Overstuffed: 2017 Overstuffed

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

What Makes a Good Friend—10 Signs Your Child's Friend is a Good Influence

After my daughter Chloe went through a particularly difficult friendship with a girl who turned out to be a bully, I've thought a lot about what makes a good friend for my children. I am so thankful for the friends who have been good influences in my children's lives. I'm not just grateful for the friendship, I'm grateful for the examples they have set and the way they help my daughters to be their best selves.

I've found that the signs that your child has a good friend are often the exact opposite of the signs that a friend might be a bully or a person who ends up bringing your child down. The other day while Chloe had a friend over, I was noticing what a great friend she was. I've always known it, but that day I found myself overwhelmed with gratitude for that friend. They were just sitting on the recliner in our living room reading Harry Potter—one of them in Book 3 and the other in Book 4. They didn't even need to be talking, they were just happy to be together sharing something that they loved.

Want to know how to tell if your child has a friend who is a good influence? These 10 signs are a great way to know what makes a good friend—for adults, too!

There's nothing better to a parent than a good friend for their kid!

10 Signs Your Child's Friend is a Good Influence

1. They are respectful to adults—including you.

One of the first things I noticed with Chloe's bully friend was that she refused to spend time in our home, and wouldn't even look me in the eye, much less talk to me with respect. It was pretty disconcerting as a parent!

The good friends my daughters have all talk to me respectfully and are happy to spend time in our home.

2. They don't expect an exclusive friendship.

Good friends recognize that you can have more than one friend. They do not constantly ask "who is your best friend" and make their friends feel like they have to choose between them and other people. They are able to have fun with your child in a large group of friends (like at a birthday party) or one-on-one, and they don't get jealous if your child spends time with another friend sometimes.

3. They help influence your child to make better choices.

As a parent, this one is huge to me. It's a truly good friend who helps influence your child for good! I love it when friends of my strong-willed, often pushy, daughter Sophia help her to realize she's pushing me too far. I love it when my girls have friends who encourage them to study and do well in school. I love it when their friends choose uplifting movies to watch together.

Peer pressure is awesome when it is helping your child to make good choices that will serve her well in the future!

4. They speak kindly of others.

There is so much ugly gossip that goes around—especially with girls, I've noticed. While I have tried to teach my own daughters to always be kind, I appreciate it when that value is validated by their friends. I notice when the girls my daughters hang out with speak kindly of others and change the subject or stand up for someone if mean gossip begins, and I appreciate it.

5. They treat your child with respect and kindness.

The same kindness they exhibit towards others, is also given to your child. There are no cruel jokes. No making fun of your child. A good friend builds up and doesn't tear down.

6. They practice forgiveness.

Nobody is perfect—not even the best of good friends! And my children certainly aren't perfect. A good friend understands this and forgives when their friends mess up.

7. They stand up for your child when necessary.

A good friend will always have your child's back. If other kids speak unkindly about her, she will set them straight!

8. Your child is happy after spending time with them.

It's my favorite thing to see my kids happy. Chloe was just so darn unhappy when she was hanging out with her bully friend and it hurt my heart to see her like that. When my kids come home from spending time with a friend and they are happy and excited to tell me all about it, I am thankful to that friend for being so great!

9. They listen.

A good friend understands the give and take of conversation. They don't make every conversation all about themselves and they listen when your child has something to say.

10. They love your child.

Most important of all, they truly love your child. I am so thankful for the wonderful friends that my daughters have because I know that they love my kids. And my kids love them.

And guess what? I love them, too.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

April 2017 Bonus Visiting Teaching Printable

The April visiting teaching message is titled Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood. What we are really focusing on this month is temple covenants and the blessings that come with those covenants. My first printable for this month simply highlighted a scripture about the power of the temple endowment (see that printable here: April Visiting Teaching handout).

For the bonus printable this month, I wanted to use the quote from Elder Ballard that is included in the lesson:

"All those who have made sacred covenants with the Lord and who honor those covenants are eligible to receive personal revelation, to be blessed by the ministering of angels, to commune with God to receive the fulness of the gospel, and, ultimately, to become heirs alongside Jesus Christ of all our Father has."

April 2017 visiting teaching handout | All those who have made sacred covenants | temple blessings | M. Russell Ballard | Oath and covenant of the priesthood | free downloadable printable

I hope you and your sisters enjoy this little handout for April!

If you would like to bring temple cookies to your sisters along with one of the handouts, I discovered these temple cookie cutters on Etsy (affiliate link). They are only $4.00 each and there are several temples available. Check them out: Temple Cookie Cutters

To download:

Enter your email in the form below and the printable will be sent directly to your email inbox. If you are on a mobile device, click here to see the form.

