Overstuffed: 2017 Overstuffed

Friday, May 05, 2017

3 Unique Gifts for Moms

Finding the perfect gift for Mom on Mother's Day can be a bit of a challenge sometimes. I know my mom loves to get letters from us more than anything, but sometimes you want to get her something else, you know? While every mom is different, it's nice to be able to find something unique that they probably won't have gotten for themselves.

I recently received a box of three fun gifts that I think all moms would love to receive, and I'm excited to tell you all about them.

Mother's Day gift ideas—3 unique gifts your mom will really like. Pampering spa gifts and an unexpected DNA test that she would never buy for herself!

This post is sponsored by BabbleBoxx.com on behalf of Single Edition Media

3 Unique Gifts for Mom

1. 23 and Me Ancestry DNA Test

This is one that I am so excited about. My mom (and my dad) both did this test a few years ago, and my mom LOVES to go on her phone and show me all the results. My brother also recently did it, and I have now sent mine in and am waiting on the results. It will be really cool to compare.

Find out where your DNA comes from around the world with a 23andme DNA test. Great gift for Mother's Day!

23andMe is a genetic test—you send in your saliva in the kit they send you (it has prepaid postage, so it's easy peasy), and then you will receive a full genetic report back. You will find out where your DNA comes from around the world in a percentage breakdown by region. They will continue to refine your genetic results as more and more people take their test, so your report may become more detailed over time, which I think is really cool. You'll get an ancestry timeline traced through the generations and find out during which generation each ethnicity was introduced into your genetic makeup.

Doesn't that sound so cool? And it's definitely something your mom will love. I already know how much my mom loves it, after all!

Order your test here: 23andMe DNA Test

If you purchase a test before 5/14/17 you will receive $20.00 off your test (no special code needed).

2. Vichy Mineral 89 Face Moisturizer

This face moisturizer combines mineral rich water with hyaluronic acid which helps to fortify the skin against environmental factors and keep it looking young. Now, every mom I know certainly wants to look younger and loves to try new beauty products.

Use the vichy mineral 89 face moisturizer as part of your skincare regimen

I've been using the Vichy Mineral 89 face moisturizer and I really like it. I like that you can use it as a regular moisturizer or as the first step to a more regimented skin care. Like many busy moms I don't have a lot of extra time to spend on lots of skin care products so this quick moisturizing (you simply spread two drops of the serum with outward movements from the middle of your face) with Vichy Mineral 89 after I wash my face has worked well. And I can tell a difference. I don't know if I look younger, but my skin sure feels softer and more hydrated!

Order yours here: Vichy Mineral 89 face moisturizer

Between 5/1/17 and 6/30/17 get 20% off and free shipping on any order with the code BABBLE.

3. Sabon Butter Hand Cream

Moms use their hands a lot for things like washing dishes, scrubbing toilets, and pulling weeds. Those hard working hands are going to need some TLC, and Sabon Butter Hand Cream is the perfect thing for that.

Sabon butter hand cream is enriched with shea butter

Sabon Butter Hand Cream is enriched with shea butter which helps to heal, hydrate, and reduce inflammation. It smells so good, too! This tube is almond with a bit of vanilla and since vanilla is my go-to scent it's perfect for me. There are many other scents available, too, like citrus blossom, lavender rose, and jasmine. It feels really fancy and my overworked hands are happy when I use it. I'm sure any mom will love it!

Order yours here: Sabon Butter Hand Cream

All three of these items will make unique and interesting gifts for your mom, whether it be for Mother's Day, mom's birthday, or just because. Most moms I know will love to receive products to pamper themselves, and the DNA kit is a really great one that many will not purchase for themselves but would love to do.

Happy shopping!

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

May 2017 Visiting Teaching Handout

Picking a quote from the April 2017 General Conference to take to my sisters for May visiting teaching is the hardest thing for me. There are so many wonderful talks and so many great lessons I personally learned from Conference that it's really hard to choose!

This month, I settled on Elder Holland's talk, "Songs Sung and Unsung." As many of you know, I am a singer, so this talk really spoke my language. On top of using a metaphor that I could really relate to, I loved the beautiful message of being an important part of something larger than ourselves, of learning God's will for us, and knowing that we each bring special and unique gifts to His work.

May 2017 visiting teaching printable handout | Quote from April 2017 General Conference Jeffrey R. Holland's talk "Songs Sung and Unsung." | God is determined to make of us more than we thought we could be

I think sometimes I forget how much God has in store for me—that He has plans for the gifts and talents He has given me. That I don't have to be perfect to start with, because He will take me as I am and mold me.

