Overstuffed: 2015 Overstuffed

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Help Your Kids Make Their Own Vision Boards

I absolutely love setting goals for the new year. It's a time that's full of self-reflection and optimism for me. Even though I have plenty of experience with totally failing at my new year's resolutions, I have also been very successful with them. Depends on the year, and the goal, I suppose!

I always want my children to have the same motivation to set new goals at this time of year as I do, but that is not always the case. I really want to teach them that goal setting is an important part of self-improvement, and not some boring thing that Mom wants you to do every new year (or every month during the summer).

In other words, my kids need to see goal setting as something FUN.

I don't think they inherently hate setting goals at all. In fact, they often talk to me about things they'd like to accomplish or things they want to change about themselves. But sitting down and writing these things down is simply not fun enough.

I have been reading about vision boards a lot lately. I've never actually made one for myself, but I realized that a vision board might be just the thing to get my kids on board for goal setting. They love doing art projects, so combining goal setting with an art project seemed like a perfect idea.

And it was. The girls absolutely loved doing their vision boards! (And I loved the insight into my children that the finished projects provided!)

Vision boards are a fun way to help kids set goals for the new year! What kid doesn't love an art project? #overstuffedlife


How we did it:


1. Gather supplies

Old magazines
Scissors
Glue
Markers
Cardstock*

*You could definitely use poster board instead, but I decided to have my girls make small vision boards to start. If they enjoyed it enough, I figured that we could make bigger ones at another time. As it turned out, the small ones were perfect for now. I think if I had given them anything bigger it would have felt too overwhelming.


Vision boards are a fun way to help kids set goals for the new year! What kid doesn't love an art project?
Chloe's Vision Board 2016

2. Write down some goals

I suppose this part isn't totally necessary, but I did want us to have some sort of idea of what to look for in the magazines. Sophia didn't really write her goals down to start and instead gained inspiration for what her goals should be by looking in the magazines. It worked for her! She made a really great 9-year-old vision board.

3. Cut up the magazines

Encourage the kids to find anything that can be a visual reminder of the goals they have set. This can be words or pictures, or even just designs or colors. Anything goes. This is their art project—and their goals!

Vision boards are a fun way to help kids set goals for the new year! What kid doesn't love an art project?
Bria's Vision Board 2016

4. Arrange the collage

This part is harder than it seems! The Maestro and I made small vision boards along with the girls and I had a hard time fitting everything on mine that I wanted to include! I think I'll actually do a poster-sized vision board sometime soon because I enjoyed the process so much.

5. Glue it down

I definitely recommend arranging first, gluing later. You might notice that my piano looks kooky (I chopped the legs off of it), because I forgot to put it in the initial arrangement. I really wanted it in my collage, though, because sitting down at the piano and singing more often is a big goal of mine this year.

Vision boards are a fun way to help kids set goals for the new year! What kid doesn't love an art project?
My Vision Board 2016

6. Dress it up with markers (if you want)

Of my girls, only Sophia really did this. But it's an option!

7. Look at them often

Make sure to display your vision boards in a place where you will see it daily. The girls' vision boards are now hanging in their bedrooms where they will see them often. Mine is above my desk in my office, where I spend an awful lot of time.

That's all there is to it! It only took us a couple hours the other night, and we really enjoyed the process. It was a lot of fun doing this project together as a family. Not only was it a fun way to set goals for the year, it was just nice to be together and laugh together and share our goals with one another.

Vision boards are a fun way to help kids set goals for the new year! What kid doesn't love an art project?
Sophia's Vision Board 2016

I have learned in my life that there is a certain magic in writing a goal down where you can see it often. It somehow makes it more concrete instead of just a fleeting thought. And I think it allows your subconscious to work on it more or something. I don't know why it works that way, really. It just does. So I hope that magic of writing down a goal—or gluing it down in our case—really does work for us in 2016!

Monday, December 28, 2015

The Ten Most Popular Posts of 2015

At the end of each year, it's always fun to take an assessment of things. Last year, I started posting my top ten most popular posts of the year, and it's always interesting to delve into the analytics and see what my readers liked best. Hint: It's not always what I liked best!

This year it seems that people really liked reading about planners. And I agree, who doesn't love a cute paper planner and fun ideas for using it? Seriously though, I'm so thankful for each and every reader who comes by this blog to read more. I know I haven't been the most consistent of bloggers this year (as evidenced by the two week Christmas hiatus I just took), but I'm grateful for the growth and support my readers have allowed this little blog. I'm looking forward to 2016 and to sharing even more ideas, book lists, organizing tips, and yes—planners.

The Ten Most Popular posts on www.overstuffedlife.com for 2015. Planners, organization, book lists, and more.


Without further ado, here are the top ten posts from Overstuffed in 2015:


10. How to Serve Your Husband the Way He Wants to be Served.


Wow. Talk about a controversial post! I have never received so many negative comments about a post! Interestingly, all of the negativity happened on Pinterest—mostly by people who were so upset by the title that they didn't even bother to read the post. It has made me think about the implications of the word "serve" and has made me a little sad that so many women think they shouldn't have to serve their husbands.

Believe me, this post is not about being subservient or a slave at all—you only have to talk to The Maestro to know that I'm a pretty feisty wife who doesn't let myself get stepped on in any way. Probably to a fault, actually. I wrote this post because I recognized that my husband is loving, pateint, kind, and ALWAYS does whatever he can to meet my needs and serve me, yet I'm not nearly as willing. To me, service is a way we show love to others, and what better way to love the one we have chosen to spend our lives with? I'll be writing more on the subject later, as I have a lot more to say!

