Overstuffed: October 2015 Overstuffed

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Happy Halloween from a Happier Home

I don't really have a photo for this post, so here are some Halloween photos of my kids from today. This is Bria as "Miranda Sings."

The one issue with this Write 31 Days challenge is that it ends on Halloween day, which is usually a little too busy for me to find time to do a really great blog. But luckily, Halloween is the last day of the challenge, so it's a perfect time to give an accounting of how things went.

When I started the series, I brainstormed a bunch of ideas. The things I thought of included those things I already do well that make our home happier, but I also thought of many things I wanted to do better or start doing that would also help our happiness level.

Chloe as John Lennon.

This month I have to say I was much more thoughtful of my husband and children.

I  have served my husband more.

I have been more grateful.


I have gotten more sleep (except on the nights I had to stay up late to get one of these blogs written!).

I showed up more often.

I read with my kids more (we are currently reading A Wrinkle in Time).

I kept better track of our schedule.

I was happier.


And because I was happier, everyone else was happier, too.

Amazing.

And the funny thing is that of the 31 ideas I brainstormed, I only ended up using about 20 of them. Sometimes the day just dropped other things in my lap and I learned a lot of great lessons about how a happy home is made this month. I was more aware of how everything I did affected the family as a whole.

Sophia as Pikachu (a Pokemon character).

I love doing these 31 Day Challenges for myself, because it isn't just about writing. It's about writing about a specific topic and ultimately changing my life. I'm looking forward to continuing to apply the things I've learned (or re-learned) this month.

Hooray for a happier home!

(And Happy Halloween!)

Friday, October 30, 2015

Music Can Change Your Whole Day Around

If you or your kids are in need of an attitude adjustment, try a little music and dancing! It works every time. #overstuffedlife

Today was a day filled with Halloween parties. I will admit that I get a bit selfish sometimes on my days off of work because I have so much to do and I am usually exhausted. So when I am faced with all the parties on my day off it means making gluten-free cupcakes for Sophia's party, making chili for the church party cook-off, and trying to whittle down the rest of my to-do list. All before the kids come home from school. And then I had to actually go to all the parties.

Let's just say I had a pretty bad attitude.

But when I got to the school and saw how Sophia's eyes lit up when I watched her in the Halloween parade, I knew I was where I was supposed to be, because I showed up. Honestly, as I have been writing every day about little ways to make my home happier, I have paid more attention to doing those things. I have tried to put aside my own stuff for longer, tried to be more patient with my kids, and tried to be less selfish about my own long lists of to-dos.

This whole Happier Home project has helped me see that all too often I give most of my time to things that don't matter very much in the long view. While know that it's hard to find that balance because those things that don't matter eternally do actually matter right now. I have to do my work and pay my bills and answer email. So it can be tricky.

I have definitely noticed a difference in my happiness this month as I've focused on the things that truly matter. But it hasn't always been easy!

Tonight at the church Halloween party my bad attitude got even worse. I really was just so tired and all I wanted to do was crawl into my bed and forget about it. But, I went because I knew it was important to the kids. I even had a pretty nice time, though I still couldn't wait to just get home and crash.

But then my friend Jen, who is a DJ, hooked up her sound system and disco light. The tables from the chili cook-off (which I did not win) got moved out of the way, and the kids flooded the gym floor and started to do their whip and nae nae.

And I just couldn't help myself.

Pretty soon, I was out there on the dance floor whipping and nae nae-ing with my kids. Sophia, who had hurt herself a few minutes earlier and was not so keen on dancing, was also having a blast. I am pretty sure I embarrassed 15-year-old Bria, but I also know she was having tons of fun.

Music and dancing are an essential part of happiness.

Really. I know it sounds so silly, but it is true! I have watched my Chloe come home from school super upset about something and then have to go to a piano lesson. I watched her as her bad attitude flew out the window as she played the music she loves.

I love nothing more than turning up the tunes and doing the dishes with all three of my girls. We have so much fun together when we do this. I love taking road trips with my kids because we have so much fun singing Bohemian Rhapsody and other hits together as a family. (My brother tagged along on our last road trip and documented the fun! Click here: The Neves Family sings Bohemian Rhapsody.)(Bria is not a fan of being filmed...)


These are the moments we remember. The moments we left everything else to wait a little while so we could dance with our children. And I'll even listen to their favorite music because we have so much fun doing it. (Don't worry, they're exposed to an awful lot of classical music and opera at our house, too!)

Next time you have a bad attitude—or one of your children does—turn on the tunes and dance.

It will turn your whole day around.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

The Secret to Calmer Mornings

THE BUS IS HERE!!!

Chloe frantically tied her shoes and pulled on her jacket, while Sophia was still trying to find socks. I think Chloe could have made it if she sprinted out the door right then, but it was pretty hopeless for Sophia. There was no way she was going to magically get on the bus when she wasn't even sure where her lunchbox was.

The secret to calmer mornings | make over your morning | how to have a calm morning | more organized mornings | get your kids off to school right

This is exactly how things went at my house this morning.

Now, I make no secret of the fact that I am NOT a morning person, but generally things go much more smoothly in the mornings at our house because of one trick I have learned.

The reason this morning was so rushed and crazy was because I dropped the ball last night, and we didn't do our usual nightly routine—our magical nightly routine that has the power to make mornings calm.

Our nightly checklist makes mornings easier.


Last night was a little crazy. The girls all had church activities until after 8:00, and I had to teach my Institute class until 8:30. By the time we were all home, it was well after 9:00 and it was past Sophia's bedtime. Bria had homework she hadn't finished yet, and Chloe was her usual distracted self.

But most of all I was exhausted. And because I was exhausted, I didn't insist on our normal evening routine. And this morning we all paid for that omission.

Bria got up late and barely made it to early morning seminary on time. Chloe and Sophia both got up late and ran around gathering their things, packing their lunches, and finding their finished homework. Sophia was in the kitchen making a sandwich when The Maestro starting reading morning scripture—she says she listened, but it certainly wasn't an ideal way to begin the morning.