I particularly loved the quote:

“Come as you are,” a loving Father says to each of us, but He adds, “Don’t plan to stay as you are.” We smile and remember that God is determined to make of us more than we thought we could be.
Quote from April 2017 LDS General Conference by Jeffrey R. Holland, Songs Sung and Unsung

To download:

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


Monday, May 01, 2017

April 2017 General Conference Study Bookmarks

Last April I made these General Conference study bookmarks, and I really enjoyed using them as a way to study the General Conference talks when my Ensign came. I didn't get around to doing them in October because we were on our sabbatical and everything was a little topsy turvy, but I enjoyed them so much I decided to make them again for this past conference.

I know that a lot of you used them for May visiting teaching last year, too. It's a great idea, since we are supposed to be choosing a conference talk for our May visiting teaching visits anyway. I hadn't originally thought of that!

April 2017 General Conference study bookmark | study all of the talks from April 2017 LDS General Conference | visiting teaching idea for May 2017

(That's the Ensign for the last April conference...I'm still eagerly awaiting my copy for this year!)

The bookmarks helped me study because I like the visual reminder and the ability to check things off a list—both of those things really help motivate me!

How to make General Conference Study Bookmarks

1. Download the printable

In order to download the printable file, just put your email into the form below and it will be sent directly to you. If you are on a mobile device, click here to see the form.

2. Print it out

The bookmark is designed to be two-sided. Print it out onto one side of your white cardstock, then reload the paper and print it on the other side. Every printer is a bit different, so make sure you know how to load the paper so it prints in the correct orientation! It should match up perfectly, though I did have trouble with my new printer in getting it aligned just right. But even though it didn't quite match up, I was able to cut it out without issue.

Alternatively, you could glue two papers together to get your front and back.

This bookmark is great for studying the talks from the Ensign for April 2017 General Conference

3. Laminate (optional)

I really like laminating things, so I laminate my bookmarks. They are less likely to rip or get ruined by spilling food or drink on them if they are laminated. I also like to use a dry erase marker or sharpie to keep track of which talks I have studied already.

I have this laminator, which is quite inexpensive. I use these laminating sheets and a small paper cutter.

4. Add a ribbon (also optional)

To make it look extra bookmarky and pretty, I like to punch a hole at the top and add some ribbon. I left space on the printable so you can do that if you'd like.

I printed one for me and one for The Maestro. He's more of a listen to the talks kind of guy, but he might use the bookmark here and there. I'm also definitely going to take one to my visiting teachees this month, too!

I hope you enjoy your bookmarks.

Speaking of visiting teaching, I'd love for you to join us on Facebook at LDS Visiting Teaching Ideas.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

The Real Mommy Wars: 8 Struggles All Moms Understand

The Mommy Wars are a funny thing—moms fighting amongst themselves about the best ways to be a mom. Organic or not? Breastfeeding or bottle? Homeschooling or public? It's kind of exhausting when you get caught up in reading all of the pros and cons to the many different decisions placed before moms every day.

And I hate it.

Because you know what? Moms are already fighting the inner mommy wars on a daily basis! All moms want the best for their children, their homes, and their marriages. And most moms suffer from some amount of mom guilt because they aren't sure if the decisions they are making are good enough. We tend to look to other moms for approval of the decisions we have made, and too often we are met with judgment instead of support, which only serves to compound the mommy guilt and the internal struggles we all face.

The struggles all Moms understand | what to make for dinner | how to find time for spouse | how to raise good kids | how to stretch a dollar | how to keep things clean and organized | how to find time for yourself

I am so thankful when I find supportive women who help me to ditch the mom guilt and make the best decisions for my own home and family. I've found a lot of those supportive women I am looking for have such a desire to help other moms that they have written books and courses that do just that. Today I want to share with you a few of the struggles we all face as busy wives and mothers and some resources that are sure to help you in your own struggles.

8 struggles all moms understand

(affiliate links)

How to raise good kids

This is the big one, you know? We've brought these children into the world and we love them so much, but man—knowing how to raise them right is a struggle. And that's not to mention how hard it is to always stay calm and loving with them. My biggest personal struggle as a mother is definitely how to keep my temper in check.

Resources that can help:

Happy You, Happy Family by Kelly Holmes

The Temper Toolkit: How to Take Control of Your Temper Before You Lose It by Lisa-Jo Baker

The Mom Reality: What Parenting Handbooks Never Tell You by Erin Myers

Everyday Hope: Real Encouragement for Worn and Weary Moms by Kayse Pratt

How to stretch a dollar as far as possible

I started out my mom journey when my husband was getting his Master's degree and had my youngest right after he graduated with his doctorate. Needless to say, we really had to stretch those dollars in those years. Today, we still have to stretch them because teenagers are expensive and a professor's salary isn't huge. I'm always looking for new ways to budget and save money so that I don't feel totally stressed out every time I pay the mortgage.