9. Tips for Packing Up and Storing Holiday Decorations


This one is the first post I wrote last year and took right off. I guess everyone else hates packing up the holiday decor just as much as I do, right? Last year while I took the Christmas decorations down, I decided to document my process. I don't know if it's the best process, but it works well for me and I am able to keep everything organized and can easily find things the next year.

It's never quite the same from year to year, simply because I always buy a few new things and get rid of one or two things that I find I don't love or that are just plain too old to continue to display. The goal is to fit things into the existing bins without having to go out and buy yet another one! It's kind of like putting together a puzzle.





8. Harry Potter Book Club Ideas


This post is not popular because of the Harry Potter Book Club ideas, I know that. It's popular because of the super yummy homemade butter beer recipe that is one of those ideas. So, no worries if you're not planning on having a book club, you can still make the butter beer just to serve while reading to your kids, or for a Harry Potter themed birthday party, or just for fun.

Because it is super yummy.










7. Paper Planners: More Than Just a Schedule


The third most popular of three planner posts this year, this post highlights all of the different ways to use a planner. My planner is much, much more than just a schedule. It is basically my entire brain.

It also highlights the Home Executive Planner, which is a planner I really like. It's smaller than the one I use now, so it's perfect for those who don't want to lug around a super heavy planner. It's pretty, it's affordable, and it has a lot of great pages in it to help with all those things that aren't just scheduling. I recommend it.






6. 10 Favorite Picture Books


Even though my kids have largely grown out of picture books, we still really love them around here. This list highlights ten of our very favorites that also are not the most popular books out there.

Although a few of them, like The Book With No Pictures have now skyrocketed in popularity, there are still several more obscure, yet absolutely delightful, picture books on this list for you and your kids.











5. The Most Important Tip for Using Your Planner Successfully


Seriously, this tip is no big secret. But it is important!

Plus, a highlight of some cool planner stampers that I really enjoy using in my planner. They are especially great for the types of activities that happen over and over again. So much easier to go through and stamp them all in instead of getting writer's cramp, right?

You can buy your own stampers here: Cute Planner Stampers










4. Writing and Organizing Thank You Cards


I wrote this post in response to all of the help and service I received from my wonderful friends when I had shoulder surgery in February. I found myself needing to write way more thank yous than I normally do, and I thought I would share my methods for making sure I wrote them all.

That said, I still haven't figured out how to make sure I actually distribute them all. I have one still on my desk for a friend I see semi-often, but didn't know her address...and, yeah. It feels silly to give it to her so much later, but I probably should anyway, huh?








3. How Changing My Wardrobe Changed My Life

I know it sounds a bit silly that changing my wardrobe could change my life, but it did. I found the Dressing Your Truth system a few years ago, and it has made a huge difference.

Now I spend less money on clothes, make fewer shopping mistakes when I do buy clothes, and I feel better in my own skin because of the way I am dressed. This has been a life saver this year, since healthwise, it has been a difficult year. Not only did I have shoulder surgery, I was also diagnosed with Lyme disease, and the treatments for that have been no fun. I have really appreciated DYT this year more than ever because I do feel better by dressing my truth.







2. 16 Things Your Teenage Daughter Needs to Hear From You.


This is a post that is near and dear to my heart, and one that I need to re-read myself. As a mother, it is easy to forget how it feels to be a teenage girl, and I am not always sympathetic to the things they are feeling. I wrote this post more as a way to remind myself what actually works and what doesn't when talking to my girls.

This post is also my favorite post of the year, so I was glad to see it resonated with my readers as much as it resonated with me, too.










1. Why Everyone Should Use a Paper Planner

Now, I don't actually think that everyone should use a paper planner, but I do think that you shouldn't feel bad about using one if you aren't on the digital bandwagon yet. I have tried to go completely digital, and I just can't do it. Paper is the only way to go for me! At least it is if I want to show up to my life.

As it turns out, there is actual scientific research that shows that people remember better if they write things instead of type them. So that's one reason to use a paper planner right there, but I have more. This post featured a giveaway of my very favorite planner, which may be another reason for its popularity, but it continues to be my most oft read post this year, long after the giveaway ended!






That's it! The ten most popular posts on Overstuffed for 2015. Thanks so much for reading. :)

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

DIY Dollar Tree Christmas Tray

I love decorating for Christmas. It takes me about three days to do my house, and I've amassed a huge assortment of random decorations and ornaments over the years. But absolutely nothing beats hauling up all the bins from the basement, drinking egg nog, listening to our favorite Christmas music, and turning our house into a Christmas wonderland! It is the best thing ever.

Yeah, yeah, the kids totally poop out before we're even finished decorating the first tree, but it's still absolutely the best time of the year. Nothing beats sitting in the living room looking at the mantel and the tree and the lights. I look forward to it all year long.

And even after all of that, I love making a few new things every year. My favorite decorations are always the ones we make together (unless the kids poop out again and I end up making everything myself). When we first moved into this house in 2009, I realized it was a LOT bigger than any other house we'd ever lived in when I pulled out the Christmas stuff. I was going to have to get creative so I could afford the decorations I felt I needed to deck the halls right. I made a lot of stuff that year, and though I've shown photos here or there, I haven't actually posted about most of it, so today I'm going to show you my button tree tray.