If you are looking for more visiting teaching ideas, be sure to join us over on Facebook: LDS Visiting Teaching Ideas

Thursday, April 06, 2017

Fun and Unique Gift Ideas for Tween Girls

Easter is coming up, and now that my girls aren't little anymore I'm never sure what to put in their Easter baskets. It's gotten easier for the older two now that they are full-fledged teenagers, but those tween years are a little more difficult. My youngest daughter is just about to turn 11, and she's into those awkward years where they aren't kids anymore, but they're not quite teenagers yet, either. They still enjoy some kid stuff, but they are starting to transition into more sophisticated interests.

It's enough to give this mom a headache!
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This post is sponsored by Babbleboxx.com on behalf of Single Edition Media.

Which is why I was excited to receive a box of spring goodies for tween girls. My Sophia loved everything in it, so I can confidently review these items for you with an enthusiastic tween girl endorsement!

New clothes by OshKosh 

Tween girls are just beginning to enjoy receiving clothes as a gift. And Easter is the perfect time to buy them something new and cute and springy that they can also wear into summer. There isn't much better than filling an Easter basket with something practical that you know your daughter will love and that you'd have to buy anyway, right?

OshKosh patch denim shorts and red white and blue tanktop

Sophia received an outfit from OshKosh which included a pair of cute denim shorts—she especially liked the patchwork design detail—and an adorable floral tank top that she can't wait to sport on July 4th (and many other days this summer).

OshKosh blue floral headwrap with bow

She also received a fun headwrap that she has worn almost every day to school since we opened the box.

This spring, OshKosh has a ton of cute stuff for tween girls. There are graphic tees, shorts, swimwear, and things like bike shorts and scooter skirts for super active girls like Sophia. You can check out their entire spring collection on their website here: OshKosh

Edible Arrangements Easter Gifts

Easter baskets usually have to have some chocolate in them, right? But if you are looking for a sweet treat that is fun and unique for your tween's Easter basket, Edible Arrangements are the way to go! All of their arrangements include fruit, so it's also a slightly healthier option than your run-of-the-mill chocolate bunny!

Edible Arrangements swizzle berries are a perfect easter gift, along with some of their other fun spring fruit and chocolate arrangements

They sent us a box of their Bright Swizzle Berries, which the whole family enjoyed—adults, teenagers, and tween alike! The colors made them especially perfect for an Easter basket.

I loved perusing their website to see the other offerings. To see what they've got for Easter, click here: Easter Gifts at Edible Arrangements. I have to say I am in love with the colorful Easter Bunny party arrangements—the Easter bunnies are made out of chocolate covered pineapple!

Edible Arrangements is kindly offering my readers a 20% discount off any order over $50. Just enter BLOG4716 at checkout.

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Brackitz Building Toys

Remember how I said that tweens are in the process of leaving childish things behind and transitioning into more mature interests? While that's true, they still enjoy playing with toys—especially if there's a "cool" factor and they don't seem too much like something a little kid would play with.

Building things from their imaginations is always attractive to kids of all ages, so these Brackitz Building Toys Sophia received were really exciting to her. She couldn't wait to open them and start figuring them out!

These Brackitz building sets encourage creativity and help kids learn science, math, and engineering skills. Perfect for tweens.

We got the Driver 43 piece set which includes instructions for building 10 different driving machines. Sophia built a couple of those, and then she started making up her own. This set kept her busy for an entire afternoon!

We also got the Inventor 44 piece set, which inspires creativity and building anything from the imagination! It not only encourages imaginative play, but it helps to instill principles of science, math, and engineering in a fun way.

I really liked how they don't include many instructions—just a bunch of really durable pieces that the kids can make just about anything with. I think Sophia liked that, too.

Brackitz are available at Target stores or from their website: Brackitz.com

Yum! Spa Tween Bath and Body Products

One of my favorite things about my girls getting into the tween-age years is that I finally don't have to nag them to bathe. They start actually wanting to! They also start enjoying the fun bath and body items like fruity scented body spray or sparkly lotions.

These cute and sparkly bath and body products by Yum! Spa will be loved by your tween daughter

Sophia received some fun Tutti-Frutti scented items from Yum! Spa that she was really excited about:

2-in-1 Shampoo and Conditioner. Retail $3.37

Sparkle Lotion. Retail $2.97

Shimmer and Shine Body Mist. Retail $3.37

All items are hypoallergenic and paraben-free, but Sophia liked how cute they were, how good they smelled, that they were sparkly and shiny, and that they were just for her. I like that they are inexpensive and that they encourage her to have good hygiene!

Yum! Spa products are available at WalMart. To get a coupon for 75 cents off, click here: Yum! Spa 75 Cent Coupon

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All of these things make great gifts for Easter or any other reason you might give a gift to your tween this spring. Most tween girls I know would be thrilled to receive an Easter basket filled with a cute new outfit, an adorable Edible Arrangement, a fun Brackitz building set, and some sweet-smelling Yum! Spa lotion or shampoo.

Happy shopping!

