Category Archives: Family

2015 Christmas Gift Ideas and Thoughts on Gift Giving

Here are some articles with gift ideas – handmade and not – as well as thoughts on gift-giving:

  1. http://www.goodhousekeeping.com/holidays/christmas-ideas/
  2. http://www.womansday.com/life/g955/gifts-for-her/
  3. http://www.iheartnaptime.net/handmade-christmas-gifts/
  4. http://www.iheartnaptime.net/handmade-christmas-gifts/
  5. http://www.moneyunder30.com/cheap-gifts-53-inexpensive-christmas-gifts
  6. http://greatist.com/happiness/meaningful-gifts-on-the-cheap
  7. http://www.betterbudgeting.org/2015/06/63-gift-ideas-for-under-10-any-occasion.html
  8. http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/3-ways-to-be-a-better-gift-giver/
  9. http://www.wisebread.com/ultimate-gift-guide-thoughtful-ideas-for-every-list-and-every-budget
  10. http://www.wisebread.com/ultimate-gift-guide-thoughtful-ideas-for-every-list-and-every-budget
  11. http://www.wisebread.com/ultimate-gift-guide-thoughtful-ideas-for-every-list-and-every-budget
  12. http://www.keeperofthehome.org/2015/11/helping-your-kids-give-great-gifts-giving-healthy-and-thoughtful-presents.html

I found these articles useful for ideas and tips, as well as some thoughts on how to give a great gift and what makes a great gift.  I thought I would pass them on in the hope that they help someone else.  In addition, if you are looking for more ideas, check out my list of 101 Gift Ideas on a Budget.

Christmas present

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2015 Summer Bucket List

Summer Bucket List

  1. Toddler
    • Make play dough and play together.
    • Play dress up.
    • Play in a toddler pool or water table.
    • Run around at a park.
    • Play in a sprinkler or with a hose.
    • Wash the car!
    • Eat popsicles or ice cream from the Ice Cream Man that drives around selling ice cream.
    • Make giant bubbles (there are recipes online).
    • Visit a petting zoo.
    • Have story time every day.
    • Watch all your Disney movies.
  2. Child
    • Make a giant chocolate chip cookie (or their favorite treat).
    • Catch fireflies.
    • Have a sleep over.
    • Let the child “camp out” in the living room – sleeping bag, flash light, tell stories, have a special treat.
    • Play catch.
    • Go to a pool.
    • Fly a kite.
    • Play hopscotch.
    • Go to a children’s museum.
    • Decorate cookies.
    • Have a treasure hunt.
  3. Teen
    • Interview an older relative.
    • Have a scavenger hunt.
    • Collect family history.
    • Write a short story.
    • Publish your own stories in a book – there is a site called Lulu.com that can be used for self-publishing.
    • Eat five things you’ve never eaten before.
    • Keep a journal.
    • Go to the beach.
    • Go to a water park or an amusement park.
    • Make friendship bracelets.
    • Go to a fair.
    • Get a summer job.
    • Set some goals, then achieve them!
  4. Adult
    • Take a craft class.
    • Go to summer school for something that fascinates you.
    • Make beer or wine.
    • Bake a pie from scratch.
    • Learn to bake bread.
    • Go to a concert.
    • Go to the symphony.
    • Be a tourist for a day.
    • Plant a garden.
    • Raise herbs in planters.
    • Have a yard sale.
  5. Outdoors
    • Build sandcastles.
    • Go to the zoo.
    • Go to a baseball game – or a game of your favorite summer sport.
    • Play basket ball or another team sport with friends.
    • Go stargazing.
    • Watch a sunrise.
    • Watch a sunset.
    • Play Frisbee.
    • Play golf.
    • Play tennis.
  6. Indoors – Hot/Rainy Day
    • Have a movie marathon.
    • Make treats for neighbors.
    • Go indoor rock climbing.
    • Learn a foreign language.
    • Watch some documentaries.
    • Read a biography or an autobiography.
    • Write and publish your own book.
    • Make a video tutorial and post to YouTube.
  7. On a Budget
    • Go bike riding.
    • Blow bubbles outside.
    • Drink your morning coffee on the patio or porch.
    • Read a book a week.
    • Tie-dye tee shirts.
    • Make jam.
    • Go play mini-golf.
    • Take a picnic to the park.
    • Collect seashells on a nearby beach.
    • Make a root beer or Coke float.
  8. Family
    • Have a weekly family game night.
    • Make pizza.
    • Cook a meal together.
    • Have movie night.
    • Go to a concert – some locals have free concerts or concert series over the summer.
    • Have a movie marathon.
    • Go tubing.
    • Take a day trip.
    • Put on a magic show.
    • Have story time.
    • Have water gun fights.
  9. Couples
    • Get a couple’s massage.
    • Learn a romance language together.
    • Build a blanket fort.
    • Take a dance class together.
    • Go stargazing together.
    • Kiss at the top of a Ferris wheel.
    • Share a soda or milkshake.
    • Work at a soup kitchen together.
    • Take a spontaneous weekend trip.
    • Take up a hobby together.
  10. Miscellaneous
    • TaMake homemade ice cream.
    • Take a picture every day.
    • Go a week without electronics.
    • Make s’mores or some other summertime treat.
    • Do random acts of kindness.
    • Cook out.
    • Write down something that makes you happy every day.
    • Learn to play an instrument.
    • Learn to scuba dive.

