be a photo superstar: organize your photos now, for the year

organize your photos

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organize  your photos |


For so many of us, photo organizing is an absolute nightmare.

Hundreds and hundreds of family photos are sitting, stuck, on cameras, phones, zip drives, and old hard drives.

They rarely–if ever–get download from camera to computer or phone to computer.

Many of us have dozens of photos loose in boxes.  Here there, and everywhere.  Photo mess.

And we’re not alone. I think it’s more the norm than not to have photos mixed up.  When we’re dealing with all that’s on our plate as busy parents, photo organizing often falls by the wayside.

This year is going to be different.

We are all going to be photo superstars, organizing photos now for the year. And beyond.

See? We’re serious about living focused in 2015, yo. Serious.

Here’s the skinny. .  .

Be a Photo Superstar–Organize Your Photos Now for the Year:

organize  your photos |

1. First things first:  Start fresh now.

Now. As in today. As in this month. Wherever you are right now.

Don’t go nutty trying to catch everything up from previous months or years. You’ll go nuts. If it happens that here and there you begin to clean up the past in the next few days or weeks, great. If not, then just celebrate the fact that now you are taking charge of your photos from here on out.


2. Create folders. Folders are key.

And? Stay simple.

Go into your computer and find your photo program. I have a Mac, so I use iPhoto. If you have a Windows computer, you may have Photo Gallery installed. If you can’t find it or figure it out, just start fresh and create a folder called photos.

organize photos file system |

Your photos need not be organized into specific events or children or anything crazy like that. Stay simple.


3. Do a little moving.

For real. Just a little.

You know you’re going to create a Family Snapshot photo album for the holidays? Start dragging photos into a ‘Family Snapshot 2015′ album.

From here on out, drag the few photos that might work for that project into that album. Bam.

organize photos file system |


You always make super-cute mugs with your kids’ faces on them for Mother’s Day or Father’s Day? Start a ‘Family Gift’ folder.  Today.

Shimmy some photos into that folder. Bam.


organize photos file system |


You have wanted to start that baby book for your child for the last few years but never have? (Yeah, me neither.)  Create a folder for each kid, so that when they come running to you for pictures of themselves that they need THAT VERY DAY, you can just head over to your ‘Maddy album’ or ‘Owen album’ or ‘Cora album’ and let the kid choose.

organize photos

Delete photos that don’t matter.

Honestly, I totally screwed up my old computer by letting — get this– 35,000+ photos accumulate on the hard drive. That is way, way too many. The folks at Apple suggested I keep photos more in the 5-3,000 range, if that.

When you know better, you do better. So now I’m at 5,0001. Gulp.

4. Start backing up.

You really don’t want to lose your photos, friends. You really don’t.

Try these options:

  • Have your photos automatically upload and backup to Google;
    • for Android: photos app -> settings ->auto backup
    • for computer: download the Autobackup app;
    • for iOS (iPhone, iPad, etc.): google app -> menu -> gear -> camera/photos -> auto backup on (remember to allow Google to access your photos by going to settings -> privacy -> photos -> allow Google
  • Use Backblaze to back up your whole computer, photos and all
    • I love Backblaze because it’s affordable and automatic and all of my stuff is safe, somewhere in the clouds.
  • Grab a hard drive or a few zip drives to keep your desktop clean.
    • I’m pretty crazy and use both a hard drive to automatically backup my stuff each night and zip drives to hold my blog photos.

organize photos |

  • Use Instaport to save all of your Instagram photos
    • Really. Free and easy.  Save them all or just tag some of them a certain way (maybe use #family or #keep) and the photos with that hashtag will automatically be saved to your harddrive. Cool, right?
    • Just remember to then move those photos right to your Family Snapshot (or whatever) folder every few weeks.

Shutterfly Photo Books 468x60
That’s it. Not only should this help you get back on track with photos, but when it comes time to make your photo books or photo gifts, you’ll have photos ready. The gifts won’t take you a million years to create.

You’ll grab a coupon. Upload the folder to the photo site (we like Photobooks, stationery, cards, and more from Shutterfly.), and bam. Ready to roll!

Check out a little more about photo books (when I say we love them over here, I mean it!):

busy mom trick for making yearly photo books |


photo books for kids and family: 15 best, coolest, most clever and creative

What works for you? How do you stay on top of your family’s photos? I’d love to hear it!


ive focused in 2015 organization sq

#livefocused posts:

fyi: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Forever and always I recommend only products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”  For more information, please see teachmama media, llc. disclosure policy

how to schedule power kid time into your every day

how to schedule power kid time into your every day | a weekly organizer designed to make kid time a focus

post contains affiliate links




I am not kidding with this.

You guys, the days may seem slow, but once your kids hit elementary school, life totally moves into fifth gear.

Completely. Like seriously life starts to flash by.

schedule power kid time

I’ll never forget what a gal from my Moms Club said to me, when I ran into her at the grocery store one day, (she was kid-free, and I was juggling three kids under five). She said, Amy, you won’t believe this now, but it’s true: the days are slow but the years are fast. 