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

After School Routine Clock for Kids With Variable Schedules {free printable}

I am constantly looking for ways to keep my kids on schedule after school. Not because I want to be the military mom who has them on task and has every single minute scheduled, but because I want them to get the important stuff done so that they can have plenty of time for free play.

The problem I have run into is that if we put free time first, I find it causes the entire family to be more chaotic and things end up not getting done at all. The kids scramble to get homework and projects done before bedtime. If there are extracurriculars in the schedule, such as dance class or music lessons, they get done willy-nilly, and chores are simply forgotten about.

It's amazing to me how much free time we can have if we get the big things out of the way first! My teenagers are usually able to stay on task with a checklist or because they are self-motivated, but my 10-year-old daughter has struggled with this.

I get it. She wants to come home and have fun. But the day is anything but fun when bedtime because a scramble to find the spelling words she needs to study and we argued about doing her chores for longer than it took her to actually do them. On days where she had dance class or another extracurricular activity, sometimes even homework didn't get done.

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Because Sophia is extremely strong-willed, I knew she needed something that would help her stay on task independently. When she can take charge, things work much better for her (and for me!). I was searching around the internet for ideas, and I found this after school routine clock and knew it was exactly what I was looking for! The only problem was, the colors on the clock were permanent, and there was no way to change it for a kid whose schedule is different every day.

I figured that was easy enough to fix, so I came up with a way to make both the clock and the accompanying color-coded schedule erasable.

Here's what you need:

(affiliate links)

Supplies needed for erasable after school routine clock: Dry erase markers, printable, 8x10 frame, and clock

Clock (I got a super cheap one at first, and it promptly broke. This one seems to work great and is still inexpensive.)
8x10 photo frame with glass
Dry Erase markers in multiple colors (I like the fine point ones)
Dry Erase board eraser (optional, but it makes it easier)
After School Schedule printable (download below)


1. Download the after school schedule printable by entering your email in the form below. If you are on a mobile device, click here to see the form.

2. Once you have downloaded the printable, cut it down to 8x10 and put it into the frame.

3. Use the dry-erase markers to fill in each circle with a different color. Use the black dry-erase marker to add another activity to the bottom line. For Sophia, it will be used for dance class and chores. But it can be used for anything your child has going on: music lessons, soccer practice, music practice at home, church class, etc.

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4. Color in the corresponding times on the clock. Rather than taking the back off to permanently color on the clock face, use dry-erase markers to color right onto the plastic face of the clock.

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5. Hang it up where your child can see it after school!

How to use the after school routine clock:

1. Each night before bed, review the next day's schedule with your child. Have him or her help you color in the clock and come up with a schedule you both can agree on.

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2. Remind your child to look at the clock when they get home from school each day. You may need to also remind them when it is time to switch to the next activity. If they finish something faster than the allotted time given, you can give them another option to do until the next time period starts.

3. Enjoy a happier kid who feels in control of her own schedule, but is also getting the important things finished each afternoon!

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Since we have used this schedule, Sophia is even going to bed more willingly. She gets herself ready for bed, grabs her latest favorite book (currently the Big Nate Series or the Series of Unfortunate Events), we pray, and she goes right to bed. Consequently, she's happier in the mornings. She likes being able to have long periods of free time, so she gets her homework and chores done quickly. Schedules really do work like a charm!

If you are having similar struggles with your elementary school children, give the after school routine clock a try!

Sunday, April 02, 2017

April 2017 Visiting Teaching Handout

The April 2017 visiting teaching message is about the Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood. The message includes several wonderful quotes, but I admit I was having a hard time choosing which direction to go with my main printable for this month.

After reading the quotes several times, I realized that I wanted to focus on the temple ordinances part of the priesthood. I especially love how the Lord describes receiving our temple ordinances as being "endowed with power from on high."

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When I was a young performing missionary in Nauvoo, I had the opportunity to help give tours in the historic homes there alongside some of the senior missionary couples. One of the homes I helped give tours in was the Heber C. Kimball home, and I'll never forget how part of the tour asked a question of those taking the tour:

"If you had to cross the plains, what would you put in your wagon?"

Many of the answers given were wonderful: tools, food, clothing. I would then explain that those were all important things to bring, but the pioneers also needed to pack their wagons and handcarts with something else. That something was faith and a special power given them in the temple.

The Nauvoo temple stayed open all hours so each member of the church could make their temple covenants and be endowed with that power from on high. I have no doubt that the power the early saints received from the temple gave them the faith and the strength they needed to face the journey they had ahead of them.

Similarly, the power from on high that we receive as we receive our temple endowments and return to the temple often will help us face our own journeys in a difficult world. That is why I chose the scripture from D&C 38:32.

"There you shall be endowed with power from on high."