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Resources for Special Needs Families – March 2015 Edition

This is a brief list of resources that I have found through my journey as a special needs parent.  I’ve tried to include mostly general sites, rather than those focused specifically on my daughter’s own health issues (epilepsy and autism), but there are a number relating to autism specifically.  Also, I should note that I am located in the United States and my sources tend to be as well.  However, I hope that the information contained in these resources can help ANYONE or provide ideas of sources for help in other areas. *In addition, I should note that I am not affiliated in any way with any of these sites.  These are just sites that I’ve found as I explored.*

  • Books
    • “Schuyler’s Monster: A Father’s Journey”  by Rob Rummel-Hudson
    • The Journal of Best Practices: A Memoir of Marriage, Asperger Syndrome, and One Man’s Quest to Be a Better Husband by David Finch
    • Shut Up About Your Perfect Kid by Gina Gallagher
    • The Special Needs Parent Handbook by Jonathan Singer
  • Magazines
    • Autism Parenting Magazine
    • Parenting Special Needs
    • Exceptional Parent
    • Thrive Magazine

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10 Ways to Organize at the Start of a New School Year

Back to School

Ok, my children are in second and fourth grade.  I have put this off long enough.  I have been trying to find a workable system to keep track of appointments, school events, paperwork, things that are to keep at home, things to return to school, and so forth.  So…finally I have committed to doing this for 2014-2015 school year.  Go me…lol.  Better late than never!

This year I have started some new things in an effort to start getting my family more organized.  Here is my list of projects:

  1. Notebooks for each child.  Name, teacher’s name, grade, school year and school will go on the front page.  Name and year on the spine – if I can get that arranged.  In each:
    • Page with school address, telephone number, fax, school nurse name and contact information, and hours.  I will also put the teacher, her email address, contact number (phone extension) and hours I can reach her.
    • Copy of the school system calendar for the year, along with information on make-up day schedules
    • Section for correspondence with the teacher and with the nurse as needed
    • Section for IEPs, report cards, etc.
    • Section for notes from meetings and the like
    • Section for papers to save
  2. Create a place to save special artwork and larger documents.  Ideas include:
    • Files in a file cabinet
    • File specially designed for the purpose
    • Frame that allows you to easily rotate artwork out
  3. Put together a “study basket” with necessary materials (not all of these apply to my son, who is 9, but would be good for older kids):
    • Pens
    • Pencils/pencil sharpener
    • Eraser
    • Scratch paper
    • Calculator
    • Loose-leaf paper and clipboard
    • Crayons
  4. Organize school lunches.  One thing my husband and I have started doing is making up snack bag servings of sides and treats for lunch boxes for about a week at a time.  Sunday evening is when my husband usually gets these ready; we’ve broken down getting-ready-for-school activities – he gets lunches ready and I feed and dress the kids in the morning.
  5. For next year, I want to try following a checklist that I found here.  Mind you, the actual checklist is one on a list of organizational ideas linked from other locations.  Still, it breaks down all the different things you need to do to get ready ahead of time for the start of a new school year.  Great checklist to follow!
  6. Organize the calendar.  Put all of the appointments, school events (print out school system calendar as soon as its available), and family events – then color-code by individual.  It makes it so much easier to see at a glance who is doing what during the week.  Also, find out if there are any due dates known up front for applications to things, deadlines to have information in by, and the like – add those to the calendar and highlight in their own color!
  7. Designate a place in your house to store school supplies and store them there.  At the end of the year, place the unused supplies there as well – next year, you may not need to buy as much.
  8. Clean off the fridge and start the new school year fresh.  Put the new school calendar or class calendar for the month up, list of school supplies, and a plastic bag for box tops.
  9. Establish the daily routine early.  Kids do so much better with a regular schedule, especially a lot of special needs children.  Get them into the routine of doing homework first, relaxing, going outside and playing, dinner with the family (as much as possible with multiple schedules…sigh), and taking a bath.  Develop a bedtime routine for younger children and try to be consistent, even on the weekends.
  10. Establish a checklist near the door, if possible.  Ask some questions before leaving the house, or before breakfast:
    • Does anyone need lunch money?
    • Does anyone need money for a field trip?
    • Are lunches in backpacks?
    • Is homework where it is supposed to be?
  11. Establish good routines EARLY in the year.
    • Make sure everyone has enough time in the morning for everything that needs doing: getting dressed, eating, brushing teeth, and making sure everything is in backpacks.
    • Adjust after the first few days.  Get homework and supplies for the next day at night and put it in the backpack.
    • Lay out clothes, if necessary.
    • Get older children to help with younger ones, if possible – or to help with getting breakfast materials out and on the table.,
    • Keep bedtime at the same time as much as possible.
  12. A few extra tips:
    • Keep the school’s list of supplies that are needed each year.  If you maintain a file, it should help limit buying multiple items like calculators, rulers and so on that can carry over from one year to the next.
    • Make sure your child has a school planner.  Some schools are starting this process on their own; my son’s third grade class actually provided one.  If they don’t, start teaching your child to use one early.  There is a wide selection out there and many for different grade levels.
    • Some families use a checklist for each family member – morning checklist, homework or afternoon checklist, night checklist.
    • Consider using a hanging shoe organizer to keep scarves, gloves, water shoes, and other small things handy.
    • Organize your pantry and make sure you have supplies for easy meals.

School supplies

I will say that my circumstances – having a special needs child that gets into everything and pulls things off of the wall – changes the way I do things.  I have seen a LOT of ideas online for creating a communication center where put correspondence from the school that needs responses from parents or signatures, things that need to be paid, and the like.  I’ve seen suggestions for giant calenders on the wall, where you can put color-coded appointments for each family member.  All of those are great ideas, but unworkable for me, unfortunately.  At any rate, here are some suggested sites for good organizing ideas for families without the complications that our family faces:

Simplify101 – Back To School Organizing Tips

Babycenter – 12 Ideas for Back-To-School

 

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15 Father’s Day Gift Ideas – 2014 Edition

Older I get Smarter Dad GetsLast year, I tried to brainstorm gift ideas for father’s day.  My husband is NOT easy to buy for and I figured others are probably in the same boat.  That list and my list of gifts on a budget are two of my more popular posts, so I thought I would try this again last year (also, I had a request from a reader 🙂 .  Here are some updated ideas.