Make this adorable button tree on a cheap dollar store tray with the button stash you already have on hand. So easy and cheap! #overstuffedlife

This is one of the absolute cheapest decorations I have ever made, and everyone loves it! Bria, then only 9 years old, helped me to create it, and she always thinks of it as hers when we get it out. It was totally her idea to use the star button on the top and she helped me arrange all of the other buttons, so it is definitely hers.

How to make it:

Materials:

Dollar Tree serving tray
Spray paint (I used black, any color will do!)
Buttons (If you don't have a large stash of buttons on hand like I tend to, you can buy bags of assorted buttons here, here, and here.)
Glue gun and glue sticks

Since I always have a huge supply of both spray paint and buttons on hand, this project cost me exactly $1.00. You can't get much better than that!

Use dollar store trays and your button stash to make fun Christmas decor.

You actually don't even have to paint it if you don't want to. Silver is a wonderful color for Christmas decorations, after all.




The dollar store (my local dollar store anyway), usually has several different shapes of these trays available. I have found the square, a rectangular one, and the circular one pictured above.

Use dollar store trays and your button stash to make fun Christmas decor. #overstuffedlife

I like to use the shape of the tray to help me decide what I'm going to do with it. A tree seemed like the perfect thing to do for the square tray. Plus, it wasn't difficult to put together with the buttons.

Decide on a color scheme, pick out all of the buttons that work, and then just lay them out on your painted (or not) tray. My girls loved helping with this part, and sometimes had much better ideas about button placement than I did! We chose traditional red, white, and green for the tree and its ornaments. Plus we found a big gold button for the trunk and a small yellow star to put on top.

Once you have your arrangement decided on, use hot glue to affix the buttons to the tray. You can tell my kids helped with both projects because the glue is messier than I like, but it's fine. So much more important to spend the time with them than to make it perfect (and that's actually hard for me to say, but it's true!).

Rustic Christmas decorations.

This year, that particular tray is living out on my covered front porch. We live in a 100+ year old house with fun nooks and crannies to decorate. The desk holds things like gloves and scarves in the winter and I like to keep it decorated for the current holiday. I chose my most rustic looking decor for out there, because it just fits. (I also made the wreath hanging above—yet another project I never blogged about!)

For the new circular tray I bought, I figured I would make a wreath. It ended up that I didn't have as many green buttons as I hoped, so I used a bunch of red ones to make a big bow.

Use a dollar store tray and your button stash to make a fun new decoration with your kids.

It turned out pretty cute, though I haven't found a permanent place for it yet. (Also, bad bad horrible bad lighting in this photo—but it was either that or probably never post about this project because the holidays are so darn busy and I've been procrastinating this photo for a week.) I may actually buy some green buttons to fill it out a bit, but it's just fine the way it is.

It's a fun, easy project—and best of all, really cheap. Pick up a dollar store tray and dig into your button stash with your kids. I can't wait to see what you come up with!



Monday, December 07, 2015

13 Gifts for the Creative Kid

Sophia is 9 years old and she LOVES to do arts and crafts projects. She is very creative (and messy) and I love seeing the amazing creations that come out of her head! She's made a wonderful list of things that she would love to have in her creative arsenal. If you have a creative kid who loves making art, this gift guide is for you!

Have a creative kid who can't stop making art? Find the perfect gift on this gift guide for the creative kid. #overstuffedlife


All of the things on this list are things that Sophia either already has and loves, or would love to have. I know for a fact that Santa is bringing a couple of them and I can't wait to see what she makes with them. Because we all know she will be spending her Christmas Day creating (or playing the video game that she is also getting).

Gift Guide for the Creative Kid


(affiliate links)

1. Crayola 200-piece Masterworks Art Case  The lovely wooden carrying case is the most exciting feature of this art kit. Traveling art! Plus, it comes with everything your little artist's heart could possibly desire: pastels, markers, paints, crayons, glitter glue and more. Amazon $60.00

2. Crayola Sketch Wizard  This thing honestly looks super cool. You place an object that you would like to sketch on one side of it and then look through the magical sketch wizard, and it helps guide you in making a sketch of the object. Amazon $15.49

3. Melissa and Doug Art Easel  Sophia got this for Christmas a couple years ago and she still uses it on a daily basis. It has a white board, a chalk board, and a paper roll so she can do art in many different ways. I love walking by her room and seeing what's on her easel.  Amazon $52.99

(It does not come with paper rolls. Buy the rolls separately here: Paper Rolls Amazon $11.99)

4. I Do 3D Pen System  Okay, this is probably the coolest item on the list. You can draw in 3D with these pens! They are simply amazing, and I want to try them for myself, too!  Amazon $36.41

5. Totally Crafty 225-piece Craft Set  This set comes with yarn, felt, embroidery floss, scissors, stuffing, buttons, and much more. Perfect for just starting out with sewing projects or making fun crafts out of yarn. Amazon $26.99

6. Corrugated Paper Sorter  I smiled when I saw this one on Sophia's list. She definitely needs some smart way to sort all her papers and projects! This is made out of cardboard. Amazon $22.02

7. Spirograph Deluxe  Do you remember these? I loved playing with mine as a kid. Amazon $22.99

8.  Marker Set  Sophia goes through markers like nobody's business, so a marker set is always a welcome gift. Any marker set will do, this one is fine. Amazon $11.99

9. Crayola Spin Art Maker  This is another one that looks like loads of fun. The final art is great, but it looks like the actual creating of the art is even better.  Amazon $14.99

10. Crayola Giant Color Kit  If your child isn't quite ready for the Masterworks Art Case, this Giant Color Kit is perfect. It comes in a plastic tub and contains all the necessities: crayons, markers, construction paper, doodle pad, paint, etc.  Amazon $39.48

11. Learn to Draw Books  My kids have quite the library of these types of books and they love them. And they have learned a lot from them.