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If you would like to bring temple cookies to your sisters along with one of the handouts, I discovered these temple cookie cutters on Etsy (affiliate link). They are only $4.00 each and there are several temples available. Check them out: Temple Cookie Cutters

To download:

Enter your email into the form below and the visiting teaching printable will be sent directly to you. If you are on a mobile device, click here to see the form.

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

If you are looking for more great visiting teaching ideas, come join us on Facebook where I share printables designed by many talented bloggers around the internet, ideas for treats and other fun handouts, and lots of visiting teaching inspiration. You can find the page here: LDS Visiting Teaching Ideas.

Friday, March 31, 2017

A Model for Christlike Service—3 Steps to Serving Others With More Compassion

This post is written in partnership with mormon.org as part of the Easter 2017 #PrinceofPeace campaign. To find more peace in your own life, click here to learn more. 

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A few days ago I opened Facebook and the first thing on my feed was a post that tagged my dear friend Marianne. Her sister had posted a lovely picture of the two of them together and written a beautiful tribute to Marianne, but I had to read it several times before I finally understood that Marianne had passed away the day before due to complications of pneumonia.

I have spent much of this week mourning for the loss of my friend, thinking of the many ways she has blessed my life, and reading through the many tributes to her that have been posted on her Facebook Timeline. I read story after story of Marianne's service to the people around her. Every single tribute I read about her life mentioned her amazing capacity to serve others with love and compassion and shared personal stories of the ways that Marianne had touched their own lives. Everything I read only solidified what I already knew about Marianne: She was an exceptional spirit with a strong testimony of Christ and a gift for serving others selflessly.

Some quotes from her obituary:

Marianne was Christ-like from the start.

Marianne loved to involve and serve others.

Throughout her life, Marianne loved deeply and filled her days in the service of others. We are certain she will continue to serve while in our Father's care on the other side. She will be dearly missed.

I met Marianne when The Maestro and I were newly married, with a 9-month old baby Bria. We had just moved into a larger apartment and Marianne and her husband were neighbors of ours. We became close, and Marianne helped me often with Bria—even sitting with us at church every week and bringing toys and books for her to play with. Even though she did not have children of her own yet, Marianne loved education and had a wonderful collection of things to share with my little daughter.

Marianne playing with Bria in 2003

A year later, when I was pregnant with my second daughter and suffering from hyperemesis and barely able to function, Marianne continued to help me with Bria. Even though she was still finishing up her college degree and had a job, she came over several times a week and took Bria on adventures so I could rest. Bria adored Marianne. They were the best of buddies and Marianne often brought her home with a new outfit or toy.

I was so thankful to Marianne during that time in my life. I am not the type of person who easily accepts service, and I would have never in a million years felt comfortable asking friends to take my child during that time. But I didn't have to ask Marianne. She just called me up one day and told me which times she would be taking Bria and that was that. She didn't give me a chance to protest or claim I didn't need her to do that, she simply saw my need and did something about it. I don't know if she ever knew just how much her selfless act blessed me, but I am eternally grateful.

Marianne and her husband with 2-year-old Bria. 

This Easter, mormon.org is helping us to focus on eight principles of peace that Christ—the Prince of Peace—exemplified and taught. Serving with compassion is one of those principles (to see the other 7 principles of peace, click here: Prince of Peace).

I learned an important lesson from Marianne's compassionate service to me.  Service is something that I desire to do, but it doesn't come naturally to me the way it did for Marianne. She taught me that asking someone how you can help them isn't the way to serve compassionately, nor is it the way that Christ serves. Most people will not feel comfortable telling you what they need most. Marianne taught me that it is best to observe the needs of others, think of ways you can personally meet those needs, and then serve selflessly. True compassion observes on its own.

3 Steps to Serving Others With More Compassion

1. Observe the needs of others
2. Think of ways you can personally meet those needs
3. Serve selflessly

This lesson has been reiterated in a 2012 talk by Sister Linda K. Burton titled "First Observe, Then Serve." Marianne had the innate gift of being able to observe the needs of others and do what she could to help them, but all of us can learn to serve as Christ did.
First observe, then serve | Serving with compassion | 3 steps to serving others with greater compassion and Christlike service

Download this printable by entering your email into the form below. If you are on a mobile device, click here to see the form.

This week I have tried to be more aware of the ways I can serve those around me as a way to honor Marianne's memory. I am working on opening my eyes and seeing what others need. I am working on being less selfish with my time so that I can use more of that time to help others. And, finally, I am working on allowing others to serve me.

I say that last part because that is something else about service that I learned from Marianne. A few years after we had both moved away to different states while our husbands pursued their doctoral degrees, Marianne wrote a personal note to me in her annual Christmas card. I have to paraphrase, because I couldn't find it in all of the bins downstairs, but she thanked me for sharing my Bria with her so generously. She went on to explain how that had been a hard time for her because she had wanted a baby so badly (she did go on to have two children) and it wasn't happening for her. But because I shared my own daughter so willingly it helped to take away some of her sorrow.

