Thursday, July 20, 2017

Simple LEGO Organization Idea

My 11-year-old daughter, Sophia, has had a renewed interest in playing with LEGO lately. She is really enjoying building the sets we have and then breaking them down and coming up with her own awesome creations.

I recently received a Disney Princess Moana's Ocean Voyage set from LEGO, and she was so excited to get it built! She loved the movie, and since she has a bit of Hawaiian heritage from her Dad's side (and even a Hawaiian name of her own to match), Moana is now her favorite Disney Princess. Sadly, we had to wait until school was out, but on our first free morning of summer I found her in the back room happily working on it while still in her pajamas.

Sophia building the boat from her Moana LEGO set.

It's a bigger set than some of the ones we already had (we have a lot of LEGO Friends, having all girls), so it took her a couple hours, but she finished! Her older sisters even helped her a bit here and there. The finished product has been proudly on display in her room ever since!

Pretty awesome set, isn't it? Sophia is in love with it.

Disney Princess Moana's Ocean Voyage LEGO set

As we've been getting things more clean and organized this summer, I started to realize that we had LEGO all over the house. I would find random pieces in almost every room, and Sophia's LEGO creations were also everywhere. We started getting things consolidated and organized in the toy room, where I try to get rid of toys the kids are not playing with anymore often.

One Idea for Sorting and Organizing LEGO

Figuring out how to sort and organize your LEGO is overwhelming! Here's one simple organization idea that worked for us.

During this job of sorting toys (that is always bigger than you think it will be!) I discovered our LEGO organization was non-existent. It frustrated the girls, because all the LEGO pieces were just thrown into a bin and even the instructions to the sets were tossed in the bins, too. We've always had a bin for just the LEGO, but we were starting to have too many and it was becoming very difficult for the girls to find the pieces they wanted for their current creations.

Chloe and I decided to tackle the problem one day, and if I'm being honest, we had no idea what we were going to do to get the LEGO more organized, but we figured sorting them would be a good place to start.

Sorting LEGO by color instead of type. LEGO organization idea.

But then we realized there are several ways you can sort LEGO! So, we ended up sorting them mostly by color, but also made piles of minifigures and special pieces like wheels and doors and leaves.

We have a lot more LEGO than we used to have, but we still don't have a lot by many standards—I've got a friend who has an entire room in her house that is just for LEGO! For us it made the most sense to just organize them by color. Obviously, we couldn't just sort them and then throw them back in the bin, so we had to make a trip to the Dollar Store to buy some cheap containers to keep the LEGO in.

We ended up buying four rectangular containers with lids, and three plastic jars with screw-on lids.

I brought my laptop and my favorite Plug-n-Play label maker up to the playroom, and we worked on making labels for the containers we had purchased. I love this label maker because you can use any font already installed on your computer, and while I didn't choose any super exciting fonts for this project, I love that I can.

Use a labelmaker to label the toys in your playroom—including LEGO bins.

We decided on the following organization for our LEGO:

White LEGO pieces
Brown/Grey/Black LEGO pieces
Pink/Red/Orange/Yellow LEGO pieces
Blue/Green/Purple LEGO pieces
Minifigures (including any animals)
Windows and Wheels
Other Special LEGO pieces (including the teeny tiny pieces of any color)

The regular pieces went into the square containers, and the specialty pieces went into the jars. The base pieces are separate from the containers.

For now, the instruction booklets went into their own bin (I use a toy sorter with multiple bins like this one—it has served us well for about 16 years!). I may put them into a binder someday, but this works for the time being.

Use a labelmaker to label the toys in your playroom—including LEGO bins.

Use a labelmaker to label the toys in your playroom—including LEGO bins.

Use a labelmaker to label the toys in your playroom—including LEGO bins.

I have found that when I label the bins and containers in the playroom, the likelihood of toys being put away properly is greatly increased! And kids are also much more likely to play with toys that are organized and easily found. So even though it sometimes seem annoying to have to sort through them when you're finished playing, it's ultimately worth it for the kids.

This project took Chloe and I about two hours to complete. Depending on how many LEGO you have, and how you choose to sort them, it may be shorter or longer for you! We are just glad to have it finished.

Use a labelmaker to label the toys in your playroom—including LEGO bins.