At the time, I remember thinking, Suuuuuure, lady. You enjoy your peace and quiet and coupon-shopping while I try to keep these kids occupied long enough for me to grab what I need for this week’s meals on top of two monster boxes of diapers and a human-sized bag o’ dog food. Awesome. Sure long days and short years. Mmmmmkay.

You know what, though? She was right. So right.

And though she didn’t pen that infamous parenting quote, it has stuck with me like glue.

I so know how so many of you feel right now–you’re so tired. You’re barely hanging on some days. You love your kids more than you ever thought possible, but you’re really filling your days with things to keep you all busy, hoping that the activities stretch you from nap time to playgroup to mealtime or tv time. Then your spouse comes home, you slap five, and you go do your work–tutoring, teaching, selling, cleaning, whatever–and he takes over.

how to schedule power kid time into your every day |

how to schedule power kid time into your every day |


Or something like that.

I get it. I was there. And I still am there in so many ways.

Though my babies are all in school now, I struggle to find carve out power time with them each day.  Time that counts, whether it’s because it’s quality snuggle time, time to just listen, or time to help them develop a solid foundation for learning.

This month, because we’re kicking off our #livefocused year, I thought I’d share something that could help during those crazy times–something that can actually help you no matter where you are with child raising to schedule power kid time into your every day.

No, it’s not a nanny, and it’s not a babysitter, housecleaner, or cook. So sorry.

It’s something that really may give your days, your weeks, and your months more focus.

It’s a super-simple sheet that really does nothing more than give you the place to schedule a little power time with your kids into your every day.

Power time with each of your children.  Whatever ‘power time’ may look like to you.


how to schedule power kid time into your every day

Sure, we’re with our kids a million hours each week. We’re with them every single day, for hours. And it’s awesome.

But are we really with them–listening to them, learning from them, supporting them in the best way we are able?

Because if we don’t spend power time with them now, before we know it, our kids may not want to even entertain the idea of spending time with us at all.

Here’s the skinny. . .

How to Schedule Power Kid Time into Your Every Day:

Believe me when I tell you that I never used anything like this when Maddy, Owen, and Cora were little.

But I truly believe that had I used it, it would have helped keep me a little more sane, allowed me to let a little bit go if I could have had it on paper each week.

Instead, I kept all of my power time plans in my head: Okay, Maddy needs some help with her d’s and b’s, so let me do a little of that with her this week; Owen’s grip is totally crazy, so I’m going to do some fine motor activities with him; and Cora is still calling every color ‘pink’ so we need to do a little work so the gal learns those colors


And along the way, let me do the grocery shopping, laundry, and cleaning.  Dog walking, clothes shopping, and meal preparing. And I’ll schedule a few playdates, make sure the kids are getting to doctor appointments, clean the guinea pig cage, and do what I can to make sure we’re all happy and having fun. Oh, and let me help them learn their letters and numbers and colors and all that good stuff.

It’s a lot.

I feel grateful that my head was always filled with fun ways that my kids could learn those foundational skills, so it wasn’t hard for me to come up with ideas. The activities were usually based on research, on the stuff I was reading for my grad classes, the activities I had done when teaching, and the methods I was using for my tutoring students.  Or they came from parenting magazines, friends, or blogs I was reading.

I just grabbed a few things I had around the house that supported what we needed that day, and I used them during that quiet time before nap or rotated rooms during their rest time.

But I truly think that these little weekly plan sheets can help every parent get a little more organized this year–help parents deliberately plan power time for their kids each day or week.  

Power time does not need to be elaborate, crazy lesson plans. Just ideas, friends.


schedule kid time each each |

 weekly planner _

If you’d like to download our weekly power time planner, here it is: weekly planner _

(Remember, if you’re interested in sharing, great! Please consider linking to this post rather than the attachment page, please!)

And punch holes in each page, add them all to a 3-ring binder.  Include some dividers with folders, and you have a sweet, simple little planner.

Or, if you don’t want to go that route and you don’t want to punch holes, get a skinny report cover clip, and that can be your calendar planner.  Either way, remember we have the 2015 calendar because we love you that much.


I have the planner. I downloaded and printed. Now what?

Jot down ideas. Just so you remember to grab the puzzles from the basement when you go down or so that you remember to print out a few mazes or alphabet cards or find a few pennies for cleaning or pick up cheerios or pretzel sticks from the grocery store.

Sit back with a cuppa at the beginning of the week, look roughly ahead at your weekly schedule, and figure out a few things you want to do with your kids. What kind of power time you want to spend with them.

Visit our FAQ page to find out where you should start or to find ideas that work for your kids. Or check out the navigation bar to find other topics. I’ll have another post coming soon filled with places to go from here if you’re stuck.

On top of doing all that other parenting stuff.