Resources that can help:

31 Days of Living Well and Spending Zero by Ruth Soukup

Real Life Money Plan: Designing a Money Plan to Fit Your Real Life by Jessi Fearon

How to be Frugal: A Guided 10 Unit Course That Will Teach You How to Be Frugal Online, In the Store, and In Your Home by Jennifer Roscamp

How to Coupon Effectively: How to Save $5200 Per Year In Just 2 Hours Per Week by Lauren Greutman

How to get dinner on the table every night

This might be the worst one for me, personally. I'm super grateful to have a husband who loves cooking and eating way more than I do, so he usually takes this job on happily. But sometimes he can't and that means I have to do it and I feel like I have no ability in this department. But I've got to feed my kids, so learning how to cook and meal plan is pretty essential.

Resources that can help:

What's 4 Dinner Challenge Meal Planning eCourse by Erin Odom and Holly Dvorak

Feeding Toddlers: A Pediatrician's Guide to Happy and Healthy Mealtimes by Dr. Orlena Kerek

Delicious Dinners in Under an Hour by Mique Provost

Slow Cooker Favorites by Lynn Walls

How to find time for dating your husband

My husband and I have gone through periods where we barely see each other because he's busy with work and I'm busy with the kids. I hate those times, because I lose the connection with the person that is my best friend and partner in this whole mom gig. It's really important to do set aside time for each other, no matter what else is going on so that you can keep your relationship with your husband front and center. But there's not denying that it can be a struggle to find that time regularly.

Resources that can help:

52 Dates for Two by The Dating Divas

Boost Your Libido Course by Shelia Wray Gregoire

Making Big Life Changes Together: Pursuing Your Dreams as a Couple by Haley Stewart

Rekindling Romance eKit: 7 Ideas to Help Reginite the Spark by Jami Balmet

How to keep your life and home organized

My house right now as I write this? Not organized. The older my children get, the less time I have to devote to organizing and the more things I need to actually organize. It's a struggle. I love to organize though, it's mostly a matter of staying on top of it and knowing how to organize things in a way that will keep organized. I mean if that's even possible.

Resources that can help:

Clutterfree With Kids: Change Your Thinking, Discover New Habits, Free Your Home by Joshua Becker

Cozy Minimalist Decorating Class by Myquillyn Smith

Overwhelm to Order: The Ultimate Homemaking Binder by Rachel Norman

2017-2018 Personal Planner by Jolanthe Erb

How to keep your house clean

Similar to organization, keeping the house clean is also a struggle. Getting your kids to do their chores so you don't have to clean everything yourself may be an even larger struggle. Finding the time and the know how to get deep cleaning done is something that is hard for me, too. I'm always looking for ways to get more house cleaned faster, aren't you?

Resources that can help: 

Speed Clean the Deep Clean: A Collection of Time Saving Cleaning Tutorials and Tips for Busy Moms by Katelyn Fagan

The Ultimate Spring Cleaning Hack Guide by Amy Bellgardt

Minimize the Mess: A Mother's Guide to Simplifying the Home by Rachel Kratz

Family Chore Planner by Mandi Ehman

How to be more productive

I often feel like I am just spinning my wheels because I am not disciplined enough to do everything I could be doing in a day. Or, more likely, I head into the kitchen with the sole intention of cleaning up the breakfast mess and on my way there, I notice that the living room is a mess. So I start cleaning the living room, and go into my daughter's bedroom to put away the shoes she left in the living room and then notice all the things that need to be done in there...and so forth. It's the whole If You Give a Mouse a Cookie scenario, mom style. The fact that I also work from home doesn't help—I need tactics to stay focused and disciplined!

Resources that can help:

Stretched too Thin: 10 Days to Overcoming the Hustle and Thriving as a Working Mom by Jessica Turner

21 Days to a More Disciplined Life by Crystal Paine

Productivity and Well-Being Ecourse by Lisa Grace Byrne

Your Morning Manual: A Guide and Workbook for Resetting and Maximizing Your Mornings by Emily Bredeson

How to find time for yourself

This just might be the biggest struggle for all moms everywhere. We are so very focused on our children and homes that it often doesn't occur to us to take a little time for self-care—or even that we should! I have also found that sometimes I think I'm taking time for myself and doing a little self-care, but really I am sabotaging myself—perhaps by spending too much time on social media or feeling like indulging in more ice cream is a good thing. Self-care done the right way, though, leaves you feeling refreshed and ready to face your inner mommy battles again.

Resources that can help:

Boundaries and Margins Webinar by Saren Loosli

30 Days, 30 Ways for Mothers to Take Care of Themselves by Angela Henderson

Bullet Journaling for Book Lovers by Anne Bogel

Breathe: A Faith-Based Journey Toward Margin by Amy Blevins

The 2017 Ultimate Homemaking Bundle

If you clicked on any of the above resources, you probably noticed that they all took you to the same place: The Ultimate Homemaking Bundle. This bundle is my absolute favorite thing to buy every year. I am always looking for those supportive mom resources to help me in my own struggles, and I send a fair amount of my "fun" money on these types of ebooks or ecourses. Call me a self-improvement junkie, but it's something I really enjoy doing.