This is what it the completed project looks like—my playroom is too small to get a full photo of the toy bins, but the LEGO have the position of honor on top since they are the favorite toy du jour. I'm always excited to see what Sophia comes up with next!

Disney Princess Moana's Ocean Voyage LEGO set

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Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Easy Gluten Free Butterbeer Cake

For the past few Julys, I have been participating in a fun celebration of Harry Potter's birthday! I was sad to miss it last year since we were busy moving across the country for sabbatical on Harry's special day, but I'm back!

This year, I wanted to try out a simple cake mix hack in order to make a butterbeer cake. I was super pleased with the results—and even better—my family thought it was amazing. Gluten-free cake mixes don't come in many varieties. Usually I only find either chocolate or yellow, so it's up to me to make birthday cakes a little snazzier than that since we need them to be gluten-free.

Easy CAKE MIX RECIPE hack to make an amazing GLUTEN FREE BUTTERBEER CAKE for your next HARRY POTTER party

For this butterbeer cake, I started with a gluten-free yellow cake mix. I used this one, but I'm sure that any GF yellow mix will work just fine. Because I am a lazy baker (hello, cake mix hack!), I just used some canned buttercream frosting and gold sprinkles. It was perfect, but if you are a frosting connoisseur, you may want to make our own.  Now I just need a kid to have a Harry Potter themed birthday party so that I have a good reason to make it again.

Gluten Free Butterbeer Cake


1 gluten-free yellow cake mix
1 small (3.4 ounce) box butterscotch instant pudding
2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
1/2 cup melted butter
1 1/2 cups water
1 tsp rum flavoring
1 tsp gluten-free vanilla
gold sprinkles

Make this amazing butterbeer cake for your next Harry Potter party. It's gluten free, and easy to make | cake mix recipe hack


Mix all ingredients together on medium speed for about 2 minutes.

Spread batter evenly into two 9" round cake pans.

Bake at 325 degrees for 18-20 minutes. Baking at the lower temperature helps the batter cook more evenly and prevents the doming from happening in the cake. I just learned this trick and it works like a charm! Perfectly flat rounds that are easily stacked for a perfectly shaped cake. I love it!

Cool cake and frost. Top with golden sprinkles. Or whatever other Harry Potter-esque topping you want.

A simple cake mix hack for HARRY POTTER BUTTERBEER CAKE. It's GLUTEN FREE, easy to make, and totally delicious!

As part of Happy Harry Potter, there is a fun giveaway and I LOVE the fun things here. Just enter in the rafflecopter form at the bottom of this post to win.

Happy birthday, Harry!

See my past Happy Harry Potter posts here:

How to Make a Golden Snitch Costume

Harry Potter Book Club Ideas (includes a yummy Butterbeer recipe!)

This year's Happy Harry Potter giveaway winner will give a fun package including:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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This post may contain affiliate links, for more information, please see my disclosure.

See the linky parties I link up to here.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Books I Read: June 2017

I didn't read as much in June as I had hoped I would. The kids got out of school on June 8 and that first week was crazy busy. I always hope that once summer begins I'll have a ton of reading time, but this year has just been different since my kids are older and busier.

I had also hoped to get a lot of reading done at the beach, but instead it rained 23 out of 30 days in June and I went to the beach exactly one time. For as crazy and beach-free as this month has been, though, I'm impressed with how much I was still able to finish.

I have high hopes for July, though! Not only do I want to read at the beach, I want to get more use out of my awesome Dr Pepper float!

In June 2017 I read Chemistry by Weike Wang, A Man Called Ove, Fortune Cookie by Josi Kilpack and Wedding Cake by Josi Kilpack

Books I Read in June 2017

(affiliate links)

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

This was our book club selection for June. I was the one who chose it and hosted it, and though I didn't know much about the book when I picked it, I really liked it. What a great story of learning to understand people and the reasons why they do what they do. Such a great feel-good book! I give it a solid 5 stars—it definitely deserves all of the acclaim it's been getting lately.

Buy on paperback
Buy on Kindle

Fortune Cookie by Josi Kilpack

This is the penultimate book in Josi Kilpack's Sadie Hoffmiller culinary mystery series. I read the first one (Lemon Tart) about 8 years ago, and I really enjoy the main character and her quirks and her ability to find and solve murder mysteries. And even though I don't cook much, I have actually tried many of the recipes included in the books.