How to Draw Animals    Amazon $4.14
How to Draw People     Amaon $2.99

12. Artist Studio Collector Set   Hmmm. I think Sophia just wants as many art sets as she can possibly get. This one is similar to the others with a plastic carrying case.  Amazon $21.50

13. Modeling Clay  One thing most of the art sets seem to be missing is modeling clay. And there is tons of fun to be had and art to be created with it, so it is a must-have.  Amazon $6.00


Hopefully something on this list will be the perfect gift for your own little artist!

Check out my other gift guides here:

Gifts for the Teenage Girl
Gifts for the Bookworm
Gifts for the Busy Mom



Saturday, December 05, 2015

Christmas Wonders

I love to find new Christmas activities that help point towards Christ and an attitude of service. But I also like those traditions to be easy to do and not cost a lot of money. Those are the best kinds of traditions!

I recently read a beautiful new Christmas book called Christmas Wonders by Robyn Buttars. It's a short read that only took me a couple hours in one afternoon to get through, but it's beautiful. I didn't know what the title "Christmas Wonders" meant until I was into the book, and I love the idea of this tradition.

A new and easy tradition: A box for your Christmas Wonders, plus a beautiful new book to read with your family. #overstuffedlife

In the small town where the book is set, each shop keeper sets out a wrapped box with a slot in it during Christmas time. People then write their Christmas Wonders on a slip of paper and put them in the box. Later, the favorites are read aloud at a special Christmas ceremony in the town square.

So what are Christmas Wonders?

Christmas Wonders—the way I understand them—are basically the things that make you grateful during the Christmas season. The things that make you appreciate the holiday. The things that make you wonder.

I love the idea. And it was easy to wrap a shoebox up and stick a slot in it so my family can begin to add their own Christmas Wonders.

A new and easy tradition: A box for your Christmas Wonders, plus a beautiful new book to read with your family.#overstuffedlife


As for the book, you should definitely read it. It's a wonderful story of a little boy named Luke who moves into this small town. He has never really celebrated Christmas—it's too painful for his father. It simply brings up too many memories of Luke's late mother, who loved Christmas.

The townspeople make a special effort to take Luke under their wings and teach him about Christmas Wonders. And, as it turns out, Luke's Christmas Wonders are something that bless the entire town.

If your kids are getting too old for the traditional shorter stories and picture books, this lovely chapter book will make a wonderful new addition to your Christmas library.

It might even become one of your Christmas Wonders this year!

To purchase, click below:

Christmas Wonders  $15.35




Thursday, December 03, 2015

How to Get Your Home Company Clean in One Hour

It's 4:00 pm, you just got home from work and the kids are getting off the bus any minute. You're hosting book club in three hours and the house is a wreck. Plus, you still have to run your kids to their after school lessons and make cookies! How will you possibly be able to get your house clean enough for company that quickly?

I don't know about you, but I have found myself in this situation too many times to count! I obviously haven't quite learned the lesson about keeping my house clean consistently, or I wouldn't have this predicament every time I have people over. But because of my shortcomings, I have now developed the ability to get my house company clean quickly. And when I say quickly, I mean in under one hour.

How to get your house clean and ready for company in just one hour. It's easier than you think! #overstuffedlife



(Note: This kind of company clean is for when you are just entertaining for a dinner party or a game night, not if you have overnight guests. That might actually take two or three hours.)

Get Your Home Ready for Company Fast!


Supplies needed:

Timer (your phone will do just fine)
Laundry basket
Toilet cleaner/brush
All-purpose cleaner
2 Cleaning rags or sponges
Paper towels
Vacuum

Speed Declutter & Straighten—10 minutes

First, set your timer for 10 minutes. Having the timer going makes me work even faster than usual because I know I have to beat the clock.

Grab your laundry basket and start at your front door. The entry way is the first thing your guests will see, so throw anything that is out of place into your basket and quickly tidy everything else. (If this is my entryway, there will always be an awful lot of shoes going into that basket!)

Continue walking through your home, gathering up clutter as you go. Make sure to walk through all of the areas guests are likely to go: living areas, bathrooms, kitchen, etc. Before you leave each room, do a quick straighten, but most likely just getting rid of the clutter is enough.

If you have time you can put things from the basket into their proper places, but only once every room has been quickly decluttered and tidied. Otherwise, you must resist the urge to put things away! Putting rogue items into their proper places is the biggest eater of your cleaning time.

So what are you supposed to do with your basket that is no doubt overflowing with misplaced stuff? You are going to stash it in your bedroom closet or your laundry room. Yes, I'm being completely serious! Somewhere the guests will not go. Just promise that you will deal with it when your party is over, okay?

Speed Clean the Bathroom—15 minutes

Again, set your timer!