Use the ‘to do’ lines to jot down some general things you must accomplish each day.


schedule kid time each each |

schedule kid time each each |

  • Use the boxes to schedule three things you want to do during kid time. Remember with little ones, you may have full days at home. Full morning. Full afternoon. Fill ’em up, friends.  And think: movement, mind, and me time. Each and every day.

movement: Kids need to move each day, both fine motor and gross motor.

mind: Kids need to stretch their mind each day, in some way, shape, or form.

me: Kids need to have alone time each day, playing by themselves, doing something independently.

schedule kid time each each |

schedule kid time each each |


  • If you have more than one child, use the ‘to do’ lines the same as above, but use one box for each child. Most likely, you’ll be doing a bunch of things together, which is totally cool. Just try to fit in at least one focused activity with each kiddo each day.

You want to shoot for one activity that packs some kind of punch.


schedule power kid time |

schedule power kid time |

  • If you have older, school-aged kids, just using the sheets to make sure that you are adding time for each child each day–no matter what. Maybe you’re not sitting down together each and every day to craft or play like you could when they were younger, but any time together, even if it’s having a child help you with dinner or helping him organize his Pokemon cards (gah!) counts.
  • Make these sheets work for you and your family. There’s no wrong way.

And that’s it.

Just a little somethin’ to keep in your back pocket, my friends.

What do you think? Yay? Nay?

How else can I help?

live focused 2015 b w collage



ive focused in 2015 organization sq

#livefocused posts:

fyi: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Forever and always I recommend only products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”  For more information, please see teachmama media, llc. disclosure policy

organizing play spaces: 4 steps to awesome and tips every parent needs

organize playspaces 4 steps to awesome


I’m  hoping that you’re still doing a rockstar job taking control your three things this month because, sweet mercy–you can manage to organize three things.

Whatever it is that has been bugging you, whatever it is that causes you the most stress or anxiety, start there.

That sock drawer? The coat closet? The laundry room? You can do it.

This is the year, friends. We’re taking control of our life and our time, and we are living focused.

Need the whole deal? Check out the get yourself organized post as a refresher.

organizing play spaces: 4 steps to awesome and tips every parent needs

I do understand that often it’s overwhelming if you choose something big to organize.  We often don’t know where to start or what to do after we get started. Or sometimes we just get sick of doing it in the middle and want to quit (I do, at least).

Lucky for us, I have recently joined forces with the amazing Rachel from Rachel and Company, and we have some really cool projects in the works.

For real.

Like cool ways to help you and your family get organized–and stay organized.

Like cool things just for your tween. Or just for your kids. Or just to help you organize some super-tricky parts of your life.

Can’t wait.

Until then, I have Rachel sharing some awesome tips for organizing play spaces over here for us today.

You’ll love her.

And you’ll totally love the Organizing Play Spaces Printable we’ve created.  (Scroll on down–you’ll find the link!)

Here’s the skinny. . .

Organizing Play Spaces–4 Steps to Awesome and Tips Every Parent Needs: 

Organizing Play Spaces, by Rachel Rosenthal

The holidays are over but are the new toys, games and books your kids got for the holidays taking over your home?

Don’t worry, you’re not alone! They’re taking over my home too and I do this for a living.

Now that everyone is back in school and we’re all back in somewhat of a routine, it’s time to stop tripping over that new toy fire engine when you get up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom. It’s also time to finally organize all this new stuff!

So, what to do?

To start, find a designated “play space” to keep everything organized, or as you know, the toys and games will take over your home.

organizing play spaces: 4 steps to awesome and tips every parent needsorganizing play spaces: 4 steps to awesome and tips every parent needs

Even if you don’t have an entire room to devote to “play”, creating a space in the corner of another room can really help contain the clutter in one area (or at least give you a starting point!).

Without a place to put something, we can’t expect our little ones–or even ourselves–to have an organized play space. And while as moms we are prone to taking on all the organizing ourselves, I am giving you permission to stop doing it all yourself.

Depending on the age of your children, I say, get them involved.

There are age-appropriate organizing tasks that your children can do, and now is the time to empower them to be involved in living an organized life.

Things might not be “perfect” or the way you want them, but that isn’t the point. We want to empower our children and ourselves in creating a space truly conducive to play.

organizing play spaces: 4 steps to awesome and tips every parent needs

organize play spaces 3

Below are some tips on organizing your play space that even your youngest kids can help with!

  • Put all small items like doll accessories, toy cars and even game pieces in labeled containers without a lid. This keeps similar items together and makes for easier play and clean up. Adding a label (a picture or words) helps little ones participate with the organizing.
  • Don’t try to organize your entire play space at once. Choose one category of items, like dress up clothes or board games and focus on just that before moving on. Our printable on organizing your kids can help. It lists out some of the top items that need to be organized in a play area and gives just a few easy steps for paring down what you have and getting an organizing system into place.
  • Have a “hide the clutter” basket. Keep a large empty basket or container in your play area. This can be used two ways. Just make sure that you set a time limit on how long items can stay in this basket. We recommend no more than one week.