At some point I just stopped reading the series (I think because these last two books weren't out yet). So when I saw them on my Deseret Bookshelf PLUS app, I figured I should finally finish the series! I had forgotten a few details from previous books, but this book stands alone really well.

Buy on paperback
Buy on Kindle
Listen on Deseret Bookshelf PLUS (you can get a free 30-day trial)

Wedding Cake by Josi Kilpack

This is the final book in the Sadie Hoffmiller series. I think there are 9-10 books in all, but I'd have to check. This book does not stand alone well, and the author even put a disclaimer at the beginning that it does not. She brought back a ton of characters from previous books. I enjoyed the way the story ended and am happy to have finally finished the series! I listened to this one on Deseret Bookshelf PLUS as well.

Buy on paperback
Buy on Kindle
Listen on Deseret Bookshelf PLUS

Chemistry by Weike Wang

In my resolve to read more, I decided to join the Book of the Month Club. I am not a very good library patron, and find that I spend more money on fines than I do if I just buy books—I'm working on it, though. Still, I liked the idea of getting new releases shipped to me for a pretty discounted price.

I chose this one for my June BOTM box after reading reviews on the four choices I was offered. It is written in a stream of consciousness style, which I am not used to, but I did enjoy the main character. She is a doctoral candidate in chemistry and has something of a life crisis as she realizes that she doesn't want to be where she is in life. The stream of consciousness style works us through her mind and heart as she works through her difficulties over the space of two years. I thought it was very relatable. I give it 3.5 stars.

Buy on hardcover
Buy on Kindle
Join Book of the Month and get three new releases for just $10 each and a free tote bag!

Happy reading!
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Monday, July 10, 2017

How to Get the Most Out of Amazon Prime Day (2017)

You guys, tonight (July 10, 2017) at 9:00 pm Eastern is the start of Christmas in July—otherwise known as Amazon Prime Day.

And if it's anything like last year, it's even better than Black Friday/Cyber Monday. Let me put it this way: My dad just retired from being a UPS driver, and last summer he did not understand why he had SO MANY packages to deliver on one particular day last July—it was worse than Christmas for him because he didn't have a holiday helper. Well...I told him about Prime Day, and then he understood (and was glad he'd be retired for the next one!).

How to get the most out of Amazon Prime Day in 2017

I've been researching today all about what to expect for Prime Day 2017, and the first thing I learned is that I should have written this post a lot earlier because there were some special early bird deals. That said, there are still plenty of great things to look out for in the next 24 hours, so make sure you're ready!

How to Get the Most out of Amazon Prime Day

(affiliate links)

1. Sign up for Amazon Prime

Amazon Prime Day is only for Prime customers, so if you aren't currently in the program, make sure to sign up for a 30-day free trial right now.

If you are a student, you can sign up for a 6-month free trial.

2. Add items to your wish list

If things on your wish list go on sale during Prime Day, Amazon will email you. You will want to keep a close eye on both Amazon and your email during Prime Day so you can be sure to get the great deals on the things you want most. Create your wish list here.

3.  Download the Amazon App

Once you have downloaded the app, click on "Today's Deals > Upcoming" in order to view all deals 24 hours before they are live. If you like an item, simply click on "Watch This Deal" and the app will alert you when the sale price starts.

If you prefer to work on a computer, you can also watch deals on your desktop or laptop from the Prime Day Page.

Note: Amazon does not say what the price will be on these deals. You'll have to wait for them to go live to find out if it's a good enough deal for you to actually buy it, but this is a great way to see if there are items you've been wanting to buy or would like to buy.

4. Use Alexa

This is one that I didn't know about (but I also haven't caved and purchased an Amazon Echo yet). If you do have an Amazon Echo or the Echo Dot, you can ask Alexa for special Prime Day earlybird deals and she'll give you the information. Also, both the Echo and the Echo Dot are on sale for Prime Day for killer deals. If you've been wanting Alexa, get them now.

Alexa will still be able to help during the main part of the sale as well, so if you have her, use her!

My Favorite Amazon Prime Day Deals

Remember, I don't know what the prices will be yet, but below are a few things I'm super excited about!