Put toilet cleaner into the toilet bowl and let it sit while you do the rest of the bathroom. Using all-purpose cleaning spray, quickly spray and wipe down all surface areas (sink, counters, bathtub, etc.). Hopefully during the first step you successfully cleared out the clutter, so that won't be in your way at all. Wipe all of the surfaces down with your rag. Spray your mirror with all-purpose cleaner and wipe it down with paper towels.

Once all of that is done, quickly clean your toilet with the toilet brush.

Finally, vacuum the floor. Yes. You read that right! Vacuum it! Today's vacuums work great on hardwood, tile, and linoleum. I have the Hoover Air™ Cordless Lift Upright Vacuum which has the option to turn the brush roller on or off, so using it for hard floors is a cinch. I turn the brush roller off and then do a quick once over in the bathroom. If necessary, I grab the hose and quickly swipe the baseboards and the corners. Easy, peasy.

Using a vacuum cuts so much time off of your cleaning, and for a quick job like this it is perfect! We'll save the mopping for next Saturday morning's chore list, okay?

Speed Clean the Kitchen—15 minutes

Is your timer on?

The kitchen can be problematic depending on how many dirty dishes you have in the sink (or on the tables and counters for that matter!) So, we are actually going to mostly ignore the dishes for the first little bit.

If there are dirty dishes in places other than the sink, quickly move them to the sink and wipe down all the surfaces. Then—just like in the bathroom—vacuum the floor! Be sure to get the vacuum head under the counters where all the crumbs love to lurk.

Once your counters and floors are clean, you can move to the dishes. Load your dishwasher (or, if you're like me and don't have one—start handwashing!) as quickly as you can, and only work on dishes for the remainder of your timer. We aren't going to worry too much about dishes if you still have some leftover. Just leave them in the sink for now, and if you have time before the company comes you can deal with them.

However, I think you'll be pleasantly surprised at just how much you can accomplish in the kitchen during a 15 minute speed cleaning session.

Speed Vacuum & Dust—20 minutes

Turn on that timer!

Grab your vacuum and, starting at the entryway again, go through all the areas where your guests will likely be.

Don't be afraid to use your vacuum in unconventional ways to speed up your cleaning routine. #overstuffedlife

In each room, be sure to vacuum not only your rugs, but your hard floors, your baseboards, and every single surface. Yes, instead of dusting our bookshelves, we are vacuuming them. My Hoover Air™ Cordless Lift Upright Vacuum comes with two different sized dusting attachments, perfect for dusting shelves, coffee tables, pianos, and anything else that has gathered a layer of dust in your house.

Use your vacuum to quickly dust.

The larger dusting tool is even flexible so you can dust hard to reach places without dragging a step stool around. You can even do your ceiling fans in about 10 seconds with this tool. But since most company is probably not going to be looking at your dusty ceiling fans, you can put this one on the list for your Saturday chores, too, okay?

Vacuum off your ceiling fans! Amazing idea!

Vacuum your way through the house (I highly recommend blasting your favorite dance music as you go), stopping for nothing but the timer. I seriously am in love with my Hoover Air™ Cordless Lift Upright Vacuum because it is cordless! This means I really don't have to stop for anything but my timer. I can go from room to room without worrying about whether the cord will reach or having to plug and unplug the cord fifteen times. And when company is on their way, the time saved by not dealing with a cord is very helpful!

Once you are finished vacuuming, if you have any extra time you can go back and catch some of the things (like maybe dishes) that you left undone before. But overall, you should have a company ready home. I'm always amazed that I can do this in an hour, because I feel so overwhelmed at the start and I'm just sure that my friends are going to have to come sit in a messy living room to discuss our latest book club read.

But it doesn't happen that way—and I get my house clean(er).



What are your best tricks for cleaning your house quickly?

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

December 2015 Visiting Teaching Printable

The Visiting Teaching message for December is Divine Attributes of Jesus Christ: Compassionate and Kind. When I saw it, I smiled. I wonder if they saved the very best for last? Because, to me, kindness and compassion are the ultimate Christlike attributes.

As you are well aware, in the past month there has been much talk amongst the LDS community about the policy surrounding gay marriage. The unkindness I have personally witnessed (mostly on Facebook) from members to other members has been somewhat shocking to me (it shocked me so much I wrote a post about it here: On Choosing Kind). This is not what our church teaches, regardless of which side of the issue you stand. We can always state our beliefs boldly, but with kindness. As soon as unkindness enters in, most of what we say loses credit in the eyes of others, anyway. We cannot bully people into keeping the commandments or listening to the prophet, but we might be able to love them into it.

Compassion is the art of mourning with those that mourn, which is actually a covenant we make at baptism.  (See Mosiah 18:8-10)

December 2015 Visiting Teaching printable. Divine Attributes of Jesus Christ: Compassionate and Kind. With quote by Thomas S. Monson. #overstuffedlife

Another favorite scripture of mind reminds us that "no power or influence can or ought to be maintained. . . only by kindness." Later we are told to "reprove betimes with sharpness" but do you know what that really means? Those words are not giving us license to be unkind because another person is wrong. It means to "correct immediately with clarity." And that can be done with kindness and love unfeigned and gentleness and meekness just fine. (See D&C 121:41-46)

Choose Kind my friends!