1. A quick hide all:  if you need to get things off the floor in a flash (think unannounced guests).

2. An easy organizer:  Whether it’s you or your kids who are reorganizing the play area at the end of play time, fill the container with everything that is left out, then carry it with you to put the items away where they belong.


Rachel Rosenthal of Rachel and Company is an organizing extraordinaire.  Rachel uses creativity, style and a little elbow grease to help families get their homes, schedules, routines and lives in order. As a professional organizer, Rachel empowers families of all ages and sizes to live more organized, productive lives and has helped over 900 clients since starting in 2008.

Rachel works nationally with clients, is based in Bethesda, MD with her 7-year-old identical twins, and she has been featured in publications such as Better Homes and Gardens, Huffington Post, Washingtonian, The Washington Post, Parents, NBC4 and Fox5. Rachel can be reached through her website: and company  rachel collage



Thank you, Rachel!

I love Rachel’s idea of the open containers, especially for younger kids, and I love the idea of the ‘hide the clutter’ basket–with limitations and guidelines.

So smart.

So let’s get you organized, my friends.


Here’s a super-cute printable that Rachel and I collaborated on. I think  you’ll dig it.

Organize Play Spaces Printable: organize play spaces 3

If you choose to share or link to the printable (and we hope you do!), please link to this post rather than the document itself. Thank you!



So there you have it–a really quick way to organize your child’s play space, wherever that may be!

How do you stay organized? What do you use to organize play spaces? I’d love to hear it!


live focused 2015 b w collage



ive focused in 2015 organization sq

#livefocused posts:

family volunteering on martin luther king, jr day

family volunteering on martin luther king, jr day

Last year was the very first year we volunteered as a family to honor Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday.

But it will not be the last.

Already, we’re looking for other ways we can give back to our community this year to celebrate the life of this great man.

Family volunteering on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is easy, thanks to a handful of really awesome organizations designed to make finding volunteer opportunities the easy part.

Not even kidding.

family volunteering on martin luther king, jr day


It takes five minutes to find a great option for your family and then register right there and then. And registering means only that you’re letting someone know you’ll be there.

No fees involved.

Here’s the skinny. . .

Family Volunteering on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day: 

Friends. You will be so happy to see these resources and how organized and awesome they are.

Is one better than the next? You decide.

They’re all actually like brother and sister and cousins, so find what works for you!

Here are several starting points for family volunteering:

Points of Light | The world’s largest organization dedicated to volunteer service – mobilizes millions of people to take action and change the world.



family volunteering on mlk day


Points of Light is like the starting point. The Big Daddy. The homebase. The command center.

Everything you need is there, and the organizations below (many of them) can be found there.


All for Good | All for Good is a hub for volunteerism and community service on the Internet, and a service of Points of Light.

family volunteering for mlk day

We found our volunteer activity here last year, and we’ll use it again this year.

It’s super simple to use, and you can search by area of interest (think: adult education, animals, culture, environment, schools, sports & rec, technology, seniors, etc.).

You can search by National Service Events, and you can search by dates.  Most importantly, you can search


HandsOn Network | They inspire, equip and mobilize people to take action that changes the world.

volunteering for families for mlk day

HandsOn Network puts people at the center of change and connects them to their power to make a difference by adhering to these values:

  • People drive change
  • Passion overcomes obstacles
  • Service bridges and bonds
  • Innovation drives results
  • Servant leadership transforms

The cool thing about this platform is that you can really share your awesome with others, too.  You can share your skills in different ways, at any time of the year.

You can join an HandsOn Action Center and help where it is most needed.


Host a Sunday SupperAmerica’s Sunday Supper is a key program of Points of Light.

volunteering for families on mlk day

Inspired by Dr. King’s vision of people of diverse backgrounds interacting on personal levels, America’s Sunday Supper encourages people to share a meal and discuss issues that affect their communities, to increase racial and cultural understanding and to promote unity. 

I love it.

Will we do it? I’m not sure we’ll do it this year, but I want to.

Points of Light provides resources like talking points–conversation starters–and tons of recipes.

The goal? Inspire each of your guests to host their own Sunday Supper. I mean, what better way to have these important conversations?


GenerationOnTheir mission is to inspire, equip, and mobilize youth to take action that changes the world and themselves through service. 

I am so excited to share about this site. So excited I found it!


volunteering for families


Really, allowing your kids to check out the GenerationOn site may be a super way to get them inspired for volunteering.

They’ve got videos of teens and tweens and elementary schoolers talking about why they volunteer.

They’ve got a site that is uber user-friendly.

They’ve got tons of important causes clearly outlined.

They’ve got tons of project ideas.

They’ve got a boatload of really worthwhile resources.

And I’m betting that for many kids, this will be all they need to really get psyched to make a difference–make their mark–on the world.


generation ON mlk day



And that’s it for this year! Hopefully this will get you excited about volunteering for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day–or any day of the year.