Amazon Prime Day is Christmas in July! Make sure you're set up to find the greatest deals on Amazon today.

Noise Cancelling Bluetooth Earphones—I'm not going to lie, these would be really nice to have!

Jump Starter/Battery Booster—This thing looks like an amazing thing to have in your car in case of emergency! It charges both your car and your phone.

23 and Me DNA Kit—$49.00 is 50% off and the lowest I have ever seen this. I did mine a couple months ago and I just bought one today for The Maestro. If you are curious about where your ancestors come from, the information is fascinating.

8 Quart Instant Pot—I love mine so much. We use it almost every day in the winter (now we eat more salads and fruit), but it has changed my life. Seriously. This is a great deal.

Circle with Disney—I have written extensively about how this device has made a huge difference in our house. If you want to limit screen time for your kids, get one. I've never seen it so low priced.

Kids Fire Tablet—These are great for younger kids. You can limit the screen time and they have a really durable kid friendly case. Get an additional $30 off if you buy two of them!

Camping Hammock—I have told the Maestro about 100 times that I want a hammock for my birthday. This one looks awesome!

Bug Zapper—We live in the woods and we have a mosquito problem. I hate sitting outside on beautiful summer nights getting eaten alive, so this thing looks like a good (and kind of fun) option!

Magnetic Screen Door—I actually just bought one of these last month for my back door and we are loving it! The kids and the dog can go in and out and I don't have to yell "SHUT THE DOOR" 500 times a day. The best part is that all of those mosquitoes and other bugs don't get in. If you have a similar issue with children who don't remember how to close the door, you will love this thing.

Beach Shade—We love to go to the beach (we live on Lake Superior) during the summers and this thing looks like a dream. Also awesome for soccer games or parades.

Bluetooth Ear Buds—I've been wanting a pair of bluetooth earbuds. These are the first ones I saw, but as I started paging through all the deals, I found at least ten other types.

Anker External Battery—The Maestro and I fight over the one we already have. It will be nice to add another one. These things are amazing—I've been able to charge my iPad more than once on one charge!

Laptop Backpack—The Maestro has a nice laptop backpack that is great for traveling. He uses it every day for going back and forth to work. I always borrow his whenever I fly somewhere, so it would be great to have one of my own.

Guitar Hero Party Edition—Most of the things I was watching for are things I'd like to have now for the summer, but this would be something I put away as a Christmas gift for the kids. They are dying to have it.

Fitbit Charge 2 Replacement Bands—I'm loving my Charge 2 HR Fitbit (I can't tell if it will go on sale or not!), and I love the idea of replacing the bands to be different colors. I already purchased the metallic silver band (which IS a Prime Day deal) and love that it looks fancier for when I dress up.

Dog Life Jacket—Last year we went kayaking and Puccini (my little schnoodle) swam out to my kayak and ended up riding with me. She loved it. I would feel better if she were in a life jacket, though, and we've got kayaking plans in a couple weeks.

Essential Oil Diffuser—I feel like I'd use my oils more and better if I had one of these.

Yard Jenga—This just looks like so much fun! A great screen-free activity for summer!

Gift Cards—There are a TON of different $50 gift cards on the Amazon Prime Day deals. I don't know what the discount will be, but any discount is a great deal. I was hoping to get the one.

These are the things I found with just an hour of looking through the deals. There are 300+ pages full of deals, though, so I imagine there are a bunch of great things I missed!

Have fun shopping and don't forget to sign up for your 30-day free trial if you aren't a Prime member yet!

(And make sure to be extra nice to your UPS man when he delivers everything you buy!)

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5 Reasons to Have More Fun With Your Mom Friends

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Dr Pepper®. The opinions and text are all mine. #PickYourPepper #Walmart

It's important to have friends who are in the same part of life as you are. As moms, you can support each other. It's also important to have FUN with your friends. Here's why.
Last summer, just before we left on our 6-month sabbatical, my friends threw a little good-bye party for me on the lake. We had so much fun together that night! It not only made me realize how much I was going to miss them while I was gone for half a year, it made me realize how much we busy moms need our friends. It's so important to make time for having fun with those friends!

Now that I'm back and summer is here again, I am looking forward to having as much fun as possible with my friends! In my months away, I again realized the importance of spending time with your mom friends. I made a few new friends and occasionally saw old friends, but mostly I really missed my friends here at home and the fun things we do together.