Leave it to Marianne to turn around the great service she offered to me and thank me for serving her. But that note helped me to realize that by allowing others to serve us we actually are blessing their lives. I know that I am blessed greatly in many different ways when I look beyond myself and do my best to serve as Christ would serve. I think that is the secret that Marianne has always known—she actually received more from her service to others than she believed she gave.

Help me honor Marianne's memory by heading over to mormon.org to learn more about how you can develop a closer relationship with our Savior and find more peace in your life by watching a beautiful video and learning to serve more compassionately.

Monday, March 27, 2017

How to Organize and Save Kids' Artwork Without the Clutter

When my first child was in Kindergarten I started to realize what keeping all of her artwork and school work would mean. And any mother who has had a child go through school knows it, too. It means piles and piles of paper.

It's paper that means something, certainly, but I am a minimalist at heart and it is tough for me to hold on to all of it without feeling overwhelmed. Now that my first child is a junior in high school I know even better—I would probably need an entire extra room to hold all of the wonderful art and amazing writing my children have created over the years.

It just isn't possible to keep it all.

But you can't just throw it out either! All mothers know that kids will somehow find the artwork you threw in the garbage, even if you carefully hid it underneath banana peels and yesterday's newspaper. It doesn't matter how well you cover it up, because your child will figure out that you threw away their masterpiece and they will never forgive you for it.

Okay, so they'll forgive you, but they will make it even harder for you to get rid of the 20 drawings they did after school today because you've lost their trust. As a mom who doesn't want to drown in paper clutter, it becomes a conundrum.

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Here are a few ways you can save your child's masterpieces while still staying organized:

How to Organize and Save Kids' Artwork

1. Display the Very Best

One of my good friends frames one or two of her children's very best art pieces each year. She has a lovely gallery of really cool kids' art in her stairwell, and I always love to look at it. It makes her kids feel special and adds a really fun personal touch to her home decor.

I always mean to follow suit, but I have not done it. I do have a few really wonderful pieces saved for just this purpose, so maybe it's time to just bite the bullet and spend a few hundred dollars on frames. The walls in my stairwell are completely bare right now! The smiles on my girls' faces would be totally worth any money spent, so I think I know what one of my summer home improvement projects will be!

2. Save just a few items each year in a folder or binder

I have a folder for each year in my filing cabinet. In it, I only put my favorite artwork and writing. The girls love to occasionally peruse those folders and enjoy laughing at the cute things they wrote or the funny way they used to draw faces. Because I only saved a handful of things each year, it is not at all overwhelming and is easy to keep organized.

3. Save the rest digitally

When my first daughter was in Kindergarten, smart phones were not a thing—in fact, I think the year she started Kindergarten was the first year I even had a cell phone at all! Since I was already worried about the paper clutter that I knew would begin to accumulate as my children went through school, I began to scan her school work on a weekly basis.

At the end of the year, I burned all of her work onto a DVD and made a cute little case for the disc with her Kindergarten photo on it. We have very rarely looked at it, but it's nice to know it's there.

Now we have smartphones, and that is the biggest blessing of all! I have recently discovered the Keepy app, which is the perfect way to organize and store your children's art and school work digitally.

keepy app | ideas for saving kid's artwork

How is Keepy different from other photo sharing apps?

Keepy was built specifically for the purpose of sharing kids' masterpieces. It is easy to organize the photos you upload by child. See photo below of my Keepy account for an idea of how this is set up.

Keepy app

Keepy allows you to add voice recordings, video, and text comments to describe the photos. Others can also add their own comments via voice, video, or text.

You can also upload just a video of a moment you want to remember, or perhaps a voice recording of your child. I know that I love going back and listening to the way my kids sounded when they were littler—the way they pronounced words, how much higher their voices are, and just how darn cute they sounded!

Keepy is very affordable, even for the upgraded version. You can download the free version, which allows you to upload 5 photos/videos per month, or you can pay just $9.99 per year for unlimited uploads—about 85 cents a month!

Keepy allows you to make fun photo gifts out of your children's art via the Keepy Store. You can make magnets, mugs, cards, canvases, coasters, and even beach towels (among other things). I love the mug and apron I have with my children's artwork on them that I ordered via another website through the elementary school. But I really like how Keepy gets rid of the middle man—no worries about lost order forms or forgetting to send a check to the art teacher—you can order the items yourself, right from your smart phone.

The items in the store are ideal for Mother's Day and Father's Day gifts.

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The photo books (pictured above) are one of the easiest ways to keep your kids' art accessible to them without cluttering up your home with paper. And you could also order canvases or art prints to hang in your stairwell—which might be easier than trying to find frames for all the odd-sized art you want to display.

Keepy allows you to invite and share your photos with your kids' biggest fans. They will love to see the comments from their grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins whenever a new masterpiece is uploaded. It's a great way to share it without having to share it to all of your Facebook friends.