What do you to celebrate this day? I’d love to know!

Have you used these platforms before? What was your experience?

Want a little more for MLK, Jr, Day? Check out: 

fun ways to celebrate martin luther king jr day cover

fyi: affiliate links are used below:

organize your family’s week: small step with big payoff

organize your family's week

post contains affiliate links



I’ve often talked about our house having a ‘command station’ or central hub, where you could find almost anything you need.

And though each family should have one, I’m sure that for each family it’s different.

organize your family's week

Ours command station is in our kitchen, and it always has been.

In our kitchen, near our phone, near our newly organized junk drawers, we have a tile that literally tells the story of our week.

It has been hugely helpful for us, and it’s something that I cannot recommend highly enough.

Here’s the skinny. . .

Organize Your Family’s Week–Small Step With Big Payoff:

So how do we make our week happy? Easy.

We share the love. We share the news. We share the schedule.

There’s no biggie calendar on the way with everything we need; we use google calendar for that.

Instead, we go weekly.organize your family's week: small step with big payoff

Here’s what helps me take our schedule day by day. . . the widget for my phone. . .

organize your family's week: small step with big payoff

. . . and this calendar widget shows our whole google calendar on one screen.

Monday through Sunday each and every week.

On an 8″ by 10″ ceramic tile–one kind of like this tile but bigger.

We use dry erase markers and a happy little photo stand.

organize your family's week:

organize your family's week:

Even when we were doing our kitchen renovation, we used the weekly tile. Just kind of in a different place.

What we do to make our week happy is we put it all out there. We lay out the week’s plan at the beginning of each week. That way, any time the kids want to see what’s going on, all they have to do is check out the tile. If they want to add something, they can.

The little letter on the righthand side of the tile? The letter of whomever’s day it is. No questions. No surprises.

And at the end of the week, we wipe it away and start fresh.

During the summer, we don’t go week by week; rather, we go day by day.


organize your family's week:

Our days together are longer in the summer, so there’s a lot more that happens in those hours between wake-up and bedtime.  On summer mornings, the very first thing I do is write down the daily schedule so that there are few surprises.

And from breakfast to dive to swim to lunch and afternoon pool time, it’s all covered.

It’s not perfect, by any means.

But it helps.

And for kids who oftentimes thrive on routine, it’s helpful for them to know that our schedule is always here.


So there you have it–a really quick way to organize your family’s week in super-small steps with big payoffs.

How do you stay organized? What do you use to keep your family organized each week? I’d love to hear it!


live focused 2015 b w collage



ive focused in 2015 organization sq

#livefocused posts:

fyi: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Forever and always I recommend only products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”  For more information, please see teachmama media, llc. disclosure policy



new year’s family plan: 100 good deeds

new year's family plan: 100 good deeds

sponsored post
new year's family plan: 100 good deeds

I’ve long stopped creating New Year’s Resolutions because, well, they always seem to be broken.

Instead, we, as a family, try to make some positive changes at the beginning of each year.

We use the time to get refocused.

We use the time to check in with each other.

We use the time to start some healthier routines.

Not always easy–this I know.

This year, we’re all starting the 100 Good Deeds plan.

As a family.

And it’s a pretty cool way of kicking off the New Year.

Join us.

Here’s the skinny. . .

We’re not alone in our 100 Good Deeds Plan; in fact, we’re part of a huger than huge campaign geared toward making some positive change.

The premise is that the wearer of the bracelet does good deeds–just put more good into the world.

The Rules of the Game? 

A ‘good deed’ means you’ve gone out of our way to help someone, and it only counts if the deed remains anonymous.

Each time you do a good deed, you move the rubber ring one bead closer toward the 1GD button.

new year's family plan: 100 good deeds

The 100 Good Deeds Bracelet was created by Mary Fisher – artist, author, advocate – who spent a decade partnering with at-risk women in Africa and around the world, designing jewelry made by the women to earn a dignified livelihood.

Fisher, a leader in global social change, launched The 100 Good Deeds Bracelet, a handcrafted collection that symbolizes a commitment to perform good deeds and bring about positive change in the world.

aFrF-s8D2yuz1pZrvHBma1iSk1fqQKmAL_Y30i9ZzBIFisher says,“The motivation behind The 100 Good Deeds Bracelet collection is to inspire simple acts of kindness around the world.

Each bracelet is a reminder to spread positive change through action and fulfill our mission to Do Good, One Deed, One Bead, One Act of Kindness at a Time.

I LOVE this.

Don’t you?new year's family resolution 100 good deeds blank


Want to grab your own 100 Good Deeds bracelet? Yes you do.

Check it out: 100 Good Deeds site

And please remember, to join the #DeedADay movement, share one of these images on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or Pinterest using hashtag #DeedADay and tagging the 100 Good Deeds Bracelet. That’s it.