As a busy mom, it's easy to get caught up in the busy mom life and forget to make time for friends. I don't know how many times I have said "No, I don't have time to go out on the lake today" and then kicked myself later because I really could have used a break and it's okay to let the laundry go every once in a while. I've learned that I am a better mom all around—laundry included—when I take care of my social side and have fun with my friends.

If you are a BUSY MOM you know you need a break. Make sure you're filling yourself by spending time with your MOM FRIENDS and HAVING FUN!

5 reasons to have more fun with your mom friends

1. Being a mom is stressful

At least, it's stressful for me. I often look at my long to-do lists and get so overwhelmed I want to cry. Moms are the CEOs of their households and it's a big job keeping everyone organized, bathed, happy, and where they are supposed to be.

There is something magical in knowing you're going to get to go to book club or out to the lake or even on a weekend getaway with just your girlfriends. It makes those afternoons when you're stuck in the car for hours shuttling kids all over town a little more bearable! And once you're there with friends, you're free to relax and destress, and that's important!

2. Other moms understand

Sometimes you just need to get together with other people who totally get it. I love my husband, but he doesn't always understand why things stress me out as a mom. One thing he does get is that I am a lot happier after spending an evening out with my mom friends, so he encourages it often!

It's funny to me that when I'm spending time out with my mom friends that we talk about our kids an awful lot. We need a break from the little people we love, but we love talking together and helping each other through the parenting stuff.

It's important to spend time with your mom friends

3. Adult conversation is good

We may love talking about our kids, but sometimes we just want to talk about anything BUT our kids. I'm pretty sure my friends and I have discussed just about every topic under the sun and we still have more to say about all of them. When you spend your days talking to toddlers or teenagers you know that you need the kind of brain stimulation being with a group of mom friends can provide!

4. It keeps us healthier

I don't know about you, but much of the fun I spend with my friends also comes with a good amount of exercise. A day at the lake, fitness classes, hiking, biking, walking...I've done all of these things with my friends and more! Not only am I getting more physical exercise, my soul is healthier because we aren't meant to do this life all alone.

5. It's easier to mom when you come home

After a few hours away, I'm always refreshed and ready to face the difficulties and joys of motherhood. You know what they say about putting your oxygen mask on first in airplanes? That's exactly what having fun with your friends does—it fills your own oxygen tank so you can then turn around and fill your children's.

Win this fun Dr Pepper unicorn beverage holder float this summer by purchasing Dr Pepper products at Walmart!

My friends and I love heading to the beach (we live on Lake Superior) whenever we can. Sometimes we bring all of our kids, but it's important to us to go as just moms, too. This summer Dr Pepper is helping us have even more fun at the beach with great prizes you can earn just by purchasing Dr Pepper products at Walmart.

Win this awesome Dr Pepper pool float this summer by spending money on Dr Pepper at Walmart!

How fun is the above inflatable unicorn beverage holder? And have you ever seen such an awesome pool float as the Dr Pepper bottle? When you buy any Dr Pepper this summer (6/15-8/15) at Walmart, you can upload your receipt at to get the unicorn beverage holder, the Dr Pepper bottle pool float, or other great prizes!

  • Spend $5, get a unicorn beverage holder inflatable
  • Spend $10, get a Walmart e-Gift Card worth $5
  • Spend $20, get a 6 pack can/bottle holder with ice pack
  • Spend $40, get a Dr Pepper bottle shaped pool float

What are you going to do with all that Dr Pepper you buy at Walmart, though? (Besides drinking it, of course!) If you love Dr Pepper, you'll love these fun Dr Pepper Jell-O shots (non-alcoholic).

How to make non-alcoholic Dr Pepper shots

NON ALCOHOLIC DR PEPPER JELLO SHOTS recipe. How to make these FUN JELLO SHOTS for summer fun at the pool or the lake this summer.


6 ounce box of cherry Jell-O
1/4 cup Dr Pepper (any kind!)
2 cups boiling water
1 3/4 cup cold sparkling water


Add boiling water to Jell-O powder. Whisk until dissolved. Add Dr Pepper and sparkling water. Using a turkey baster, add the Jell-O mixture to small containers and refrigerate for 4 hours.

