks, Fruit Stripe gum, and cinnamon toothpicks caught my eye – remember those?

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We came on a very mild day, temps in the 70s. We enjoyed eating at their outdoor picnic tables. It is a covered area so you could enjoy it rain or shine.

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There are two murals which are fun for taking photos, but they also offer old-fashioned photographs where you dress up in old fashioned clothes and are taken in black and white. The entire store and grounds is a feast for the eyes.

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Oh, and I almost forgot, they have a working water well. Both of our girls enjoyed trying out the well and had never seen one, much less try one for themselves. Just one more reason to visit this adorable place.

 

If you are planning a trip here, consider visiting the beach at Montgomery Bell State Park (20 minutes away), take a hike to the tunnel at Narrows of the Harpeth (30 minutes a day), or visit the Country View Amish store (4 minutes away) on the same day, to really enjoy your visit to this area to the fullest.

art · kids · parenting

Sisters Inspire

I am mom to two daughters, ages 11 and 6. They are the sweet faces and creative minds behind their new YouTube Channel, Sisters Inspire.

The girls wanted to start a YouTube Channel that would positively inspire other kids the way so many of their favorite YouTubers have inspired them.

Their influences include Rosanna Pansino, Justine Ezariak, Molly Burke, Jesslyn Grace, Sand.Tagious and Come Play with Me.

The girls have a lot to offer and really balance each other out. They bring skills, fun ideas, and laughter to their viewers. Together they love to do games, challenges, food tasting, try products, and do art, DIYs and demos.

YouTube is a viable creative outlet for them and with the potential to not only bring joy to the girls as they create, but to those who view their content.

They have such a genuine passion for inspiring and uplifting others through their videos. Through Sisters Inspire, they want to share good with the world and bring smiles to people’s faces.

Their channel is a dedicated kids’ content channel, so other kids and parents can be sure that anything created on their channel is safe to view.

Please show some love, support and encouragement by checking out their channel, Sisters Inspire. ❤️

health · kids · parenting · Uncategorized

10 Aldi Upgrades for Picky Eaters

Picky eaters are not only tough customers, but it seems like the foods they will eat aren’t always the healthiest. This has been true of my six-year-old little girl.

There is a short list of foods she is willing to eat, and we have tried all kinds of strategies to encourage her to lengthen that list and try new things, often to no avail.

What has been successful is taking a look at the foods she will eat, and trying “upgrade” her the highest quality we can of those foods.

What I’m finding, and I really believe this, is that as we ramp up the nutritional value of the foods she will eat, and we have found a good pre/probiotic for her, she is now more open to trying new foods because our body craves what we feed it. When we feed it junk it craves junk. Now that she is taking in more nutrition she is craving more nutrition!

Here are 10 of our Aldi favorites that meet her seal of approval for taste, and mine for nutrition:

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  1. Whole pineapple. This is a big-time upgrade from canned pineapple since there are no preservatives and it’s not stored in an aluminum can, which is a concern in and of itself. Fresh pineapple tastes better and it will save you money. Pro-tip: You can test to see if a pineapple is ripe by pulling one of the inner-most leaves. If it comes out easily, it’s ripe. And don’t be intimidated by its spiny exterior. Watch a video or two on youtube of how to break down a pineapple. It’s easier than you think!
  2. String cheese. This is a step-up from American “cheese” which actually isn’t a cheese at all. My kiddo loves the mozzarella and Colby spiral.
  3. Ancient Grain bread. This is real bread with actual nutrition! Did you know the most popular brands of bread on the market, aka white bread, are white because the flour has been bleached? Bread should be brown, through and through. Also our wheat supply has been tampered with so even whole wheat sandwich bread can upset your tummy. They are processed to remove bran and natural oils so they will have a longer shelf life. I will be honest that we did use whole wheat sandwich bread as a transition bread and eased her into the Ancient Grain.
  4. Mandies. My daughter loves these little mandarin oranges. There are an upgrade from the fruit cups that are often packed in syrup and definitely have preservatives added. Pro-tip: When shopping for healthier food for your family, a good rule of thumb is to shop the perimeter. The greater majority of junk food and foods containing preservatives are found on the aisles. By avoiding the aisles and shopping the outermost parts of the store (dairy, meat, breads, fruits, vegetables) you are much more likely to be putting healthy items in your shopping cart.
  5. Simply Nature Unsweetened Apple Squeezes. These applesauce squeezes are not only missing the added sugar of the name brand Go-Go Squeeze, my kiddos prefer them.
  6. Rainier cherries. This is a new fruit for our picky eater. There is only a short window that you can find them available (typically June-July). She loves these as well as any other raw cherry. These are an upgrade from the bright red cherries that come in a jar and no doubt have sugar and food coloring added – two things that will ramp her hyperactivity up at lightning speed. If your child is hyperactive, try cutting back food coloring (especially red) and sugar for one week and watch the difference it makes.
  7. Edamame.  My little girl likes very few vegetables. I could definitely count on my fingers how many she will eat. Edamame is one she loves, maybe just for the novelty of shelling them. I mean really, eating them is a fun experience. Aldi doesn’t always carry them, but when they do, they are going in the cart.
  8. Simply Nature Lemonade. No GMOs and Organic. We add her prebiotic/probiotic to this lemonade, and it is delicious when combined. If your child doesn’t take one, Young Living makes an amazing one. It will help him/her to digest sugars and junk foods the body doesn’t normally or quickly break down. You can find them here and my referral number is 2183425 if you are asked for one. You’re welcome!
  9. Simply Nature White Cheddar Puffs. Not only are these non-GMO and organic, but they also are an upgrade from their bright orange name brand counterpart.
  10. Oven Roasted Turkey. This a premium one-pound pack and a step up from the name brand pack we bought previously. She loves a wrap with this turkey. In fact, she discovered today that she likes them with her mozzarella string cheese added.

These ten products are just a few ways that we have upgraded our picky eater’s diet by increasing the quality. I would love to know any of your favorites in the comments, or to know what products from this list you are excited to try.

If you would like to see more Aldi product recommendations, I have a more extensive list for picky eaters and a post for big kids as well.

art · kids · quarantine

10 Things to Know BEFORE You Tie-Dye

After three round of tie-dying with my daughters, we’ve pretty much nailed down all of the things NOT to do and things we would do different next time. We made our share of mistakes as newbies and I would love to share them with you so we are all better off. Here we go:

Prewash your shirt!

1. Prewash your shirts. Or at least use a wet shirt. You can kind of see in the picture above that the dye isn’t absorbing as well and running down the fabric. This was our second day of dying and we just flat out forgot to do it.

The good news is that if this happens to you, there is a work around. We waited the recommended 6-8 hours, then rinsed, squeezed out and put back in the bag for several more hours. It worked! A wet shirt really is necessary to achieve the more graduated pretty watercolor effect.

2. Use a shower curtain or tarp. As you can see in the above pic we used a shower curtain to place under us. We also worked outside. I’ll be honest, tie-dying is messy. The more systems you have in place to prevent messes the more fun you’ll have!

Use the gloves!

3. Use the gloves they provide. Otherwise your hands will look like mine. It took two days for this to wear off.

Use a fork to help with the spiral.

4. Use a fork. When you’re doing the spiral technique, using a fork can help keep the spiral tight. Just place in the center, then twist. You can use your hands to guide the rest of the twisting, as shown.

Rubber bands don’t have to be perfect.

5. Rubber band placement doesn’t have to be perfect. We did some spiral shirts where we were super careful and some where we weren’t and all of the shirts turned out nice.

I will say if you are wanting to achieve a certain pattern, it will be more important for you to divide into sections, almost like a pizza.

Don’t forget to flip it over and do the other side.

6. Flip it over! If you forget this your shirt will look half done. Once you’ve applied die to both sides, THEN you can bag.

Gallon sized ziplocs work great.

7. Use gallon sized ziploc bags. Once you have finished dying, if you buy the popular Tulip brand like we did, it comes with a box for you to place your shirts in. We wanted to do multiple projects at once, and ziplocs let us do this. They work great.

Do keep rinsing!

9. Keep rinsing until the water runs clear. After waiting the 6-8 hours for the color to set. The directions say to keep rinsing the shirt until the water runs clear. We did this, and machine washed and dried as instructed and still I ended up with two light blue towels in my next day’s load that were formally white. I would say, when you think you’re done rinsing, keep rinsing. And maybe machine wash twice!