These Bracelets are made by vulnerable women who’ve been trained for this work in Uganda, India, Indonesia, Zambia, South Africa, Rwanda, IniInand Haiti. This project gives a women a way to support their families through earnings, while empowering them to also contribute to good deeds around the world.

Join me.

Actually, have your whole family join us–and together, we’ll make some serious change.

Join the movement. Buy your bracelet. Make #DeedADay your plan for the year.

Imagine the example we’ll be setting for our kids!


fyi: I was gifted this 100 Good Deeds bracelet to review and share with my readers. As always, all thoughts and opinions expressed herein are my own, influenced only by my experience as a parent and educator. 

26 cool, new family traditions to start in the new year

26 fun family traditions to start this year

26 fun family traditions to start this year

I’m all about family traditions.

Not only does it make your life as a parent easier, but having traditions gives your kids something to hold on to.

Traditions give kids the feeling of security.

Traditions give kids the feeling of safety and comfort.

Traditions give kids the feeling of strength of family.

And yes, often there are years that traditions also teach kids about flexibility.

Especially when for whatever reason you can’t make the Flag Cake or you can’t organize a St. Patty’s Day Scavenger Hunt.

I’ve gathered 26 cool, fun, new family traditions to start in the new year.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • 26 Cool, New Family Traditions to Start in the New Year:

 Here they are.

1. Complete the New Year’s Interview.  One of our all-time faves.

2. Volunteer on MLK, Jr. Day.  Spend the day doing something that counts.

3.  Make Surprise Notes for your neighbors.  It doesn’t matter when; it doesn’t matter which ones. Just do it.

4. Host a January Favorite Junk Food Party.  Everyone brings one thing: his or her favorite snacky junk food.

5. Make crafts for Meals on WheelsSimple crafts, pretty notes just to brighten someone’s day.

26 cool traditions for family -

6. Participate in a fundraising walk. For whatever cause speaks to your heart. We’ve got some starting points on our blog 4 cause post.

7. Make Valentines for classmates and friends.  We think that homemade is best. They don’t have to be fancy.

8. Do an Earth Day park clean-up. It can be as simple or as involved as you like, with one person or ten.

9. Use the Special Plate to celebrated good days.  The Special Plate makes every one of us smile. It’s a good day when you get to use the Special Plate.

10. Have ice-cream for dinner on the last day of school. Because why not? It’s SUMMER!

11.  Allow everyone to choose his or her birthday dinner. If the birthday boy (or girl) has a party, it’s a dinner in, and Mom and Dad cook a meal of choice. If there’s no party, it’s a dinner out.

12. Celebrate Golden Birthdays, when your age matches the date.  Maddy and Owen both celebrated their Golden Birthday on their 9th year; Cora will celebrate hers when she’s 23, but we’ll most likely celebrate a Half-Golden Birthday when she’s 11 1/2 years old.

13. Eat fondue on New Year’s Day.  Do it up. Cheese, bouillon, and chocolate with fancy glasses and sparkling cider.

14. Make a July 4th Flag Cake.  Strawberries, blueberries, whipped icing, and yum.


26 cool, new family traditions to start in the new year

15. Have a St. Patrick’s Day Scavenger Hunt.  Quick and easy, around the house.  At the end? A little pot o’ gold, of course. Or at least a fun little goodie bag.

16.  Make an Easter Bunny Cake. Round cakes, licorice, and jelly beans make this a special Easter treat.

17.  Organize a neighborhood Egg Hunt.  The eggs don’t have to be filled with jewels–kids love to find anything in their eggs–wrapped candy, pennies, you name it!

18. Have a 1st Day of Summer Cook-Out. Back yard, with hotdogs, chips, and watermelon.  Neighbors and friends. Make it a potluck so it’s easy on you.

19. Make Mom breakfast in bed for Mother’s Day. Awwwwhhh, one of my favorite things ever is when the kids make me breakfast in bed on Mother’s Day. Who cares if the coffee’s cold and toast is burnt? Not I!

20. Go on a family hike for Father’s Day. Let Dad pick the hike, or kids can surprise him. Pack a lunch, drinks, and a blanket. Enjoy!

21. Make Candy Wreaths for your schools.  Because who doesn’t love candy? And really, every single school staff member will love you for it.

26 fun family traditions to start this year

26 fun family traditions WHITE


22. Open new pajamas on Christmas Eve.  One gift before the big day, and it’s always pj’s. Fresh, cozy, new jammies for the big night. And everyone will have matching pjs on for Christmas morning photos.

23. Have the kids make dinner for parents on their anniversary. We haven’t done this yet, but man. I really want to.

24. Schedule a surprise no-school, Cookie-Baking Day in December. Hands down, it’s our absolute favorite day of the holiday season. Well, almost.

25. Boo! your friends in October. Even more fun if you gather a group of pals to do the ‘boo-ing’ with!

26. Make shoebox gifts for the needy at holiday time.  We do this every year, and every year it gets more fun for the kids and more meaningful.  Our church is a drop-off point, but many local newspapers also advertise places that they take these important boxes.