To Download the printable click below:

Monday, November 30, 2015

19 Helpful Gifts for the Busy Mom

I am a busy and often overwhelmed mom. With three kids in three different schools (high school, middle school, and elementary school), I often feel like all I ever do is manage their schedules and chauffeur them all over the place. Which doesn't leave much time for cleaning the house, cooking, or working.

I know I'm not the only mom in this predicament. I used to think it would get better as my children got older, but it's definitely proven to be the opposite, just as all the more experienced moms I knew promised it would. Sigh.Do you know a busy and overwhelmed mom? These gift ideas will help relieve her stress! #overstuffedlife


But! There are things that can help. And if you have a busy and overwhelmed mom in your life, this list is sure to give you a couple ideas for gifts. If YOU are the busy mom, send it on to your husband and kids and mark just what you want! (Affiliate links)

Busy moms not only want to look good, they want to FEEL good. 


One of the most life-changing things I have purchased in recent years is the Dressing Your Truth system. DYT has helped me to understand how what I wear and who I am are intricately linked. It has helped me to dress true to myself—to dress MY truth and not how the fashion magazines are telling me I should dress. It may be a bit of a splurge, but the benefits I have gained from this system are priceless (cheesy as that sounds).  Dressingyourtruth.com  $299.99.


Busy moms need to stay organized in a stylish way.


Mom on the Go Planner--a perfect gift for a busy mom.

Some busy moms will be perfectly organized digitally. I am not that mom, and neither are many of my busy mom friends. I desperately rely on my paper planner, and my favorite one to use is the uber cute Mom on the Go Planner. The set up is perfect for my own busy life and I am rarely found without it in my purse! It comes in several cute styles, so you can find the perfect one for you.  Intheleafytreetops.com $34.99.

Home Executive Planner--a perfect gift for the mom who does it all.

Another planner I have used and like is the Home Executive Planner. It's name tells the story—every busy mom is a home executive, and this planner gives you the tools to run your home well. You can purchase it at  Amazon for $15.71.

Some busy moms prefer a cute wall calendar to go along with their planner. These options are all really cute!

Personalized journal or planner: These can be personalized with your own photos. And like everything Minted does, the result is stunning.    Minted from $16.00.

You can also get a Personalized calendar that will be just as beautiful.  Minted from $29.00.

Anne Taintor Wall Calendar: These vintage housekeepers with their sarcastic remarks always make me smile. And boy, do I ever relate!   Calendars.com $14.99.

Moms Do It All Planners and Calendars: Lots of cute choices, and again, the name says it all! Give that poor mom a way to organize her do-it-all life.   Calendars.com $14.99.


Busy moms live half their lives in the car—they need things to make that easier.

A couple years ago, The Maestro bought me a Jabra Cruiser 2 Bluetooth speaker for the car. I know many modern cars are already equipped with bluetooth, but my decidedly un-modern 2002 Honda was not. This thing has made my life so much easier! I can talk to my mom or make important calls while I am driving the 20 minutes to piano lessons or while I wait for kids to finish up at sports practices. I have even used it to call the doctor while I drove to her office when it was obvious my daughter had broken a bone.  Amazon $76.99

My kids like to bring their whole entire lives with them when we are driving somewhere. This Backseat Organizer is nice because it at least corrals it all, even if it doesn't actually stay organized!   Amazon $17.97

My kids also tend to leave their trash all over the car. It's amazing how quickly a newly clean car can start looking like a landfill! I love this Car Garbage Can—it's super functional and looks good. I just have to remember to actually empty it.  Amazon $9.89

I would be lost without my Power Inverter Car Charger. I like this one because it has two USB slots and one for a normal AC/DC plug. I often work on my laptop while I am waiting, and it is nice to be able to charge it.   Amazon $18.99

Busy moms are already super productive, but tools to help make her productivity easier are always appreciated.

Help your busy mom be more productive with a wall calendar.

I had no idea how helpful putting up a Magnetic Whiteboard Calendar in my kitchen would be. But it has been amazing. The kids are actually taking more ownership of their schedules because they can see them on a daily basis.     Amazon $14.77

I know that fitbits are all the rage for making sure you get your steps in, but I prefer the Misfit Shine. I like it because it looks more stylish and because you can make it even more stylish by purchasing bracelet or necklace accessories for it. It syncs with my phone and I can see if I hit my activity and sleep goals every day.   Amazon $99.99

I love my BlendTec so much. I use it for smoothies and pie crust and grinding things and making soup and a ton of other stuff. It really cuts down time spent in the kitchen doing the mundane.  Amazon $299.00

I don't have this item (yet), but what busy mom wouldn't love a Wi-fi controlled crock pot? Doesn't that sound amazing? You can turn it on even when you are not home and have dinner waiting for you. Unfortunately it can't put the dinner in by itself, but it's still pretty darn cool.    Amazon $129.99

Most of all, the busy mom needs to just relax!

There is nothing better than being able to curl up in a warm blanket, sip my favorite tea, and read at the end of a long and crazy day. Below are some things all moms will appreciate—and maybe you can give her a foot massage while she's reading, too.

Calming Aromatherapy Candle    Amazon $12.50

Sage Tonic Relax Tea   Amazon $14.00

A Fuzzy Blanket      Amazon $24.99

Kindle Fire   Amazon $49.99

Whatever you get her, just remember that every busy mom really just wants a little help and a whole lot of love.