Take them out on the lake with your friends and have a great time—it's good for your health!

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Monday, July 03, 2017

July 2017 Visiting Teaching Handout

The visiting teaching message for July 2017 is called That They May Be One. The gist of the message is that perfect unity with Jesus Christ and with our Father in Heaven should be a goal of ours.

Elder D. Todd Christofferson said,

Jesus achieved perfect unity with the Father by submitting Himself, both flesh and spirit, to the will of the Father. Surely we will not be one with God and Christ until we make Their will and interest our greatest desire. Such submissiveness is not reached in a day, but through the Holy Spirit, the Lord will tutor us if we are willing until, in process of time, it may accurately be said that He is in us as the Father is in Him.

I really liked what he said about how the Lord will teach us how to submit to His will if we have the desire and are willing to learn. Even more, I like how he says that it is a "process of time." That makes me feel better about the fact that I am still learning how to bend my will to the Lord's will every single day of my life.

LDS Visiting Teaching printable handout for July 2017 visiting teaching message—"That They May Be One." Quote from The Living Christ, "His way is the way that leads to happiness in this life and eternal life in the world to come."

Another quote I really liked was by Sister Niell F. Marriott:

“I have struggled to banish the mortal desire to have things my way, eventually realizing that my way is oh so lacking, limited, and inferior to the way of Jesus Christ. ‘His way is the path that leads to happiness in this life and eternal life in the world to come’"

I pulled that little bit out that she quoted from The Living Christ for the visiting teaching printable this month. It's such a good reminder of why we are trying to submit to His will in the first place—so we can be happy in this life and gain eternal life in the hereafter.

The download form is at the bottom of the post—Enjoy!

I recommend sending the file to a photo center such as Walmart or Costco if you don't have a good photo printer at home. I print mine on this Canon printer which does an excellent job. I print it straight onto 5x7 photo paper so it is ready to go into a frame for my sisters.

For more visiting teaching ideas, join us on Facebook!

Visiting teaching printable handout for July 2017. Quote from The Living Christ.

To download:

Enter your email address into the form below. The visiting teaching printable will be sent directly to your inbox.

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Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Social Media Rules for Teens—Teach Your Kids to be Smart Online

I recently read an article about students who had their acceptance offers to Harvard rescinded. These students had created a private Facebook chat where they exchanged inappropriate memes with each other. Harvard found out about the group, investigated, and eventually took away the admission offers of 10 students.

I've been thinking about this situation quite a lot since I read about it. These are students who were clearly very smart—smart enough to be accepted into an elite school like Harvard. And yet they did something completely stupid—shouldn't they have known better?

Teens texting

Stories like this make me want to be certain that I am teaching my own children how to be smart when it comes to social media. It is so important for parents to understand that teens are working with brains that are not fully developed yet.

We are handing phones to 13 and 14 year olds because we want to keep track of them. Yet we are forgetting that we are handing a pretty powerful little device to a teenager with an underdeveloped prefrontal cortex—the part of the brain that forms judgments, weighs decisions, and controls impulses. This part of the brain does not fully develop until the early 20s, which is when most people graduate from college! This sheds a little bit of light on why Harvard's incoming freshmen may have acted so inappropriately—blame it on their underdeveloped brains!

Simply put: Teenagers are not ready to have unsupervised access to social media and parents are the ones who need to make sure there are boundaries and rules in place.

So what can parents do about this, aside from never giving teenagers phones in the first place?

1. Use an internet filtering device

I am partial to the Circle with Disney which filters content, places time limits on usage, and sends me reports of what my children are doing online. You can read more about how we use this device here: Circle with Disney: How It Works, How We Use It, and Why It's Worth It.

We limit social media usage to about an hour a day with our Circle.

2. Follow all of your teen's social media accounts vigilantly 

Friend your child on every social media platform: Instagram, Facebook, SnapChat,, Twitter, etc.  I realize that this means you might have to create accounts you wouldn't otherwise have, but it's important. You'll soon learn your child's social media habits and you'll know which ones to check daily and which ones to check only occasionally. For instance, my 16-year-old daughter is most often on Instagram and SnapChat. She also has Facebook and Twitter accounts but she rarely uses them, so I look at those less often.