  1. A Father’s Day Weekend:  Take over the responsibilities around the house – for entire weekend.  For example, my husband let me sleep in both Saturday and Sunday on Mother’s Day weekend; normally, I sleep in Saturdays and he sleeps in Sundays.  If your husband normally takes out the trash, then take that over for the weekend.  If you are doing this for your father, then do things to make his life a little easier – take the car and put gas in it.  Cut the grass.
  2. Handmade “certificates”: good for “one day out without complaint,” “one day without taking out the trash,” “one day child-free,” “one day out with the guys – with no complaints,” and anything else you might think he’d enjoy.  Children could also make something along these lines –  with coupons for “one bedroom cleaning without complaint” and so forth.
  3. For the reader: handmade bookmarks, preferably by your child(ren).  Audiobooks are good for fathers that have a commute – even books for Kindles if they commute by train/light rail/bus or if they simply like to have things to read wherever they are! Other ideas:  a container with his favorite beverage, a snack, and a book (or gift certificate to a book store.)
  4. Dinner: with your little (or not so little) helpers, make his favorite dinner and have all of the family eat together.  Two years ago, I took my oldest with me and let him pick out things to make for dinner for Daddy; he did a very good job of picking out things that Daddy really enjoyed and I think it was good experience in thinking about others.
  5. Little every-day gifts:  Really listen when he talks.  If he has a bad day, step in without complaint and do the day-to-day things around the house that he normally takes care of and do it without complaint and without being asked.  Encourage him to spend some time with his friends.  Take pictures of him with the kids – frame his favorites.  Push him and the kids out the door with balls, rackets, etc. so they can play together.
  6. Touching: Write him a letter about how much you appreciate what he does as a father.  Have your kids write one too.
  7. Nuts: If he likes nuts, buy a big container of them and attach a handmade decoration that says “We’re Nuts About Daddy.”  Another idea:  take a peanut M&M bag (not the big bag) and put a string or rubber band around the middle to make it look like a bow-tie.  Then attach a note that says “To the best Daddy, from your little Peanut” (or peanuts…LOL).
  8. For a wife to give: go with him to do something that you don’t normally: monster truck rally, sports event, paintball, fishing, or learn to do something that he enjoys (like his hobby).
  9. Cute:  A bottle of soda with a tie and a note: For the Best Pop Ever, a container of Reese’s Pieces with a note -“We love you to pieces”.
    1. A Man’s Bouquet:  attach candy to his favorite pens/pencils and put in a cup of his favorite sports team or TV show.
    2. Make homemade ice cream cookies – using homemade cookies (his favorite of course), scoop out ice cream on to one and press the other on top.  Smooth over the sides and it is finished!
    3. Craft stores frequently have coffee mugs that children can put a drawing in; have the kids finish that and then fill with samples of coffee or his favorite candy.
  10. For the reader (2): have the kids make book marks, then laminate them (or use the laminating sheets you can get at an office supply store).  Another great idea:  scan your child’s artwork, shrink several down, and print out several in a row to create a memorable bookmark to laminate.  You can also use the scanned artwork to print miniatures out, put
  11. Picture:  Frame his favorite picture of the family in a beautiful frame – or have it professionally framed. You could also put a favorite quote about fathers or fatherhood in a frame – print it out yourself in a nice font.
  12. Super simple but from the heart:  write your father a letter and tell him what you love most, your favorite memories, and so on.  Have your children do this for your husband.
  13. Candy bars:  there are a lot of really cute printables out there that you can wrap around his favorite candy bar (“Million Dollar Dad”, “We’re Nuts over You” – over a Payday Bar, and more).
  14. Miscellaneous:  digital photo key chain (sometimes are found at drugstores relatively inexpensively),  cheese/sausage/cracker tray, his favorite beer, have a lawn service cut the grass for June.
  15. Shocking thought:  ask him what he would like MOST for father’s day…

If you have any suggestions, please feel free to leave them in the comments.  I’m looking for more ideas too!

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15 Father’s Day Gift Ideas

Now, I have to admit, this has taken some time and effort.  My husband, father of my two children, is not particularly easy to buy gifts for; he likes very specific types of games, very specific types of books, and very specific electronic items.  He doesn’t wear ties, doesn’t wear long sleeved shirts or sweaters, and doesn’t play golf.  This holiday almost always stumps me.  So, this year I thought I might brainstorm in advance and share what I come up with, in the hopes that it helps someone else out there with a similar problem.

  1. Sports gift basket: tickets to a game (obviously, has to be one that is currently playing…lol – like baseball), plus a shirt for his team, a hat, or something else team-oriented.  Sunscreen could be good, if the game will be outside during the day.
  2. Handmade “certificates”: good for “one day out without complaint,” “one day without taking out the trash,” “one day child-free,” “one day out with the guys – with no complaints,” and anything else you might think he’d enjoy.
  3. For the reader: handmade bookmarks, preferably by your child(ren).
  4. Also for the reader: a container with his favorite beverage, a snack, and a book (or gift certificate to a book store.)
  5. Dinner: with your little (or not so little) helpers, make his favorite dinner and have all of the family eat together.
  6. Little every-day gifts:  Really listen when he talks.  Take pictures of him with the kids – frame his favorites.  Push him and the kids out the door with balls, rackets, etc. so they can play together.
  7. Touching: Write him a letter about how much you appreciate what he does as a father.  Have your kids write one too.
  8. Nuts: If he likes nuts, buy a big container of them and attach a handmade decoration that says “We’re Nuts About Daddy.”
  9. For a wife to give: go with him to do something that you don’t normally: monster truck rally, sports event, paintball, fishing, or learn to do something that he enjoys (like his hobby).
  10. Cute:  A bottle of soda with a tie and a note: For the Best Pop Ever
  11. For the reader (2): have the kids make book marks, then laminate them (or use the laminating sheets you can get at an office supply store).
  12. Quotable: Find a touching quote about fatherhood, print in a nice font on nice paper and frame.
  13. Picture:  Frame his favorite picture of the family in a beautiful frame – or have it professionally framed.
  14. Brag book: make sure his wallet pictures or his brag book is updated – or replace it with something nice.
  15. Shocking thought:  ask him what he would like MOST for father’s day…