Preparing the night before is the secret to calm mornings.


It may seem obvious, but too many times I have thought I could just save a few of the items until morning and it would be fine. But it is never fine when I do that. It adds stress and we yell and rush around and almost always miss the bus.

What's on our nightly checklist?


I'll admit, this isn't a checklist I have printed out—it's just the one in my head. Posting it somewhere would be helpful, though, so I should get right on that.

Anyway! Here are the things we do each night to ensure our mornings run smoothly:

  • Do all homework and place in folder.
  • Put folders in backpack.
  • Pack lunches.
  • Make sure any out of the ordinary items are packed in backpacks (things like permission slips, classroom supplies, library books, or show and tell).
  • Place backpacks by the front door.
  • In cold weather, place coats, snow pants, boots, etc. on the heater near the front door.
  • Make sure supplies for after school activities are ready to go (music books, dance gear, etc.).
  • Pick out clothes to wear for the next day and lay them out—right down to socks and underwear (this goes for Mom, too!).
  • Pack my own work/computer bag and place near the front door.


That's pretty much it. This whole process really only takes about 20 minutes. 20 minutes is not very long—even when you're exhausted. Coupled with going to bed on time and getting enough sleep, it's the perfect antidote for crazy mornings!

If you're looking for some really concrete ideas on how to make your evenings and your mornings run more smoothly, check out these two e-courses:

Make Over Your Evenings
Make Over Your Mornings

Both of them are designed to teach you exactly how to get organized so that your entire day goes more smoothly and you are more productive.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Build a Better Relationship With Your Kids by Being Pen-Pals! {free printable}

Looking for a fun way to provide encouragement to your kids and strengthen your relationship with them? Try a pen-pal journal. (free printable) #overstuffedlife

As a busy mom, I sometimes feel I don't have enough time to really talk to my kids. And sometimes, when I try to talk to them, I am met with girls who don't actually want to talk to me. While the conversation starters I have tried recently work really well (Sophia in particular LOVES those), I remembered something I used to do a few years ago that was really fun.

I became pen-pals with my daughter.

When Chloe was 8 years old, I thought I'd try a new idea. I got a couple notebooks and wrote notes to my girls in them. Bria was 10 or 11 and Sophia would have been 5 and not reading well yet. So I just did this with the older girls at that time.

Build your relationship with your children with a pen pal journal

I wrote notes to both of them, but only Chloe answered me back. And that's okay—you know your kids, and this might not be everyone's cup of tea. I knew Bria was unlikely to respond as she's not really my writer child. But she is my chatterbox. It's relatively easy for me to know what's up with her because she talks and talks and talks incessantly. Even now that she's 15 I am usually treated to her stream of consciousness most of the time. And I love it.

Build your relationship with your children with a pen pal journal

But back to the pen-pal journals.

Chloe wrote me back. And we wrote back and forth for a few years. We weren't always terribly consistent, and sometimes Chloe would have the journal for a really long time before it would show up on my bed again. But every time it showed up, I was treated to the amazing soul of my daughter.

Build your relationship with your children with a pen pal journal

I may not have learned anything super new about her (except that she loves loved One Direction more than her sisters!), but it made our relationship stronger. It was fun for her to have a little secret way to communicate with me that her sisters weren't part of. And it was a wonderful way for me to build her up and tell her the great things I noticed her doing, to give her encouragement, and to look for the positive—even when our relationship was harder.



Tonight I made one of these for Sophia. She's been struggling a little bit with her adjustment to fourth grade and I think she would love this. In fact, I know she would. She LOVES writing, and whenever I clean her room I find hundreds of adorable things she's written: song lyrics, poems, journals about her crush, hate notes to me, love notes to me.

Be pen-pals with your kids! Free printable for a Mom and Me journal. #overstuffedlife

I've also written something in Chloe's journal that we haven't really used for a year or so. I'm even going to write a letter to Bria before I go to bed tonight. Even though she isn't likely to write back, I know that she will still appreciate a letter from her mom.

This is such a simple thing to do with your kids and the rewards are huge.

Tell them you love them in writing.

I have a hunch they'll keep it forever!

Be pen-pals with your kids! Free printable for a Mom and Me journal. #overstuffedlife

To make your own pen-pal journal, you'll need a cheap composition book (I love composition books! See my gratitude journals and summer reading journals), some cardstock, and some glue or snail adhesive.

To download:

If you are on a desktop or laptop computer, enter your email in the form below.

If you are on a mobile device, click here to see the form.

The printable will then be sent directly to your email inbox.



Tuesday, October 27, 2015

I Want My Children to Be Best Friends

Making time to do fun things as a family can help your kids be best friends for their whole lives. #overstuffedlife

Some days, I worry that my children are never going to get along. So much bickering. So much unwillingness to share. So much eye-rolling. And so much more bickering.

But then I remember that my brothers and bickered and refused to share and rolled our eyes and bickered some more. All the time. My poor mother! And every time one of us said that we'd rather go with friends than participate in a family activity or that we didn't like our siblings, my mom always said the same thing.

"Friends come and go, but family is forever."


And whenever she said that, more eye-rolling ensued. I won't speak for my brothers here, but I certainly rolled my eyes a lot. I didn't WANT to hang out with my family, I wanted to go be with my friends!

Now that I'm 41 years old, I realize that my mother was absolutely right. Friends do come and go, and while Facebook is a miracle and helps me to keep in touch with hundreds of friends that would have otherwise "gone," family has always remained the one constant.


I just spent the last 5 days in California with my parents and siblings. One of my brothers got married on the beach and so it was the perfect excuse to get out of the almost-winter weather here in Michigan and go hang out in the sun. It was also a wonderful excuse to spend time with my family, since I live pretty far away from all of them and rarely get to see them.

Making time to do fun things as a family can help your kids be best friends for their whole lives.


If you had told me when I was a teenager how much I'd love being with my brothers now, I don't think I would have believed you. In fact, I would have rolled my eyes. (It really is a wonder that I am not stuck permanently looking at the ceiling for all the eye rolling I did!)