My minimalist self is very excited about all of the options that Keepy offers for me to stay organized and clutter-free while still making my girls feel special as I save their artwork.

You can get the app on IOS, Android, or Kindle Fire. Click here to download: Keepy App

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Easy St. Patrick's Day Rainbow Cupcakes

I wanted to make some rainbow cupcakes with a pot of gold for St. Patrick's Day, but I procrastinated. I had wanted to use these AirHead Extremes rainbow candies for the rainbows, but I couldn't find them anywhere in my small town and I had no time to order them online.

So, as most procrastinators do, I improvised.

Instead, I was able to find some of these rainbow colored Twizzlers, and figured I'd be able to make them work somehow. And honestly, I really do love the final product.

Pot of Gold at the End of the Rainbow Cupcakes

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Materials needed:

Yellow Cake Mix—because we are gluten-free, I use this one, which is easily found at most grocery stores.

Green Frosting—I was pleased to find this very green funfetti frosting at the grocery store, saving me from dealing with food coloring.

Baking cups—I used silver ones since that is what I had on hand, but it would probably be more fun (and more apropro) to use metallic gold baking cups or these fun St. Patrick's Day themed baking cups.

Rainbow Twizzlers—Note, licorice is NOT gluten-free. I made some cupcakes without the rainbows so that they would be safe for my Celiac daughter. If you choose to use the Airheads instead, those are also NOT gluten-free.

Rolos—Rolos are gluten-free, so you could make some cupcakes with just the pots and not the rainbows.

Plain M&Ms—I just picked out the yellow ones. You could also use yellow Skittles instead.

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1. Bake the cupcakes according to directions, let cool.

2. Frost with green frosting.

3. Cut the rainbow licorice into thirds, making sure to have one of each color of the rainbow.

4. Stick the licorice straight down into the frosted cupcake. You'll want to have it go all the way to the bottom of the cup so that it stands up well.

5. Stick one yellow M&M into each unwrapped Rolo.

6. Place the Rolo onto the cupcake next to your licorice rainbow.

7. Put another yellow M&M or two next to the Rolo on top of the cupcake.

8. Use the funfetti sprinkles that came with the frosting to finish off the look. You could also use green sanding sugar or these gold sprinkles.

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These cupcakes were super quick and easy to decorate and turned out incredibly cute for the small amount of time put into them.

Looking for more fun St. Patrick's Day projects?

St. Patrick's Day Mason Jar Gift

St. Patrick's Day Lucky Printable

Thursday, March 09, 2017

March 2017 Bonus Visiting Teaching Printable

I especially loved the quote by President Uchtdorf in the March 2017 Visiting Teaching Message:

"Though we all have weaknesses, we can overcome them. Indeed it is by the grace of God that, if we humble ourselves and have faith, weak things can become strong."

March 2017 visiting teaching printable handout | Dieter F. Uchtdorf quote | Indeed it is by the grace of God that, if we humble ourselves and have faith, weak things can become strong. | LDS quotes | weakness becomes strength | Ether 12:27

I get fixated on my weaknesses sometimes. Because sometimes it feels like I will never be able to overcome them. I really appreciated how President Uchtdorf stressed that we CAN overcome them—but we have to be humble and have faith and rely on the grace of the atonement.

And that is what I have trouble with most.

Having faith that those weaknesses are not some permanent part of me!

If you are looking for a different quote for March visiting teaching, click here: I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me visiting teaching handout.

This visiting teaching handout comes four to a page. For these smaller quotes I like to laminate them with my personal laminator, and then use magnetic tape to turn it into a fridge magnet.

To download:

Enter your email address into the form below and the file will be sent to you via email. If you are on a mobile device, click here to see the form.


March 2017 visiting teaching printable handout | Dieter F. Uchtdorf quote | Indeed it is by the grace of God that, if we humble ourselves and have faith, weak things can become strong. | LDS quotes | weakness becomes strength | Ether 12:27

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

April Fools Day Mystery Dinner Menus for Kids {free printables}

I'm not a big prankster on April Fools Day—or any other day for that matter. But I still wanted to find a fun way to celebrate April Fools Day with my kids. I remembered that I had done these mystery dinners at church youth activities before, and I figured they would be a fun way to celebrate April Fools Day with my kids without having to also pull off elaborate pranks.

As it turned out, my girls absolutely loved doing it and now look forward to it every year. Each year, I come up with a different theme for the mystery dinner and then create the menus around that theme. We've done Disney princesses, Superheroes, and colors so far.

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The girls love it because it's a lot of fun, but I love it because it's super easy. It takes less work than dinner on an ordinary day because you don't even have to set the table! And there is no need to plan a special menu with special food because it's the menus and the activity that make the meal fun.