Make sure you also know about any secret accounts they may have. Know their passwords and do phone checks regularly. Read their texts and direct messages. Talk with your teen about the things you're seeing on their accounts.

If your teen already has a phone and you have not yet set this precedent, I strongly recommend that you do it ASAP. Because this is something we have always done in our home, my girls expect it and are pretty open with me. When Chloe was being bullied in middle-school, she began to delete her messages with the girl who was bullying her. Still, because I monitored things closely, I was able to catch enough of the messages before she deleted them to form a picture of what was going on, and in the end she was grateful for those phone checks.

3. Educate your teens about social media 

Talk with your teen often about the effects of social media. Bring up situations such as the Harvard admissions and other such stories in the news. Help them see the real world repercussions of being stupid about social media.

Teach them the following rules and make sure they understand the consequences of not following these rules. These rules are in place to teach them how to be smart with social media. Too many teens don't think about the fact that the things they say in private conversations don't stay private and that Snaps do not really disappear forever. One poor decision can follow them for their entire lives and can lose them friends, jobs, and even college admissions.

The following rules are not so much internet safety rules, rather they are intended to help you keep your teens and tweens smart while using social media.

TEENS and SOCIAL MEDIA can be a scary combination. Use these SOCIAL MEDIA RULES FOR TEENAGERS  to help discuss social media usage with your kids and help them to be smart with what they post.

Social Media Rules for Teens

1. Never post or send anything on social media that you wouldn't want the whole world to see

Nothing online is private. Nothing. People can take screenshots or photos of the screen. They can pass their phone around and show your message to others. They can simply talk about what you sent. There are a million ways the entire school (including teachers and administration!) or future employers can find out about something inappropriate you sent that you thought was private.

One would think that one rule should cover it all, but let's remember that we're still dealing with the underdeveloped teenage brain. Because of this, the following rules break that first rule down into even more specific situations to help teenagers make the smartest decisions on social media.

2. Never talk negatively about others in text messages or on social media

This includes parents, teachers, friends, enemies, and everyone else. If you wouldn't say it to their face, do not say it on social media or in a text message. Remember that once it is posted, it cannot be taken back completely, even if you delete it.

3. If you are part of a conversation where someone breaks rule #2, leave the conversation.

Do not let yourself become guilty by association, even if you are not the one saying the negative things.

4. Never bully others via social media

Sometimes the screen and the keyboard make teens forget that they are talking to a real person and they say things they would never say to that person in real life. "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all," applies more than ever when it comes to online interactions! If it isn't kind, do not type it. Period.

5. Never post or send photos of yourself in any state of undress

There is a lot of pressure for teens these days to send or post these types of photos. Nothing can ruin their reputations faster. We had a situation at our high school a couple years ago where a girl sent some nude selfies to a boy and they were quickly sent to a large portion of the student body. The police had to get involved because guess what? When minors are involved this is actually considered child pornography and that is a very big deal. Sadly, this kind of thing happens often with these types of photos and teenagers. If you would be embarrassed for your mom to see it, don't send it. Actually, don't even TAKE that photo in the first place!

6. Always ask permission before posting photos of others

This is common courtesy. Don't post photos of your friends that might make them feel uncomfortable. Make sure they are okay with how they look, what they are wearing, etc.

7. Never post memes that are pornographic, racist, or otherwise hurtful to others

This is the type of meme that lost ten students their Harvard admissions. These memes are not funny in any way. Again, if you wouldn't want the whole world to know you posted such a meme, do not post it.

8. Never have an argument via text or social media—work out your differences in person

Online disagreements rarely end well. Without tone and body language, it is much easier to be misunderstood. Your words can be twisted and shared with others, causing a simple disagreement to blow up into something much bigger and involving more people. If you have an issue with someone, work it out face to face.

9. Do not impersonate others on social media

It might seem funny to hack someone's account or pretend to be someone else in a text message. It isn't. Even if it is meant as a joke, these things can often be hurtful to others.

10. Remember the golden rule when using social media

If you would not like someone saying it about you, do not say it about others. Encourage your teen to turn things around this way, sometimes that is the easiest way for them to see that something is not appropriate for posting or sending to someone else.

I have made a printable for you so that you can post these rules in your home and easily discuss them with your own teenagers.