I would have also been pretty skeptical if you'd told me that I would actually look forward to spending time with my parents, and that the person I would spend the most time talking to on the phone would be my mom.

Funny how that goes.

But I still worry that my kids will not like each other when they are 41. Because, bickering. A lot of bickering.

So I have resorted to doing the same sorts of things that my own mom did when we were young. We do fun things together as a family. And sometimes that means no friend activities. Because family is forever and friends come and go.

We do themed Halloween costumes together.

We play games together.

We have traditions.

We go on fun vacations together.

We read together.

We make things together, we cook together, we eat together, we laugh together, we do puzzles together, we spend time together.

And I hope that through all of it, we are creating memories that will last forever. And that someday, when my children are 41, they will just laugh about all of the bickering and be thrilled to spend time with their sisters.

Family is forever.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Showing Up For Your Kids Matters—A Lot!

We get busy as parents, and sometimes we forget to show up. Give your child the gift of your presence and be there! #overstuffedlife

When Chloe was in the first grade, she got the lead part in her class Thanksgiving play. She was SO excited! They performed it during the school day at the local retirement home, and I couldn't wait to see her.

The morning of the play, I remembered. I reminded The Maestro about it. And then we ran some errands together and completely forgot to go see Chloe's play. I didn't even realize I had forgotten until I met the school bus and saw a very sad little girl come out of the bus doors.

"Mommy, you didn't come."


Those words put a dagger right through my heart, and I burst into tears right then and there. The bus driver must have thought I was insane, but I have never felt so bad for forgetting something in my whole life. At that moment, I was definitely the worst mother in the whole world. Even now as I write about it—SIX years later—I feel like I might cry.

I have a little more mercy for myself nowadays. My mom account was totally empty—I was trying to do way too much—and because of that I forgot the most important thing. The thing that was more important than any errand I could have possibly run that day. Still, even though I can look back and see that I was completely overstretched, I let my child down, and that feels horrible.

Up until that experience, I had been pretty good at always showing up for my kids' special events, and I'd never felt the mommy devastation that sets in by not showing up. I knew they were happy to have me there, but I never knew just how much it would affect them when I didn't come.

In the 5th grade, Chloe had to write a little essay on something that had made her sad. Guess what she wrote about? Yep—Mom not coming to her play. I read that and had another little dagger through my heart and reopened that old wound. I'm pretty sure she'll always remember the time I forgot about her.

Ouch.


I wish I could say I have shown up for everything since then, but I haven't. I try my very hardest, but the kids are busier than ever and sometimes I have to make choices.

Last year, Bria had a crazy Saturday where she had to play in an adjudicated violin festival in the morning, present a history project at a regional competition in the afternoon, and participate in a regional youth talent show in the evening.

I was there cheering her on for the first two, and so was The Maestro. But she downplayed the talent show big time and swore up and down that it didn't matter to her if we came or not. Since it was 20 minutes away and we had a lot to do, we opted to skip it.

She got home late enough that night that I was already in bed. She walked in the door, and I asked her how the (no big deal, totally low key) talent show went.

"Oh, no big deal. We only won first place and $200.00!"

WHAT? One of those little daggers found its way into my heart again. She'd done great at her violin festival, and while her group didn't move on to state at Michigan History Day, they had done well there, too. But I had missed the crowning achievement of the day! FIRST PLACE. First place in an area-wide youth talent competition.

And I wasn't even there to see it.


Bria will still tell you that it's no big deal. And maybe, to her, it isn't. She isn't the same as Chloe who looks to find where The Maestro and I are sitting at ever concert, play, or sporting event she participates in. I watch her face go from studiously searching for us to a big smile when she finally spots us. And when she does spot us, she sings right to us the rest of the time with a giant grin on her face. I have seen her start to sing a choir concert without being able to find us, and she looked so miserable I wanted to jump out of my seat and shout, "Don't worry, Chloe! I am here!"

Showing up matters.


Even if it really isn't a big deal to Bria, I know she's happy when we are there. I know she feels loved when we are there to cheer her on. Being there for her matters a lot.

And then there are the times when I show up physically, but I am not really there. Unfortunately, my kids know when that happens, too. It's usually Sophia at soccer. She'll look at me on the sidelines with my nose in my phone or talking to another mom and not watching her every move. And she calls me on it every time, because it makes her genuinely sad.

This season I did better. And it made a difference in how she played and her attitude after the game. If the most important person (that's YOU, moms) was there to support her, then it didn't much matter if she won or lost or made the goal or didn't. She knew her biggest fan wouldn't care.

Be your child's biggest fan.


Exactly a year after I forgot Chloe's first-grade play, she had the opportunity to do the same play again at the retirement home with her 2nd grade class. She didn't get the lead this time, and I had to rush from work to see it and was a little late. I got off of the elevator to find a slightly worried little girl singing songs about turkeys, but as soon as she saw me her entire face lit up.



She sang those turkey songs right to me with her whole heart and soul, and I cried. But this time I cried because I was there for my child, and I understood exactly what that meant.

I showed up.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

5 Ways to Teach Your Children to Pray Always

One of the most important keys to having a happy home is making it a house of prayer. I want my children to learn at a young age how important it is to include the Lord in our lives and to rely on Him for strength and for guidance. I want their first thought to be to turn to God, whether that be in difficult times or easy times.

I want my kids to learn to rely on and include the Lord at a young age. 5 things we can do to teach our children to pray always. #overstuffedlife

5 Ways to Teach Children to Pray


1. Pray with them often, and don't forget!


My first year of college, I lived at home. I have three younger brothers, and at that time they were in high school, junior high, and elementary school. Classes started at a different time in the morning for each school, so my mom would stand and pray with each of us at the door as we were heading out. Even the dog knew the drill, an she would sit quietly at our feet until we said "amen" and then she would bark her own hearty amen.

My mom said 4 prayers over the course of the morning, because praying with her children was a priority to her. She also said many other prayers with us, as The Maestro and I also do with our own children.