How to plan a mystery dinner for April Fools Day

1. Print out your menus. 

There are three menus you will get with your download: Princesses, Superheroes, and Colors. You can give each child a different menu, or give everyone the same one. It's up to you!

To download the menus, enter your email address into the form below. If you are on a mobile device, click here to see the form.

2. Decide on the secret code.

There are ten items on each menu. You just need to jot down quickly which item goes with which part of dinner. Don't worry—you don't need ten courses! Things like plates and utensils are part of the menu, which is the very thing that makes this dinner so fun!

Here's an example, using the Princess themed menu:

Aurora—main dish
Snow White—fruit

Remember, only Mom and Dad know the code!

April Fools Day mystery dinner printable menus for kids

3. Don't set the table!

Call the kids to dinner and explain that Mom and Dad will be their servers tonight, and that they will each receive a menu that they will use to place their dinner orders.

We usually have them order in three courses:

First course—3 items
Second course—4 items
Third course—3 items

If you have time and you're feeling like drawing it out, you can do four or five rounds!

4. Set a timer for each course.

Plan ahead how long you will allow for each of the dinner courses. 5-10 minutes is generally plenty of time.

5. Have a fun and silly dinner!

What makes this fun for kids is not only do they not know what they are ordering, they might receive dessert first without a utensil to eat it with or a plate to eat it from. How funny is it to get a pile of spaghetti without a plate or a fork?

Some kids will have a great time eating with their hands or without a plate, others will prefer to wait until they receive the proper utensils. Either way, they'll have a blast and you'll be the best mom ever for planning such a fun April Fools Day activity.

Little will they know just how easy it was for you to do.

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Happy April Fools Day!

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

What Are the Best Pens to Use for Paper Planners?

I love paper planners. And I love pens and markers. In fact, part of the reason why I love paper planners so much may just be because I love color coding them with pens and markers! I've done a big review of paper planners, but I thought it would be a good idea to do a review of the best pens to use with paper planners, too.

Mostly because that meant I got to play with pens!

There are a few key elements that I look for in the pens I use in my paper planner:

1. Color—I like the color to be bold, bright, and easy to read. I color code my planners, so being able to tell the difference between colors is also very important.

2. Ink flow—A smooth, consistent ink flow is best.

3. Bleed-through/smearing—Nobody wants the ink to bleed through to the next page or to smear everywhere!

4. Price—As much as I love pens, I don't want to have to break the bank to buy good ones.

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In this post, I will review ten different types of pens and their pros and cons. Some of these are pens I already have and use, and the rest are popular pens that I purchased to see how they stood up to my favorites.

There are a lot of really great pens out there, so this is by no means an exhaustive list! I saved my very favorite for last (make sure to scroll all the way down there!), but there are several pens on this list that I really like and would recommend for planning. Other than saving the best for last, these aren't in any particular order.

This post uses affiliate links for your convenience.

The Best Pens for Paper Planners

1. Staedtler Triplus Fineliner Pens

The Staedtler triplus fineliner pen is an excellent pen to use with a paper planner.
These German pens are very popular in the planning community so I was excited to try them out.

(Pictured with the Tools4Wisdom Goal-setting planner, which I am currently LOVING.)


The Staedtler Triplus Fineliners come in a nice carrying case. I didn't know that I would love that as much as I do, but I really love it!

Dry safe. The company claims that these pens can be left uncapped for days without drying up. I chose not to try it out.

Great colors. I purchased the 10-pack of pens, and the colors are just as brilliant as advertised. If you are a serious color-coder, you can also purchase them in 20-pack, 36-pack, or even 42-pack varieties.

Smooth writing. These are a felt tip pen, and the writing is quite smooth.

No smearing.


The darker colors bleed very slightly through the page.


Around $10 for a pack of ten.

2. Paper Mate Ink Joy Retractable Ballpoint

The Paper Mate Ink Joy is a great and inexpensive pen to use with a paper planner.

These pens have been my go-to planner pens for some time.


Vivid colors. I like the bolder colors, but some packs only have more pastel colors, which I don't love quite as much.

Smooth writing. For a ballpoint pen, they write like a dream.

Super cheap. I used to be able to get an 8-pack for just $3.00, but I can't find that deal anymore. Still you can get a 24-pack for only $8.99.


Not a huge variety of colors. Even the larger count pen packs have several repeats of colors.

No carrying case. Yes. This is now a con, and I never knew it before.


$8.99 for a pack of 24 assorted colors.

2b. PaperMate Ink Joy Ballpoint

The Paper Mate Ink Joy is a great and inexpensive pen to use with a paper planner.

Before I found the Ink Joy retractable pens, I used these.


They write exactly like their retractable siblings and come in all of the same colors.


They have lids that don't tend to stay on very well. As you can see from the photo above, I have only managed to retain one lid out of the six pens I was able to find.

No case.


They are more expensive than the retractables as well. You can get a pack of 9 pens in assorted colors for $8.99.