To download the social media rules for teens, enter your email into the form below and they will be sent directly to your email inbox.

It is so very important that we are discussing these things with our teenagers often. I'd love to hear some of the social media rules you have in place for your kids—let me know in the comments!

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Saturday, June 24, 2017

Our 2017 Summer Reading Lists

This post is part of an ongoing Summer Reading for Kids series. Click HERE to find ideas for reading activities, reading lists, and reading incentives...and keep checking back for more!

What books to read for 6th graders who don't like to read just starting middle school.

School has been out for two weeks now, and while my girls got their book bins on the first day of summer vacation, I have been super slow getting this up on the blog. This summer just feels so different to me because the kids are older and nothing feels the same.

I guess I've sort of been in mourning for my little kids—things sure felt a lot easier then.

I have mulled over not doing our summer book bins, but the kids love it and they love our traditions, so while they are a little less full for my older girls, I still gave them their books. I do love seeing them get excited about reading, that's for sure!

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Our Summer Reading Lists

Sophia's Summer Reading (age 10, going into 6th grade—middle school!):

Sophia's 6th grade reading list is going to look a lot different than her sisters' lists before her. She has (finally) found a love for reading, but she is still not willing to sit an read books that she perceives as boring—generally this means any book without illustrations. She loves graphic novels a la Raina Telgemeier and series like the Dork Diaries.

This year she discovered Lemony Snicket's Series of Unfortunate Events and devoured it, and it only has very minimal illustrations! I've been trying to find another series that is similar that she might love, but haven't come up with it yet.

For her books this summer I tried to choose a mix of the fun books I know she'll read and a few that I think she'll like if she gives them a chance. I also thought it would be fun for her if they were mostly about middle schoolers since she will be starting middle school in the fall (don't want to talk about it).

I will need to read a few out loud to her, as that is one of the best ways to help her read. Part of her dislike for reading in the past is simply because she needs to move her body and sitting still to read a book is torture. But listening to a book while standing on her head is totally enjoyable to her and she really gets into the stories this way.

If you are looking for sixth grade reading for kids who can sit still and do enjoy books without illustrations, check out my other two sixth grade lists here and here.

6 FUN BOOKS for your 6th grader's SUMMER READING. If your child likes books like DORK DIARIES, this list is for you.

The Misadventures of Max Crumbly: Locker Hero by Renee Russell (author of the Dork Diaries)
The Misadventures of Max Crumbly: Middle School Mayem by Renee Russell
Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life by James Patterson
Allie Finkle's Rules for Girls: Moving Day by Meg Cabot
Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos by R. L. LaFevers
Restart by Gordon Korman

Chloe's Summer Reading (age 14, going into 9th grade):

Chloe has decided to test out of English 9 this summer, which means that she already has assigned reading to do. Also, Chloe is probably my most avid reader, so I only got her a few new books that I think she will enjoy but that will also stretch her a bit. Otherwise, she will find plenty of other reading material on her own.

I've put an asterisk by the four books that she is required to read for English 9.

BOOKS for 9th grade SUMMER READING. If your 9th grader is an avid reader and loves books, this list is for you!

Night by Elie Wiesel*
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee*
The Odyssey by Homer*
Romeo and Juliet by Shakespeare*
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly

*Note: There is a different version of Hidden Figures I wish I'd known about that is probably more appropriate for the middle school/high school set.  Get it here: Hidden Figures: Young Readers' Edition

Bria's Summer Reading (age 16, going to be a senior and it is killing me):

Bria has a full-time job this summer and she is taking AP English Literature next year. She is also busy rehearsing with her string quartet as it is wedding season and they've got a few gigs and I'd like her to have a little fun this summer, too!

She has two books to finish over the summer for AP English Lit. Aside from those, I only bought her one other book. It's the latest installment of her favorite series, and it's a pretty fat one. If she has time for more reading than that this summer, she also has a pile of books on her night table that she's wanting to read, so I'm not too worried!


Born on a Blue Day: Inside the Extraordinary Mind of an Autistic Savant by Daniel Tammet
1984 by George Orwell
Lord of Shadows by Cassandra Clare

As usual, I'm looking forward to many beach days where I can sit and read, too, but so far this summer we haven't managed a single one. Crossing my fingers!

What are your kids reading this summer?

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