Try other techniques!

10. Experiment with other techniques. We tried the technique pictured above and it was more of a true tie-dye. We used kitchen twine.

The coolest thing about tie-dye, is that matter what you do, or how many mistakes you may make, your project will still be a cool surprise in the end.

kids · parenting · Uncategorized

Keeping Your Child Safe on Their New iPhone

My eleven-year-old daughter just received a new iPhone for her birthday. This was unchartered territory for our family, and I was a little uneasy about how to set it up and make sure we had settings and parameters in place to keep her safe.

I found out through friends and a little bit of trial and error, but I wanted to share the settings we personally use that have given us peace of mind.

1. Family sharing. First of all, add your child as a family member. You can go to Settings>Apple ID>Family Sharing.

2. Purchase sharing. Scroll down a bit and you will see several radio buttons. Find Purchase Sharing and turn this off. We do not want our daughter making any purchases on her phone.

3. iCloud Storage. Directly below Purchase Sharing is iCloud Storage. We do have this and I did turn this on. I always think it’s wise to back up data.

4. Location Sharing. We allowed this. We shared locations with each other. I want to know her location at all times and I am fine with her knowing mine.

5. Screen Time. There is so much to be found in this setting. Turn it on, then click on it to reveal the options pictures below. I also love the visual of the graph that lets us easily monitor the time she is spending online.

6. Downtime. This allows you to choose what time your child can get on their device in the morning, and what time they need to be off in the evening. We are on summer break, so hers will most definitely change once school starts.

7. App Limits. This is what I really wanted to know when I was setting up her phone! How to limit the number of hours she can be on her phone. You’ll find it here.

8. Allowed Communication During Screen Time. I chose contacts only. Then further down you can choose exactly the contacts you wish to allowed. Our daughter has 8.

9. Allowed Communication During Downtime. This is for when she’s used up all her screen time. We only allow my husband and I as contacts. We need to be able to reach her at all times, but don’t want anyone else to.

10. Content & Privacy Restrictions. This is an important section! Be sure to click on each option to select the content, movie ratings, to block explicit lyrics and more.

In addition to these iPhone settings, you may consider the Bark App, Life 360 or Disney Circle.

I want to end by saying our child is a great kid. We really do trust her! We love her to pieces and want to do our best to keep her safe online and protect her innocence, while still letting her have a phone like the rest of her peers.

If you are reading this and have any other suggestions, apps, or settings that we should be using or putting in place, I’d love for you to share. We are all better together!

kids · product reviews · quarantine · Uncategorized

All Things sand.tagious

Watching sand.tagious kinetic sand cutting videos is so satisfying. If you don’t know about them, I’m happy to introduce you.

What is it exactly that makes the sound of cutting sand so satisfying? Apparently, sounds like this trigger a ASMR (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response) which is a “low-grade euphoria,” a static-like or tingling sensation on the skin, particularly the scalp and spine.

An entire genre of ASMR videos has emerged on social media platforms like YouTube and Instagram with the discovery of this phenomenon. And kinetic sand cutting is just one type of ASMR video. Other ASMR types include whispering, crinkling plastic, and crunching.

The intention of the videos is to calm and soothe. sand.tagious videos have been praised by those with anxiety, autism and insomnia but anyone can appreciate them. You can read more about sand.tagious and the ASMR connection here.

Our family loves kinetic sand cutting videos because they are calming, and they help us to clear our minds and be present. I dare you to be anxious and stressed out while watching. It just isn’t possible.

More than that, sand.tagious videos have inspired us to be more creative with our kinetic sand. Watching and listening to someone else play with and cut kinetic sand is satisfying for sure, but doing it yourself adds a kinesthetic and tactile element that is just as satisfying.

We have had fun trying to make our own kinetic sand cutting videos, using found items around the house with our sand, and acquiring tools like the ones used by sand.tagious. This set includes just about everything you would need to get started and is the best bang for your buck.