3. PaperMate Flair

The Paper Mate Flair is an excellent pen to use with your paper planner.

These are another very popular pen amongst the planning community.

(Pictured with an Erin Condren Planner—a popular paper planner that I have used in the past and quite liked.)


Felt tip, but doesn't bleed through at all.

No smearing.

Nice, vivid colors.

They have a carrying case!

Comes in different tip sizes. I prefer a very fine tip, so the one I tried out is the ultra-fine tip. You can also purchase them in medium-tip.




About $8.00 for a pack of 8 colors.

4. Zebra Z-Grip Retractable Ballpoint

Z-grip | pens to use with paper planners

I purchased an assorted package of these pens and used them for planning a few years ago.


Inexpensive. You can purchase an 18-pack for $10.00.


Spotty writing. The ink just doesn't flow smoothly.

The colors are not very vivid, and some of them don't even show up well on paper.

Though they are inexpensive, the Ink Joy ballpoint is even more inexpensive and writes much better.

No case.


$10.00 for 18 pens.

5. MagnaTank Gel Pens

Magna Tank gel pen | best pen for paper planner

I used these pens exclusively for planning for about a year.


They hold a lot of ink, and therefore last forever. There is a reason they are called the MagnaTank.

Gel ink. I do like gel ink slightly better than ballpoint, even though I tend to use the ballpoints due to their cheaper price.


The roller balls got stuck all. the. time. It drove me crazy (how did I use these for a whole year?)!

Cheap construction. The pen would unscrew constantly.

Inconsistent ink flow.

No case.


$5.77 for a set of 2 in one color. I could not locate the multi-colored pack online.

6. Uniball Vision Needle Rollerball

Uniball vision needle | best pens to use in paper planning

I ordered these pens last week after seeing them recommended online.


Very fine tip.

Waterproof and fade-proof.

Smooth ink flow. I really enjoy writing with these pens.


The colors are duller and darker than I prefer for planning.

The ink smears before it is dry.

The darker colors bleed through the page a little.

No case.


$8.33 for a pack of 8 assorted colors.

7. Sharpie Ultra Fine Point

sharpie ultra fine point | paper planners

I was surprised to learn that the Sharpie Ultra Fine Point is a popular pen with the paper planner community.


Love the ultra fine point.

Great colors. You can get them in a variety of bold, vivid colors.

Inexpensive. A pack of 24 assorted colors (no repeats) is only about $14.00.


Terrible bleed-through. Your planner needs to have super thick paper before you'd be able to use this pen for planning. Great for writing on card stock weight, though.


No case.


$14.47 for a package of 24.

8. Foray Advanced Ink Retractable Ballpoint

What is the best pen to use in a paper planner?

These were another pen that I saw recommended online.


Super smooth writing. The pen just glides right along, just like a gel pen, even though it isn't.

Cool ergonomic grip.

Good colors. Not as vivid as some of the other pens, but they are still nice.


No case.

A little spendier.


$15.39 for a package of 8 assorted colors.

9. Pilot G-2 Retractable Gel Pen

Best gel pens to use in paper planner

These are my husband's very favorite pens and are also a favorite with the planner community.


Gel ink for very smooth writing.


Refillable, if you would remember to refill them.

Nice rubber grip.


The colors are too dull for my taste.

No case.


$7.34 for a package of 8 assorted colors.

10. Pilot Frixion Erasable Gel Ink Pen

Pilot Frixion | Awesome pen to use for paper planning

Everyone raves about these pens, and so I figured it was high time I actually try them out. I love them and they are my new favorite pen for planning, so I am glad I finally tried them!

(Pictured with my current planner, which is also my all-time favorite planner—The Mom on the Go Planner.)


Gel ink.


Very smooth writing and ink flow.

Great vivid colors.

They come in a carrying case!

Nice rubber grip.

No bleed-through.

ERASABLE. You guys, this is life changing. I thought they would be like the erasable pens of 20 years ago, which I never liked. But this thing erases as good as a pencil would, and it erases easily—no elbow grease required.

Here's an example:

Pilot Frixion Erasable Gel Pen | Perfect erasable pen for planners

I wrote a goal to pay off a credit card in my Tools4Wisdom Planner. But—oops!—I wrote the wrong credit card. Instead of crossing it out, I erased it, and you can barely tell.

Isn't that amazing???


The ink does smear a little before it's dry, but it dries quickly.

Slightly more expensive than I like, but the erasability makes it okay in my mind.


$12.69 for a package of 7 assorted colors.


The Pilot Frixion was definitely my favorite pen. It had everything I really want in a planner pen, plus it is erasable. I hereby crown it the best pen to use for paper planners.

Other pens I really liked and would be perfectly happy using are the PaperMate Flair, my trusty friend the PaperMate Ink Joy, and the Staedtler Triplus Fineliners.