4 Ideas for Candy-Free Advent Calendars

Last year, I splurged at Pottery Barn and bought an amazing advent calendar. I'd actually gone 14 years of motherhood without ever owning one! Sometimes we bought the little cardboard advent calendars with the chocolates, but usually we never bothered with it.

Until I just had to have this giant Christmas tree advent calendar! It's so much bigger than I thought it would be—I thought I could hang it on a door, but it's much larger than all of our doors! I love it anyway, though. (Want one? Buy it HERE.)

Stop the bickering over the chocolate and start helping your kids learn service with the advent calendar. #overstuffedlife

Last year, I just stuck some chocolates in each pocket, and the girls took turns getting it out every morning. But I didn't want to do that this year for several reasons.

1. They get enough candy and sweets during this holiday, I don't really want to add to that.

2. They bickered over whose turn it was to take the chocolate every single day. That is not what Christmas time should be about.

3. Nothing about the activity really supported my main priorities for Christmas—I really want all the activities we do to point us to the celebration of Jesus' birth.

I've thought about it, and I came up with the idea for a Kindness Advent Calendar.


Print out these cute advent cards to put into your advent calendar. Each day has a way to be kind or serve someone on it. Great way to keep the Christmas spirit! #overstuffedlife

Instead of candy, I am putting these little service activities in each pocket of our advent calendar. They are mostly simple activities that all the girls can do that day with the idea that they will give a gift to Jesus by being a little kinder. A handful of the activities will require a little more effort on your part as a parent, such as candy cane bombing a parking lot (leaving a candy cane on every car's windshield), baking cookies for your neighbors, or leaving a popcorn packet on a DVD rental machine.

Free printable Kindness Advent cards.

I made the cards fairly small (1.5 inches x 3 inches) so they should fit into most advent calendars.

To download:

Enter your email into the form below and the cards will be emailed to you. If you are on a mobile device, click here to see the form.



25 Days of Kindness printable cards for your advent calendar.

If the service ideas aren't exactly what you're looking for, here are three other ideas for candy-free advent activities.



Names of Christ Advent Devotional


Names of Christ Devotional


If you would like to focus on Jesus Christ and his names Heidi of A Lively Hope has a beautiful advent for you. Each day focuses on one of the names and roles of Christ and includes a paper ornament for your kids to color. This will keep their hands busy as they listen to the devotional. Totally genius idea for younger kids, if you ask me! You can then hang the ornaments on your tree or on your advent calendar to help with the Christmas countdown.

To find Heidi's beautiful advent devotionals, click here: Names of Christ Advent.

Christmas Book Advent


I don't really consider it an advent activity, but I could easily put the name of a Christmas book into each pocket of the advent calendar and that would work beautifully. I've seen other people wrap each book in Christmas paper and number the gifts so the kids can open one each night to read. No matter how you do it, though, it's a wonderful activity that accomplishes all my Christmas priorities—namely spending time together and remembering the birth of Christ.

24 Christmas books to read with your family

I just keep mine in a basket by the fireplace. If you would like to see the list of books we have for this tradition at our house, click here: 24 Christmas Books or 11 More Christmas Books.

25 Days of Christmas Spirit and Fun


Kendra of The Things I Love Most has a great idea with her advent. She incorporated a spiritual activity and a fun activity for each day—plus a random act of kindness every single day, too.

25 Days of Christmas Spirit and Fun


She has everything in printable form so you can print them off and pop them into your own advent calendar. I love the ideas she has—everything seems fun, even the spiritual stuff! I think all of them definitely adhere to my Christmas priorities, too.

If you'd like to download her printables, click here: 25 Days of Christmas Spirit and Fun

There's no need to stick candy in your advent calendars with all of these great ideas! Not only will my kids not start their day with another piece of chocolate, hopefully the bickering about whose turn it is to open the calendar will subside completely. I am really getting excited for December 1st to roll around (I don't have to wait long!) so we can get started with our kindness advent this year.

Don't want to put candy in your advent calendar? Try these four great ideas to count down to Christmas instead! #overstuffedlife

Sunday, November 29, 2015

4 Ways to Simplify Your Life During the Holidays

Several years ago I found myself standing in a very long line at the Post Office on December 19. That year had been insane as far as the holidays went and I was not enjoying myself. Instead, I was completely stressed out and overwhelmed and just trying to keep my head above water to make the time happy for the kids. As I stood in that line, trying to balance the pile of packages I hoped would arrive to family members before Christmas Day, I vowed that I would never again let the holidays become so crazy that we couldn't even enjoy them.

Don't let your long list of things to do steal your joy this Christmas season. Use these ideas to help you simplify and focus on what really matters. #overstuffedlife

While I certainly haven't been perfect—we've definitely had our crazy holiday moments since then—I will say that I have been much better. The first step to simplifying the holidays is to recognize that things have gotten a little too overstuffed and reevaluate your priorities.

What is the most important thing about Christmas for you and your family? 


For me, it's that my family is together, that we're happy, and that we are focusing on the birth of Christ and all that entails. Hopefully everything we choose to do during this season will accomplish those three things. If something detracts from those goals, it's now much easier for me to cut it out of our schedule without feeling too bad.

The following four ideas have helped me greatly to focus on what my Christmas priorities are:


1. Schedule downtime

Do not give in to the idea that you must be super busy and running around everywhere during the holidays. You may have a long list of things to accomplish, but make sure that downtime is on that list.