And that’s it!

I’d love to hear what traditions you celebrate and honor each year–there’s always room for more!

Want to download the fancy-schmancy 26 cool, new family traditions poster: 26 fun family traditions BKGD

26 cool, new family traditions to start in the new year |

26 fun family traditions BKGD

All I ask is that if you choose to share this post, please link to this post and not the attachment page–thank you!


Check out a few other posts that may help you develop strong and healthy habits for your family:


create a bedtime routine that works

create a bedtime routine that works

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create a bedtime routine that works For a long, long time I’ve talked about the importance of rest in our kids’ lives, and along with that goes routine.

We all need rest, and we all thrive on routine.

Especially our little guys.

So it’s super important that from the start we create a bedtime routine that really, truly works for our kids. 

What I’m finding is even now that my kids are older, they still need. The. Routine.

When my friends from Scholastic asked me to help create a printable for parents all about the bedtime routine, inspired by the talented Caroline Jayne Church, you bet I was game.

I was happy to do so. It’s a great reminder for the parents with bigger guys, and some of the resources I have here are super for parents of littler guys.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Create A Bedtime Routine That Works:  

1. Give your kids a gentle reminder that bedtime is around the corner. Have a little, low-sugar snack if dinner was early.

create a bedtime routine that works

2. Bathtime, shower, clean those bodies.  Really. We’ve got to get our kids into the habit of staying clean, and for us that really means having a nail brush (because man their nails get dirty–especially in the summertime!), and having washcloths close by all the time.  If kids don’t need a full-fledged shower or bath, then they definitely should still clean face, hands, and feet!

3. Brush teeth. Our big guys still need help with this, especially if they’re rocking some metal in their mouths. Flossing, brushing adequately, and making sure teeth are brushed in the morning and evening is so important!

create a bedtime routine that works   read

4. Pajamas on!  Dirty clothes away, wet towels hung up to dry.

5. Night time clean-up. Once pj’s are on, we also stress that kid have to do a quick pick-up of their rooms. No one wants to wake up to a total mess in the morning!

6. Books, books, books!  I still think it’s super-important to read with your kids before bed, no matter how old they are. It doesn’t matter what kind of reading it is–magazine, children’s book, graphic novel, or chapter book–we just want them reading!

create a bedtime routine that works   read

7.  Quiet conversation and love. Whether it’s prayers or a quick What was the best part of your day? or What are you most looking forward to tomorrow? Closing down the day this way is a great way to wrap up the day and prepare for tomorrow.


Check out the entire Scholastic Parents’ Caroline Jayne Church resource page, including the Bedtime ‘Cheat’ Sheet: 7 Simple Steps to a Sweet and Cuddly Bedtime Routine.

All of Caroline Jayne Church’s books are the perfect addition to bedtime routines and are totally worth checking out!

create a bedtime routine that works |


And that’s it. That’s the routine for us. I’d love to hear the routine for you!

Or check out a few other posts that may help you develop strong and healthy habits for your family:


fyi: This post was written as a partnership with Scholastic. As always, my opinions are all my own, influenced only by my experience as an educator and parent and by my three little loves. 

true holiday spirit notes for kids: remembering the meaning of the season

true holiday spirit notes for kids: remembering the meaning of the season

post contains affiliate links




December is here. true holiday spirit notes for kids: remembering the meaning of the season

I can hardly believe it.

So this season I’m trying a little something different.

Rather than focus on the receiving part of the season, this year, I’m really trying to focus on the giving component. 

The being a good person component.

The remembering the holiday spirit component.

And I’m starting with an Advent Season challenge for my family: to try to incorporate the true holiday spirit into our every day of December.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • True Holiday Spirit Notes for Kids–Remembering the Meaning of the Season:

All month long.

We’ll open our Advent Activity Calendar in the morning like we have for the past few years, but at lunchtime, the kids will have a challenge.

A simple but meaningful challenge.

Twenty-five days of incorporating the true holiday spirit into our every day. I’m excited about it and think the kids are, too.

Though Owen is home sick with me today, I introduced the ‘challenge’ to Maddy, Owen, and Cora today at breakfast.


I said, Okay, so you know that for the last few years we’ve done our Advent Activity Calendars–the one on the tree and our cool k-cup advent calendar from last year, right? 

This year, we’re doing something a little different. We’re going to continue to do our Advent Activities like we have in the past. That way we remember to fit in all of the fun things we love to do each holiday season. 

But we’re all going to try a new type of holiday Advent Activity too. A challenge. Just something super small that will help us remember the true meaning of the busy holiday season.

We’ll talk about what we do each evening, but the cool thing about it is that it’s kind of a secret. Like today’s is ‘be extra nice to one person’. 

You’ll be extra nice to one person, but you won’t make a huge, weird deal about it. You’ll decide on who to be nice to, and you’ll do it. 

Maddy asked, Won’t some of our other friends feel left out if they’re not being treated extra nicely?