To be honest, I had hoped to have more ideas…but I didn’t allow myself enough time this year.  And I didn’t take into account that I would get sick just before needing to plan two birthday parties and Father’s Day.  Sigh.  At any rate, this list is a start.  If you have any suggestions, please feel free to leave them in the comments.  I’m looking for more ideas too!

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52 Ideas for Mother’s Day Gifts

  1.  Gift basket: cup and saucer, tea, cookies, and sweetener in a nice basket
  2. Foot care basket for the mother on her feet a lot: lotion, scrub, moisturizing socks, and fluffy socks in a nice basket or tin
  3. A gift basket with several of her favorite treats
  4. Gift certificate for dinner to her favorite restaurant and an offer to babysit for the evening
  5. Stationery and tea gift basket for the letter writer
  6. Wine and cheese gift basket for a romantic and/or relaxing evening
  7. Book or books that you know she’d like, with a book mark and a book light
  8. A weekend at a bed and breakfast for a peaceful, relaxing weekend on her own.
  9. Gardening set – there are a lot available on Amazon and in other online shops (as well as gardening centers in most cities, I’m sure)
  10. Take a class together (cooking, wine, computer class, whatever shared interest you might have).
  11. Handmade card from her children or grandchildren
  12. A letter describing all the things about her that you love
  13. For your wife: take the kids out for the afternoon and let her enjoy her home in peace and quiet
  14. A meal cooked and cleaned up by the children and the other parent
  15. List 12, 52, 365 of your favorite memories together.
  16. Clean the house.
  17. Give her a day at the spa.
  18. Cook Mother’s Day Brunch.
  19. Candy bars wrapped in a special, cute printable wrapper (there are some to be found online and of course, you can get creative with markers and crayons and plain paper)
  20. Really high thread count  sheets
  21. Egyptian cotton towels
  22. A notebook with letters between her and the children
  23. A hug
  24. A memory jar
  25. Box of surprises (little things that she likes, wants, or needs – wrapped individually).  Let her open one every so often throughout the day!
  26. Print out her favorite family recipe in a nice font, on nice paper and frame it.
  27. Ask what she really, REALLY wants for Mother’s Day.
  28. Take a picture each Mother’s Day and create a keepsake at some point with all of the pictures.
  29. Start a fun tradition to celebrate with the family.
  30. Order her favorite, hard-to-find treat online.
  31. New gardening tools
  32. New cooking tools
  33. Make tea cup candles (Here is a lovely blog with instructions (and all sorts of other interesting ideas, I might add): http://thefrugalgirls.com/2012/03/how-to-make-teacup-candles.html ).
  34. Fingerprint charm (here is an example: http://diaryofamadcrafter.wordpress.com/2012/05/08/fingerprint-charms/ , another blog that looks like fun!)
  35. Homemade flavored oils
  36. Box of sunshine (here is a good explanation, for those who hadn’t heard of this before: http://happymoneysaver.com/send-a-box-of-sunshine-to-brighten-someones-day/ )
  37. Gift box for the letter writer: stationery, stamps, envelopes, perhaps a seal with wax and a nice pen.
  38. Crocheted, knitted, or sewn cover for their cell phone.
  39. Take her out for tea or coffee and conversation.
  40. Let her do nothing for an entire day, if that is what she really wants.
  41. Take the time to really listen to her and make her feel special
  42. Make coupons: “One week of taking the trash out without complaint”, “One Free Housework Day on the Weekend,” that sort of thing.
  43. Craft supplies for the crafty mother in your life
  44. A movie, popcorn/candy, and soda in a large bowl for movie night
  45. Coffee sampler and a large mug.
  46. Decorate a frame and put your child’s picture in it.
  47. Take her on a picnic.
  48. Make a personalized gift: a calendar with family pictures, a hardcover book with pictures, a blanket with family pictures (I’ve used Wal-Mart for these and gotten GREAT results).
  49. Frame a child’s drawing.
  50. Take her antiquing in a quaint little town.
  51. Plant flowers for her in the flower beds.
  52. Make her lunch for a week and include a love note.

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