There are multiple opportunities to pray with your kids each day: Family prayer in the morning and at night, over meals, before family council, and when our children need extra help or comfort. Take advantage of those opportunities!

2. Remind them to pray.


When your child comes to you with a problem, ask them if they have prayed about it. Whether they lost something, are worried about an upcoming test at school, or are having issues with a friend, I want my children to learn to turn to the Lord. I want them to learn to include Him in every detail of their lives. And so I give them an easy little nudge. Just that simple question—"Have you prayed about it?"—is enough to remind them that prayer is an option.

3. Let them see you praying.


All parents know that example is the most powerful teacher. Even if our children don't see us pray regularly, just knowing that we DO pray is a great way to help them to learn to do it as well. One of my friends recently told me how she was in the middle of raising tiny kids and there was chaos all around her all the time. She said that sometimes she just needed to pray, so she would drop down on her knees in the middle of all that craziness and start praying. The effect on her children was immediate—they would quiet down, and often join her. What a wonderful example!

I often think about the story of my lost wreath. I love that Bria knew I had said a prayer when it showed up because she knows I pray. I didn't have to tell her I had prayed about it—she already knew!

4. Talk about your own answers to prayer often.


Since we can't show our children that we are praying every single time we do, it is important to share with them our prayer stories. Stories are almost as powerful a teacher as example is, and real stories from my own life are something my girls love to listen to.

So I tell them about the times I had powerful answers to prayer. I tell them about the times I didn't have answers to prayer. I tell them about the times when the answers weren't what I had hoped they would be. I tell them, and they listen. And I hope that they are learning the power prayer can hold in their own lives.

Likewise, be sure to point out the way their own prayers are answered as you notice that happen in their lives.

5. Make sure they understand prayer is not magic.


When you are telling your stories, make sure they understand that God does not answer every prayer--at least not they way we want it. Teach them that other people have their own agency (free will), and that if they don't want to do something, God can't force them to do it.

Sometimes God wants something different for you than you think you want for yourself. Sometimes he is testing and trying us. Sometimes the answer is to wait, and waiting is hard.

Whatever the request, God is not some magical genie who will grant us our three wishes. Instead, he is a loving heavenly parent who wants what is best for us. And, just as you sometimes know what is best for your children better than they do, he always knows what is best for us.

I hope my children are learning these things from me. Sometimes I get powerful glimpses of their faith in prayer and that makes me so happy—they are getting it!

The key is to keep teaching them.

And keep praying.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

The Golden Rule Applies to Moms

Sometimes we moms need to step back and look at the way we are treating our children. The golden rule is a good place to start. #overstuffedlife

The other day while I was sitting in the store waiting for my prescription to be filled I noticed a little boy goofing off. The things he was doing were totally age appropriate, but his mom was clearly annoyed with him.

And then she snapped.


She yelled at him to stop, using a word that I don't allow my children to say and a voice that was less than gentle. I watched as her little son completely deflated—his shoulders hunched over, his head drooped, and he moved to hide behind a sales sign.

My heart broke for him. He really wasn't doing anything out of the ordinary, and it wasn't even that noticeable if you weren't watching him. But, even if he had been really out of control, I knew that the way the mom handled it wasn't okay.

Our children need to be treated kindly.


The thing is, when I see other moms deal with their children inappropriately, I know they are tired. I know they are exasperated. I know they are running on little sleep. I know they are overworked. And when they are in that state, the little annoying things their children do become gigantic. And then they snap.

Want to know how I know that? I am one of those moms that snaps sometimes. And when I snap, it's never about my child.


It is 100% about me.

It's about keeping that mom account full, yes. But when I see other moms acting the way I sometimes act, I know it is about much more than that.

Running on empty is not an excuse for treating our children badly.

Remember the golden rule? 


That rule that we teach our kids? Treat others the way you would want to be treated, right? Moms, this includes our children. And it never hit me harder than it did the other day watching another run-down mom lose it with her child.

Don't get me wrong. We need to correct and discipline our children when they need it. That is our job. But we also need to remember that they learn many of their behaviors from us. If we are correcting them by yelling and screaming and calling them names, it accomplishes very little. What it does accomplish is making our children feel deflated, unloved, and even embarrassed (especially if they are yelled at in public). It teaches them that it is okay to lose it and belittle and scream at others when things don't go our way.

I know that we are tired. I know we're overworked. I know our kids bug us sometimes. I know that sometimes they bug us SO MUCH that we think we might go crazy.

I also know we love them more than anything.


I am determined to be better at this. Not only do I need to be better at keeping my mom account full, I need to be aware of how I am treating my children. My children who I love so much!

Next time my kids are being annoying or even the next time they are out of control, I am resolved to stop and think about my reaction before I lose it. I'm resolved to stay calm and gentle and to discipline them out of love instead of from a place of crazy.

I will not call my children names.

I will not scream at my children.

I will take responsibility for my own actions.

I will treat my children the way I would want to be treated.

Friday, October 23, 2015

5 Ways Getting Rid of Clutter Makes Your Home Happier

Getting rid of clutter is a big way to increase the happiness in your home. 5 reasons why.#overstuffedlife

Last year, my 31 Days series was all about decluttering my home. Never before had I concentrated so long and so fully on getting rid of clutter, and it literally changed my life and my household. I learned so many lifelong lessons about the way the clutter around us can affect our peace--and yes, the happiness of our home.

Here are 5 ways getting the clutter out of your life can make your home (and YOU!) happier:

You'll have more space.


Somehow, seeing a table that is clear of stuff helps me breathe easier. Having the space for the important things. When you get rid of the things you don't use and that sit gathering dust, you make room for the things that are truly useful and the things that you truly love.

You'll find things more easily.


Nothing causes a home to go from happy to unhappy as fast as not being able to find a necessary item. When people are waiting to go out the door to an event and something needed is missing, that's when yelling, crying, and general chaos ensue (at least, it does at my house!). Knowing where things are from the get-go means everyone stays calmer, you aren't late to everything, and things stay organized (as opposed to getting frantically thrown everywhere in an effort to find the missing item).

Your house will stay cleaner.