The absolute best thing about the Ultimate Homemaking Bundle is that it has enough resources (106 this year) to last me a really long time, and all for the incredibly low price of $29.97. 6 of the resources I have highlighted in this post cost more than that by themselves if purchased outside of the bundle. And all 6 of them are courses I know will give me great value and will help me with the things I personally struggle with as a mom.

The worst thing about it is that it is only available for a few days every year. The 2017 Ultimate Homemaking Bundle expires on May 1, 2017 at 11:59 pm. So if you're interested in getting almost $2000 worth of really great resources to help you be a better mother and homemaker for just $29.97, you'll want to be sure you purchase it today.

This is the fourth year that I have purchased this bundle, and I am finding it to be one of the best ever!

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

How to Heal Your Gut After a Celiac or Gluten-Intolerant Diagnosis

This post is part of a social shopper marketing insight campaign with Pollinate Media Group® and Hyperbiotics, but all my opinions are my own. #pmedia #HealthiestDaysAhead http://my-disclosur.es/OBsstV

When my daughter was diagnosed with Celiac in the first grade, I thought that simply going off of gluten would be enough to heal her of the major tummy troubles she had been experiencing. As it turns out, I was wrong.

Eliminating gluten from the diet is a very important first step, as gluten is the cause of all the gut damage and continuing to eat it will only result in more gut damage and misery. But there are a few more steps to be taken in order to promote faster gut healing.

Tips for healing the gut after going gluten-free—A diagnosis of Celiac or any type of gluten intolerance usually means that your gut will need a lot of extra help to heal. These ideas will help!

1. Get tested for other food allergies.

Gluten may not be the only culprit in the inflammation you have experienced. In order for your gut to heal completely, it is important that you stay away from all foods that you may be allergic or sensitive to—not just gluten.

2. Consider going on a FODMAPS or GAPS diet.

While you are still in the process of healing, you will also want to stay away from foods that are difficult to digest. I have found that I do much better when I am adhering to the GAPS protocols. Pay attention to how different foods affect your digestion, and stay away from them if they are causing negative symptoms.

My Celiac daughter, now 10 years old, sometimes has gut issues show up when she has been eating too much sugar. Even though she hasn't eaten gluten, the symptoms can be similar. In these cases, I put her back on a stricter diet for a while in order to promote healing.

You will not have to eat this strictly forever, but doing so now will promote much quicker healing and you can then branch out with the foods you eat.

3. Exercise!

Even moderate walking is enough to help get your digestion moving properly because it stimulates the nerves that help with digestion. Sitting for long periods of time will slow down the neurological functions that aid in digestion and contribute to more inflammation.

4. Take a high-quality probiotic, such as hyperbiotics.

Probiotics are helpful for improving gut function, and are even more helpful for those who already have damaged guts due to Celiac disease or other gluten intolerances. We all need those good bacteria in our guts so that our immune systems can work properly.

I have been giving Sophia the Pro-Kids formula from Hyperbiotics. Their line of probiotics is both affordable and effective, which I love. I also love that they are free of gluten (super important for us!), lactose, sugar, soy, nuts, artificial flavors, artificial colors, and artificial preservatives. For those who are on a FODMAPS or GAPS diet, they will be safe to take and not cause extra issues.

The Pro-Kids formula is great for kids because they are tiny little pearls that kids ages 4 and up can easily swallow (they taste like tangy orange). My Sophia hates swallowing pills and can get pretty stubborn about doing it, but she has had no problem with the Pro-Kids formula and actually looks forward to taking it.

Hyperbiotics can be found at Target stores. They offer a line that has something for everyone: Pro-Moms for nursing moms, Pro-Women for all women, Pro-15 for everyone, Pro-15 Advanced Strength for those who need a little extra help in the beneficial bacteria department, and Pro-Kids for kids ages 4 and up. If you need to heal your gut, #followyourgut to Target to get yourself a bottle.

Learn more at Hyperbiotics.com.

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!
tween gift ideas | fun gifts for tween girls | unique gifts for kids and tweens | OshKosh clothing | Brackitz building set | Edible Arrangements Easter gifts | Yum! Spa bath and body products

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.

tween gift ideas | fun gifts for tween girls | unique gifts for kids and tweens | OshKosh clothing | Brackitz building set | Edible Arrangements Easter gifts | Yum! Spa bath and body products

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

Easter basket gift ideas for tween girls | girly gift basket ideas | gifts for tweens | unique easter basket ideas | Easter gifts

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.

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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