Our very first attempt at making our own sand-cutting ASMR video. They wanted it sped up, but then realized there is no sound. The girls want their own YouTube channel. 😁

This set includes just about everything you would need to get started.

https://www.instagram.com/sand.tagious/

https://m.facebook.com/sand.tagious

health · introvert · kids · Uncategorized

5 Things I Did (and Do) to Overcome Social Anxiety

I was watching a series on Netflix with my kids called “The Healing Powers of Dude.” It’s about a middle school kid named Noah who has an emotional support dog named Dude…and social anxiety.

I was explaining to my almost eleven-year-old daughter that I could relate to Noah in so many ways. That I was very much like him at that age. As a young adult I wasn’t surprised when I was diagnosed with Social Anxiety Disorder. My daughter couldn’t believe it. She said, “But Mommy you seem extroverted.” I thanked her for the compliment and started sharing some ways that I overcame it.

I wondered if other young people might benefit from the wisdom I’ve gained and maybe wouldn’t have to struggle like Noah did. Like I did.

So here they are, five things I did (and still do) to cope with and eventually overcome social anxiety:

1. Stop nightmaring. Nightmaring is where you go “worst case scenario.” You come up with all kinds of imaginary possible outcomes in your mind, and many of them are utterly absurd and irrational. I totally had a habit of this, and still catch myself doing it from time to time. In “The Healing Powers of Dude” Noah imagines losing Dude or his schoolmates turning into Zombies. Some more common examples of nightmaring would be imagining that everyone is looking at you, or talking about you. Somehow I felt like imagining all of the possible negative outcomes would help me be prepared, but what I realized in time was that those negative things rarely ever happened – I was just imagining for nothing. The key word though is “imagining” and it’s good news because that means it isn’t real. It’s fiction. And you cut it out by staying present which is number 2.

2. Stay present. The term anxiety means that you are focusing on imaginary negative future outcomes. They are illusions only in your mind. You can eliminate them entirely by staying present. But how do you do that, you ask? When you can’t shut your thoughts off? There are several strategies I use: conscious breathing. Meditating. Yoga. Go outside and be in nature. Tap into any one of the five senses. Finding joy in what you are doing in this moment, which is also number 3.

3. Find joy. Look for things that are satisfying. Make lists of things that bring you joy. Lists of your hobbies. Create vision boards. Find a couple of safe people, like Noah did.

4. Recharge your battery daily by taking some quiet time for yourself. Chances are, if you have social anxiety, you also are an introvert. Your energy gets depleted around others and especially new social situations. You need to know when you need to withdraw and recover. In one episode of “Healing Powers” Noah realized he needed to step away from the party and be alone in a quiet room. I still to this day will withdraw from a group when I feel low energy. It’s self-care when you have social anxiety.

5. Take comfort in routine, structure and schedules. Those of us with social anxiety are often triggered by the element of surprise. The unknown. The unexpected. On the flipside, routines and structure are calming and reassuring for us. This is how I am able to teach middle school. I need structure and routine for my own well-being and it makes it very easy to create it for my students. I generally feel safe with my groups of kids, we know each other and the sequence of events from day to day is predictable. I am writing this during the 2020 quarantine and even here at home, without realizing it, I have created a very predictable routine and schedule for our family. It becomes second nature with practice. Noah enjoys going to concerts and I do too. He says he feels like he can blend in with the crowd and I totally get that. After you’ve been to a concert you know what to expect and you feel at ease with the whole show routine.

I have come to accept that I will never be an extrovert, and I don’t know that I want to or need to.

Final words of wisdom?

🐾 Practice staying present and being in the moment! Remember that life is supposed to be fun. Plan fun and exciting things for yourself.

🐾 Try as much as you can to replace your nightmaring with daydreaming. It’s great to flash forward and think about what might happen in the future – but make sure they are good things.

🐾 Give yourself space when you need it.

🐾 Remember that structure and routine are your friends. They are comforting! The whole reason anxiety exists is because it is fear of the unknown. By creating predictable routines for yourself you lower the anxiety for yourself and those around you. This does not mean you have to live in a box. Our family goes on lots of adventures! But I make sure I do lots of planning beforehand and that I am with people I trust when I do them.

🐾 And one final thought. Give yourself permission to just stay quiet. So much of my social anxiety as an adolescent came from feeling like I had to know what to say. But now as an adult I realize it’s perfectly acceptable, if not preferable, to stay quiet.