When I finally got rid of all of the craft clutter that was taking up space in my office, my office stayed pretty pristine for weeks without my having to try. It is only messy now because I did a big project and have not bothered to clean it up (that's another issue entirely, sigh).

You'll spend less time managing stuff.


And more time doing the things you love. Like projects that make your office messy again. Or reading. Or playing games together as a family.

You'll stop focusing on stuff


When you start getting rid of the clutter, you will begin to loosen the hold it has on you. Your attachment to things will gradually lessen and you will feel free! I have always struggled a little bit with getting rid of things, but--even a year later--I am doing it easily. And, I am less likely to bring more stuff into my home after my big decluttering experience.

The kids are not there yet. They are still bringing things into the home that they never use and don't love. They still have a bit of difficulty getting rid of it. I'm hoping to help them each go through their clothes, their room, and all their piles during Thanksgiving break to at least start the Christmas season off right. I want them to feel the peace and breathing room that I have felt this year, too

What has decluttering done for you?

Thursday, October 22, 2015

8 Tips for Holding an Effective Family Council

A family council is a great way to correlate schedules, touch base on how the kids are doing, and make family goals. 8 tips to make them work. #overstuffedlife

(Like my planner? Me too! You can get one here: Mom on the Go Planner.)

Keeping track of a family’s schedule is difficult, but even harder is staying on top of the coordination of a family schedule. And it’s not just the schedule, either. It’s the fees the kids need for school or their activities, it’s when certain homework projects are due, it’s figuring out which parent is taking the kids to music lessons this week.

All of these things cannot be discerned by simply looking at your family calendar. The family calendar is an important tool and it saves my life on a regular basis, but it cannot text my neighbor to see if she can take Sophia to dance this week because I have another conflict. It cannot tell me if Chloe has remembered to turn in her cross-country uniform once the season is over. It cannot tell me that Bria has invited all of her friends over this Saturday for an all-day-get-ready-for-the-homecoming-dance party.

The family calendar is only part of keeping your home running smoothly.


The only way the family calendar can really work is via communication. Lots and lots of communication.

Enter the family planning meeting.


Now, you can just sit your family down once in a while and find out what’s on the schedule, and think that’s good enough. No. It’s no different than just relying on the calendar to tell you everything. You need to really use your family planning time effectively so that your household will run with out a hitch—and be happier for it.

We prefer to call our planning meetings “family council.” This allows us to do more with it than just work out scheduling. I have 8 tips that will help make your family councils as effective as possible, and to get the most return on the time spent doing it.

Hold consistent family meetings—weekly if possible.


It should come as no surprise that consistency is the key to a successful family council. If you know me at all, it will also be no surprise to you that we are most definitely NOT consistent with these. This is something I’m always working on, too.

When we do hold these meetings weekly, I feel so much more calm throughout the week because I have a contingency plan—I know what should happen, but I also know what the possible snafus might be, and I can plan accordingly. When we hold the meetings only some of the time, I feel much more frenetic and stressed on the days for which I don’t have clear plans made.

Consistency is also important because it is habit-forming. The kids will start to expect it, and it will just become something you always do. Everyone will feel more organized and ready for the week when it starts off with a good family council.

Begin and end with prayer.


It is my experience that when we bring the Lord into our family planning sessions, everything goes much more smoothly. Including Him and asking for His help can never be a bad thing, and will help you to make decisions that are more in line with the Lord’s will.

Give every family member the chance to speak.


Make sure each member of your family has time to talk—no matter what their age. They may not be old enough to be totally aware of their schedules yet, but they will have something to say.

Remember that these meetings are not just for schedule correlation, they are for the family to discuss how everything is going and to come up with solutions to problems. Your preschooler may want to talk about something that is bothering her at school, or she may just want to say how much she loves school. Your tween may want to talk about friend issues, or ask for input on an assignment she has been given. And your teenager will have a chance to tell you all about her plans for that homecoming party she decided to have.

Even more important than the schedule is that each family member has a chance to feel heard. To know that they each play a significant role in the family and that their parents and siblings care about them.

Find solutions together


When we come up against scheduling difficulties or the kids bring up the difficult things they are dealing with in their lives, I am always pleasantly surprised at the solutions the kids come up with to help. Sometimes I think The Maestro and I just have it all figured out, but the girls have really opened my eyes up to the fact that we definitely don’t.

The girls are good at thinking outside the box and being willing to reschedule things if necessary. They are good at giving each other advice and support. And they are good at taking responsibility for their own plans and doing whatever it takes for them to be able to carry them out.

So don’t fall into the trap of providing all the solutions just because you are the parents. Remember that it is a family council, and counsel together until the best solution is found.

Set family and personal goals


This meeting is a great time to set a few goals for the week. Talk about what things you would like to see happen in your home. Give the kids a chance to do the same. Decide family goals together.

And while personal goals may be too private, don’t hesitate to share one or two of the things you are hoping to work on personally during the week. Invite your children to do the same if they are comfortable sharing. I like it when my kids know what some of my personal goals are because they can be some of the best accountability partners I know!

Even if your kids don’t want to share their personal goals, it’s a good time to remind them to make them.

Evaluate the previous week


A huge part of success in goal setting is evaluation. Other things that may need evaluation in a family council include children’s grades, how chores are working, whether or not that cross-country uniform was turned in, if expectations are being met, or even how the budget is going.

Write everything down—in multiple places!


During our meetings I am writing in my planner, my Google calendar (which I only just started using, mostly so The Maestro can see my full schedule more easily)(but I sure do like the phone alerts), and the family calendar. The Maestro is entering things into his Google calendar, and the kids should have some sort of notebook or student planner as well.

I make sure to write in my planner all of the logistics that go beyond the schedule, too. If I don’t write down all of the scheduling solutions we thought of during our meeting, I will not remember them when they come up. This is particularly important in our family because we only have one car and it takes a little bit more coordination than it would if we had two. (Oh how I wish we had two cars!)

My mom recently gifted me with this cool family council journal. It's a great way to not only keep track of schedule, but everything discussed during your family councils.