During that downtime you can do things like:

— Listen to uplifting Christmas music (for suggestions, click here: Our Favorite Christmas Albums).

— Watch a favorite Christmas movie.

— Read a Christmas book, either by yourself or with your family (for suggestions click here: 24 Christmas Books or here: 11 More Christmas Books or here: Even More Christmas Books).

— Sleep! Renewing your energy will help you get more done later.

How are you focusing on what really matters this Christmas?

I'm sure you can think of plenty of other relaxing activities that will help you keep the spirit of the season with you. Don't let a long list of activities deter you from resting, filling your own vessel, and keeping your joy.

2. Stop doing it all

I am a huge fan of holiday traditions. I love every tradition we have ever established. But sometimes, it is overwhelming to try to do all of them, even if they do support my priorities for the season.

If your list is getting too long, try asking each family member what their favorite tradition is. Make those things a priority, and fit in the rest if you can. Let the lesser traditions go if necessary.

This year, I asked my family that very question and the answers I got will help me to make the best decisions this month.

The Maestro's favorite tradition is watching Elf on December 22, A Christmas Carol on Christmas Adam (December 23), and listening to Amahl and the Night Visitors on Christmas Eve. He said those three things cannot be separated for him, so I guess we won't separate them! The great thing is that each of them is an activity that we do together and makes us each happy, as well as helping us remember Christ.

How are you focusing on what really matters this Christmas?

Bria's favorite tradition is baking Christmas cookies together and giving them to the neighbors.

Chloe's favorite tradition is listening to Amahl and the Night Visitors on Christmas Eve. Amahl is an opera about a young, crippled shepherd boy and his meeting with the three wise men on their way to visit the Christ child. Just before bed on Christmas Eve, we turn off all of the lights and listen to the entire opera (about 55 minutes) by the light of the Christmas tree.

Sophia's favorite tradition is going sledding.

As for me? It's probably Amahl, which is obviously a beloved tradition in our house. Luckily, it requires almost no planning or effort! So I'll pick my second favorite tradition, which is reading Christmas books together as often as we can during the month of December. It brings such a sweet spirit into our home, and while it isn't always feasible to do it every single night, I love the nights we are able to cuddle up together and read inspiring stories of Christmas magic.




3. Plan ahead

By planning ahead—and I mean WAY ahead, like September ahead—you will free up a lot of time during December for enjoying the season instead of running around like a crazy person.

Things I try to plan ahead:

— Christmas cards. I try to have the photo picked out before school starts and have them ordered before Thanksgiving. For more information on how I deal with Christmas cards (which can cause a TON of stress during the holidays), click here: A Stress-free Guide to Sending Christmas Cards.

— Stocking stuffers. It's easy to pick up little things here and there while shopping. Before I know it, I have a nice assortment for stockings and it isn't even Thanksgiving yet.

—The big gift. For the past few years, that has been a trip of some sort instead of an actual gift. Either way, though, it's nice to have decided what it will be before December rolls around. This way, you know which sales to watch for and you are less swayed by other things just because they are a good deal.

—Food. Whether it's what we will bake for our holiday neighbor gifts, or what we will make for our own traditional meals, I try to think way ahead on that and have all the ingredients on hand before December 1.

—Christmas dresses. I always buy my girls new Christmas dresses to wear to church at Christmas. I used to always get them in October with coupons I would get for Bria's birthday, but now that she is a teenager that's a bit more difficult. This year I have Bria's and Sophia's dresses already, but haven't found a good one for Chloe yet. Because I wasn't planning ahead enough with this—it's been harder now that I try to match them without matching exactly.

How are you focusing on what really matters this Christmas?


There are plenty of other things you can plan ahead, depending on your own traditions and schedule. It's good to make some goals for the holidays sometime in September and do a one or two things each week so that you are totally prepared. I include Halloween and Thanksgiving in this planning, too. It's a busy time of year!

4. Simplify your gift giving

I used to go completely over the top and over budget every year for Christmas. This was no good for several reasons, but the main one was that I was spending too much time dealing with gifts and not enough time with my family creating memories.

Nowadays, I have my children fill out their wish lists in four categories: Something I want, Something I need, Something to wear, and Something to read.


Simplify your Christmas list into four categories: Something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read.

To get a printable download of the list, click here: Christmas List Printable

Not only does this help me and The Maestro to focus on what's important during Christmas time (not to mention save some money!), it helps the girls to also focus on what's important. They know they will only have four gifts under the tree from us. Actually, three. The "something I want" is usually from Santa Claus, though I have also downplayed Santa a LOT in the past few years.

Other ways to simplify gift giving:

— Have your family members keep a Pinterest board or an Amazon wish list throughout the year so you can get great ideas early.

— Buy up an assortment of things like lotions or candles during the year so that you have gifts on hands for friends and acquaintances.

Consider gifting experiences instead of things. We are doing this more and more and I LOVE it.

How are you focusing on what really matters this Christmas?


Now that December 1 is creeping up on me quickly, I am ready. I'm ready to relax, to enjoy my family, and to focus on the things that matter most and why we really celebrate this season. My list is still long, as it always is, but I am kinder to myself about getting it all done.

Don't be overwhelmed this holiday season! Simplify.

What's your best trick for simplifying the holidays?

PS The Nativity photos throughout this post were all taken back in 2008 when I was featuring some of our Christmas traditions. Read those posts here, here, and here.