Give out allowance


This meeting, for us, is also a great time to hand out allowance. It goes hand-in-hand with evaluation, since they earn their allowance based on the chores they do. When we hand out allowance we are sure to remind the kids to save part of it, and to set aside 10% to pay their tithing as well.

Related: Our Allowance System

We accomplish so much during these family meetings, and when we are consistently doing them, they don’t actually take much time. And the hour or so it does take out of our Sunday nap time is totally worth it! Our home runs more smoothly, our schedule works out, our relationships improve, and we are all happier.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Decorating With a Purpose: Why What's on Your Walls Really Matters


As a parent, I want my kids to know which things I value most. One of the ways I do that is actually through my home decorating. While I love pretty things as much as the next person, I have always made sure that the things I pick to put on my walls or shelves are things that carry deep meaning for me.

Did you know you can teach your children what you value by simply decorating your home? #overstuffedlife
I do have a few things here and there that are put up purely because they are pretty. But everything else is put up because it has meaning, and because I want my children to be surrounded by those things. My biggest goal in decorating my house is to create a spiritual and loving environment for my children.

I want my home to feel like a refuge for my kids.



As I type this, I am in my office. I am not including any photos of my office because it is currently a little too messy for public consumption, but I have a lot of photos and art in here. I have two paintings of Jesus Christ, I have two framed inspiring quotes, I have some framed artwork done by my children, I have six framed photos of my kids and my husband, and I have a framed poem that Chloe wrote for me.

Messy though it is, anyone can see what's important to me by looking at the items I have displayed. I love my Savior, I love my family, I want to be a better person.

I'm hoping that my children will also know what's most important to me by looking at the way I have decorated the house. I do have photos of other, less messy, rooms to share with you, so you can see the types of things I personally love to decorate with.

Here are 10 lessons I am hoping they learn via the environment I have created in our home:

I want them to know I value FAMILY.




See more of my living room by clicking here: Living Room Decor

I want them to know that I love JESUS.



I want them to know that HAPPINESS is a choice.




I like to hang meaningful words and quotes. These are both in my kitchen and remind me to be happy and to laugh with the people I love.

I want them to know that they— MY CHILDREN—are my most prized possession.



The photo above features a favorite family photo as well as a quote by Dieter F. Uchtdorf, a leader in the LDS Church. In it, he is speaking to young women and reminding them that they are princesses—daughters of a Heavenly King. I love the quote, and since I have all daughters, it hangs in our family room.

I want them to remember that they LOVE each other.



I display this photo and others like it because it proves that these sisters adore each other. Even though they don't always act like it, they are the best of friends, and I want to remind them of that on a daily basis.

I want to remind them of our yearly FAMILY THEME.




Each school year, we pick a new family theme. This year's theme is "Do What is Right, Let the Consequence Follow." Every year, I create a printable that I can frame and display prominently somewhere so that they can remember it. Many past themes are still displayed in various parts of the house, too.

See all of our past themes here: Neves Family Theme and Back-to-School Feasts

I want them to remember GRATITUDE.



I want them to develop their TALENTS.



The painting in this photo was painted by The Maestro's grandmother. She was an avid painter, and when she passed away, every member of the family got one of her paintings. We chose this violinist girl, which had always been our favorite among her work, because of our strong musical background. I hope that it reminds my children to develop their talents just as their great-grandmother did—whether those talents be in art or music or something else entirely.

I want them to develop GOOD MANNERS.



The girls' bathroom is full of photos of the three of them together (see more of that bathroom here: Bathroom decor), a framed quote reminding them to LOVE, and most importantly, a reminder to flush the toilet! Are my kids the only ones who can't do that regularly? (I am guessing not, since somebody made the sign and it was being sold in a store!)

And, I want them to appreciate MUSIC.




Out main bathroom is decorated with Puccini opera posters. It makes me happy. Opera is a big part of my life, and a way I have developed my own talents. And Puccini is my favorite.

What I've shown you is a very small portion of what is actually hanging on my walls and adorning my shelves and tables. I love to decorate my house. It is mostly full of family photos because that is what I hold most dear to me. But every single thing I've used to decorate with is somehow meaningful to me (and to my husband—he's actually a great partner when it comes to decor).

Finally, I love how this has translated into my own daughters' rooms. I went into the big girls' room tonight and snapped a couple photos (Sophia was already asleep, but she also puts the things that are important to her on her walls).

This is Bria's side of the room:




She's got a LOT of stuff on her walls, but I love all of it. I love that she has things pertaining to church, school awards, a temple, photos of her sisters, things about the violin, movies she loves, etc. I used to not want them to decorate their rooms in this manner, but I realized it wasn't a battle worth fighting. And I'm glad I didn't stick to my guns, because it allows them to express themselves and show me the things they value.

Here's Chloe's side of the room:


Hers is a bit more sparse, but she has similar types of photos. The prophet, Jesus, her sisters, her sports ribbons, inspiring quotes, photos of her friends.

I love to see this in my home. I love to know what my children value.


What do you put on your walls?

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

5 Ways to Help Your Kids Deal With Technology Appropriately

Are you frustrated with the amount of time your children are on electronics? Or are you unsure how to keep them from viewing inappropriate media? Here are a few ideas that have worked for us. #overstuffedlife

I love technology. I love it enough that I might burst out in song about it, a la Kip from Napoleon Dynamite. It is so amazing! I don't know what I ever did without things like my computer or my phone. (Okay, so I do know what I did without them, and it wasn't really so bad.) For an introvert like me, the invention of email and texting was sent from Heaven!

But I also hate technology. I hate it with a fiery passion that makes me want to scream sometimes. And I hate it the most when it turns my children into glassy-eyed lumps on the couch. Just look at that picture up there! It's embarrassing. And infuriating! And mostly my fault.

After all, I'm the one that gave them their devices. I'm the one that allows them to be on the computer or to watch television. I'm the parent! But man, it's difficult to control the beast once it has been unleashed into your home.

Technology is here to stay.


No matter how many times I want to take away their phones and iPods and never give them back, I realize that that is completely unreasonable. Technology is sticking around and it is better to learn to adapt and teach my children how to use it appropriately than it is to take it away completely. (Note: They are grounded from their devices when their behavior/attitude warrants it.)

There are a few things I've come up with that have helped us navigate the technology and electronics beast in our house. We aren't perfect at enforcing everything all the time, I fully admit. However, these things do work well without having to completely take it away.

Limit


Limit the time they are allowed to spend on screens. Limit the games and apps they are allowed to have on their devices. Limit the data they are allowed to use. Limit the type of shows they have permission to watch.

Make sure there are clear rules regarding electronics usage in your household and then follow through, follow through, follow through.

The one thing I've learned here is that if I miss one day of following through on the limiting rules I have set, it will immediately be taken advantage of. Especially the time limits and the rule that they are to leave their devices in the charging station outside my bedroom each night. If The Maestro and I don't follow through on these things I will have three children with phones in their beds staying up hours after their bedtime watching YouTube videos.

Edit & Research


We have fairly high standards in our house regarding what types of movies and TV shows we allow our children to watch. Unfortunately, I am not familiar enough with every single show out there (I am actually not much of a movie/TV watcher at all), and do not always know what is appropriate. If they ask my permission to watch a show I know nothing about, I hop online and start researching it. I ask my friends if they know about it. I look on websites like Kids in Mind which lays out every reason why you might not want your child watching a particular movie. Then we can make a more informed decision.

We have also recently discovered VidAngel, which is a movie streaming service that also edits the movie. For $1.00 per movie, you can watch a large selection of films (many of which aren't offered on Netflix or other streaming services) and you can choose to edit out nudity, language, or immodesty to your liking. It's a great service that allows me to feel better about the things I am allowing into my home.

I still advise researching, even before using a service like VidAngel, simply because the very plot or nature of the movie may not be appropriate. Use good judgment and let your kids know that you are making these decisions because you love them and want them to keep high standards.

Watch together


While it's sometimes nice to let your kids go off to watch a movie while you get things done, it's better to watch it with them. Or at least pop in and out. This allows you to have an idea of what they are watching (or what games they are playing, which apps they are using) and it also helps you have some good together time with your kids.

Discuss


Watching it together and researching beforehand give you an excellent chance to discuss a myriad of things relating to the technology your kids are consuming. You might have great discussions about why they will not be allowed to watch a certain movie or download a particular app. You will also be able to have good conversations about plot points, characters, and anything else you are seeing while watching together. Again, more quality time for you and your kids.

Spy


This is for the kids that have personal electronics devices. Make sure they understand from the get-go that those devices belong to YOU and that you are only allowing your kids to use them. Make it clear that you will have all passwords, passcodes, and any other pertinent information on their devices so that you can spy on them.

Of course, you're not actually spying on them when you are telling them that's what you're doing! But don't forget to do it. Read their texts, look at their Facebook, go through their YouTube history, and know exactly what they are doing on those devices. Then use your knowledge as an opportunity to discuss things with them.

For instance, I have been able to have some great conversations with my girls when I see texts that are not kind or are gossipy. Or we have been able to talk about some videos or music that may not be appropriate for them. So far, I haven't found much worse than that—luckily! Because of this, my girls are more sensitive to bad language in music or videos and I have observed them changing the channel on the radio in the car or turning off a YouTube video as soon as they hear something inappropriate. I appreciate that.

(I just realized that these tips spell out LEWDS—maybe that will be a great way to remember, since we're hoping for our children to stay away from lewd media!)

Bonus Tip: Be an Example


If you want your kids to use their technology and media appropriately, than you have to do it, too. There can't be double standards here. If they can't watch an online video, than you shouldn't watch it either. If they have limits on the time they spend on their devices, or are required to do chores before they can use them, then maybe you should apply those same limits to yourself.

There is no more powerful teacher than example.

Monday, October 19, 2015

A Surprising Way to End Temper Tantrums {free printable}


It's amazing how entitled my kids can be sometimes. Shocking, really. I'm sure I acted that way as a kid, too, but I'm still surprised every time the entitlement rears its ugly head at my house. Don't get me wrong, my kids aren't demanding every new gadget and throwing kicking and screaming temper tantrums whenever I say they can't have something, but they do act entitled sometimes. And there are even temper tantrums, sometimes, too.

The entitlement shows up in small ways:


Talking back.
Not honoring the family rules (especially regarding electronics usage).
Not cleaning up after themselves.
Impatience.
Unable to take correction.
Lack of self-control.
Feeling sorry for themselves.
Temper tantrums.

Kids throw fits for many reasons, and one of those reasons is entitlement. This free printable allows you to help reverse those feelings of entitlement and calm down. #overstuffedlife

Related: How I Finally Found a Way to Limit Screen Time Without Being the Bad Guy

Did I mention the temper tantrums?


I'm mostly talking about one of my children right now—Sophia. She's the youngest, and she's by far the most strong-willed of my children. Still, the other two have thrown their share of fits, and still occasionally throw them.

I don't mind my kids telling me how they feel about things, or that they want something, or that they don't want to have to do something.

I do mind the manner in which they tell me their feelings. If they can do it in a respectful way and not get hyper-emotional about it, we can talk about things and possibly even work something out. But if they cannot do that, all bets are off.

Temper tantrums are unacceptable behavior.

All of the entitlement things I listed before are unacceptable behaviors. And all of them have an easy fix—including the temper tantrums.

When my girls are acting entitled, I turn their thoughts to gratitude instead.


It doesn't always work, because sometimes they want to be angry (and sometimes they just need a nap or some food in their bellies!) and it's tough to get them out of it. But I gently try to turn their thoughts and hearts to the things they have, rather than the things they don't. To count their blessings and remember how wildly blessed they are!

One way I've been doing this lately with Sophia is by having her write in a gratitude journal when she is feeling like she has to throw tantrums. When she is completely out of control, I ask her to please go to her room and write down what she is grateful for until she can feel calm again.

It works every single time.


A gratitude journal can help kids to stop throwing temper tantrums.

Sometimes she writes a few things, and sometimes she writes a few pages. Every time she does this exercise she comes back downstairs with a happy heart and she is completely over whatever it was she was throwing a fit about.

Want to try it for your own kids? 


I've made a couple printables to turn an inexpensive composition notebook into a gratitude journal. I like to buy the kind that have cute patterns on them (like these I made into reading journals) and I thought the black and white polka dot pattern looked perfect with these printables.

Make an easy and inexpensive gratitude journal with this free printable.


I never want all the math stuff inside the front cover, so I made a cute gratitude printable to go there. You can also print it out just to frame or something, I'm not picky. Any reminder of gratitude is a good reminder for all of us!

Make an easy and inexpensive gratitude journal with this free printable.

To download:

If you are on a desktop or laptop computer, enter your email in the form below.

If you are on a mobile device, click here to see the form.

A zip file containing both printables will then be sent directly to your inbox.


Make an easy and inexpensive gratitude journal with this free printable.

And, if I'm being honest, a gratitude journal helps me to be happier and more calm, too. I can act pretty entitled sometimes myself. I even throw fits if I'm not careful! Remembering our many blessings can help ALL of us to be happier!

10 No Sew Halloween Costumes Anyone Can Make

Too busy to make an elaborate Halloween costume for your kids this year? Try one of these super easy, no sew costumes! #overstuffedlife

Halloween comes at the absolute worst time of year for me. I love making costumes for my kids, and have often gone all out, but some years something has to give. The good news is that making Halloween costumes doesn't have to involve pulling out my sewing machine at all!

I've gathered a few of my favorite no-sew costumes from around the web to share with you today. If your Halloween is as stressful as mine is, maybe you'll find something here that you can whip up quickly and still be the costume hero for your child.

No Sew Cheshire Cat Costume

Too busy to make an elaborate Halloween costume for your kids this year? Try one of these super easy, no sew costumes!

A couple years ago my girls decided to go with an Alice in Wonderland theme. I sewed up a costume for Alice, but the other two did their own DIY versions. I particularly loved Bria's ideas for the Cheshire Cat—the smile idea is my favorite. Click here for specific directions: Cheshire Cat Costume.

No Sew Ninja Costume

Too busy to make an elaborate Halloween costume for your kids this year? Try one of these super easy, no sew costumes!

I sure wish I had seen this one last year when Sophia went as the Nuclear Ninja from Studio C's Grammar Avengers. I just bought a ninja costume, and it was kind of dumb because it kept falling apart and coming undone all the time. This DIY Ninja would have been so much better! To see the full instructions click here: No Sew Ninja Costume.

No Sew Elmo Costume


Too busy to make an elaborate Halloween costume for your kids this year? Try one of these super easy, no sew costumes!

I don't have littles anymore, but I just absolutely LOVED this costume for Elmo. I love the clever use of a no-sew tutu and making an Elmo hat with a glue-gun and a few other supplies. Making this would be a cinch! To see the full instructions, click here: No Sew Elmo Costume

No Sew Snowman Costume

Too busy to make an elaborate Halloween costume for your kids this year? Try one of these super easy, no sew costumes!

With the popularity of Frozen still going strong, this is a great costume for a kid who would like to go as Olaf. Just add a couple brown pipecleaners on top of the head instead of the hat, and you've made our beloved Frozen snowman. Everything about this costume is easy! See full instructions here: Simple Snowman Costume.

No Sew Incredibles Costume

Too busy to make an elaborate Halloween costume for your kids this year? Try one of these super easy, no sew costumes!

Look at this cutie pie in his super hero costume! The great thing about it is that you can make it for kids of all sizes—baby to adult. I am especially fond of the solution for the Incredibles logo on the shirt. See full instructions here: No Sew Incredibles Costume for Any Age.

No Sew Mario Kart Costume

Too busy to make an elaborate Halloween costume for your kids this year? Try one of these super easy, no sew costumes!

Here's where I admit that I have no idea about Mario Kart. BUT, my kids do, and they thought this was a pretty cool costume. I think the cloud is extremely clever! Find the full instructions here: No Sew Mario Kart Costume.

No Sew Riddler Costume

Too busy to make an elaborate Halloween costume for your kids this year? Try one of these super easy, no sew costumes!

Super heroes are popular Halloween costumes, but I don't know that I've seen many Riddlers out trick-or-treating. This one is super easy to make! You could even whip it up just a few minutes before going out on Halloween night. That's my kind of costume! For full instructions, click here: DIY Riddler Costume.

No Sew Doughnut Costume

Too busy to make an elaborate Halloween costume for your kids this year? Try one of these super easy, no sew costumes!

Isn't this adorable? This one does take a bit more planning and preparation, but for the final product to be so stinking cute, I think it's worth it! It could easily be made larger for older kids, it would just take more stuffing and felt. For full instructions, click here: No Sew Doughnut Costume.

No Sew Owl Costume

Too busy to make an elaborate Halloween costume for your kids this year? Try one of these super easy, no sew costumes!

Next year I want to see if I can convince my girls to do a Harry Potter theme again, because I want to make this costume and have one of them be Hedwig. Don't you think it's perfect for a Harry Potter themed Halloween? I just love it, and I can hardly believe you need absolutely no sewing skills to make it. Full instructions are here: No Sew Snowy Owl Costume.

No Sew Dragon Costume

Too busy to make an elaborate Halloween costume for your kids this year? Try one of these super easy, no sew costumes!

This Dragon costume is another incredibly simple costume to make. I personally think this one would be good for older kids who aren't comfortable going all out in a costume. The dragon hat and wings are plenty to give effect, plus the child can easily make this himself. Find full instructions here: DIY How to Train Your Dragon Costume.

Halloween should be fun, and if stress over time spent making costumes (or money spent buying them!) is an issue, these costumes give some really creative ways around that. I especially love that older kids can make most of these pretty easily, and I think they would love participating in the creation of their own costumes this year! I know my girls certainly enjoy that.

Happy (easy) costume making this year!