I said, No, not really. Because hopefully you’ll be nice to everyone–you’ll just be extra nice to someone else. 

And then we’ll share our challenge answers at home each night. Does that make sense? Kind of a secret thing that we’ll share as a family.

The kids got it. And they dug it.


Here’s our True Holiday Spirit Challenge sheet: true holiday spirit challenge notes

(If you decide to share, please share this post instead of the attachment page. I truly appreciate it!)

true holiday spirit lunchbox notes |


true holiday spirit challenge notes

I created the challenge to work as lunchbox notes because my kids love them and look forward to them. I wanted the notes to be small enough that they could read them inside their lunchbox, and I wanted there to be one note for each day of Advent, one for each day of the holiday season.

The notes are numbered–very lightly–from 1-25. And they include things like:

  • be extra inclusive at recess;
  • say ‘thank you’ to someone–and mean it;
  • ask a quiet classmate how he or she is doing;
  • hold the door for someone today;
  • and more.

So we’ll see how it goes.

Want a few more holiday-inspired gift ideas or activities? Check out:

must have gifts for kids and families |

gifts for sunday school teachers or CCD teachers |


kids and family gift guide from


teachmama gift guide 2012



holiday gift guide |


fyi: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Forever and always I recommend only products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”  For more information, please see teachmama media, llc. disclosure policy

family holiday cards: how to get the kids involved

family holiday cards: how to get the kids involved |

post contains affiliate links
get kids involved in choosing holiday cards |


This year, ordering family holiday cards was totally different for us.

This year, our family agreed on the photos.

Each and every one.

And this year, we agreed on the card.

We agreed on the message, and we agreed on the language.

From start to finish, ordering holiday cards was a family affair, and this year, every single one of us was happy.

Mom and Dad were happy.

My tween was happy.

My third and second grader were happy.

No tears. Only a happy family, all five of us.

Thank goodness we were all happy, because last year was a total nightmare.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Family Holiday Cards–How to Get Kids Involved:

Last year, we sent out holiday cards that I loved.

I mean, I loved them. I loved the photos, I loved the way they were arranged, and I loved how everything looked once they were finished.

I thought they looked really great.

family holiday cards: how to get the kids involved

The photos were natural–the kids were outside in our yard, splashing and playing on a sunny-rainy-rainbow day, and they looked beautiful.

And my husband thought so too.

But my kids? Not so much.

Mom. These are awful.

I can’t believe you would choose these pictures. We look crazy.

Moooooom! I look like a baby. I am so embarrassed.

These are the worst photos ever, and I can’t believe we’re sending them to all of our friends and family.

Right. Three out of five people in our family–over half of us–didn’t dig them. At all.

And though I felt awful, they were already ordered. And they had already arrived at our house.

So I apologized sincerely and promised them that next year would be different. That I’d never, ever order photo cards without a family vote and that they would definitely have a say next year if I could just have their blessing to send them out this year.

That was the deal.

So here we are.

This year was different, from start to finish.

family holiday cards: how to get the kids involved


Here’s how this year was different:

1. We began by choosing a few holiday card designs from four different styles.  The idea is that by trying a few different styles, you’re introducing a variety of ideas to your kids.

I know that there are some styles that my husband would absolutely not entertain. So I kept our styles simple, choosing mostly from

The styles we tried were

family holiday cards: how to get the kids involved


2.  Upload 3-10 agreed-upon photos to the holiday card website. 

Do whatever is easiest: save a handful of photos to your desktop, create a special ‘holiday card’ folder, or flag a few dozen photos in your photo program on your computer.

Whatever you decide, you want to narrow down the photos to about 3-10 that everyone in your family is okay including in the holiday photos.

Then upload those photos to the website you choose.


family holiday photos

3. Choose four holiday card designs

Save each design as you go, and title the designs ‘holiday cards 2014 1, holiday cards 2014 2, holiday cards 2014 3, and holiday cards 2014 4.

And then when you have saved four designs, click on ‘compare designs’. Then you will be able to see each design on the screen. This makes discussion about the designs much easier.


family holiday photos

4. Take a silent family vote.

We numbered ours clockwise from 1-4, and we each wrote down the number of our choice on a piece of paper.

Then we tallied the votes.

Because Owen admitted that when he wrote down ‘1’ he really meant ‘2’, we had a vote that worked: 3:2. It was close, but we talked through the decision and figured out a way to make it work for all of us.


family holiday photos


 5.  Make final adjustments in layout and language. 

Here’s where you make the card work for everyone. We did some adjusting with ours, in both layout and language.

And finally, we found something that worked for all of us.


Super-duper important: before you order, remember to apply. Those. Coupons.

Right now, they’ve got a few seriously good holiday card deals going on.


Tiny Prints Cyber Monday
Really, remember that I shared a ton of coupons for photo books on our family photo book post, and many of those same companies sell rockstar holiday cards, too.

When you subscribe to via email or newsletter, you get access to some rockstar, super-special holiday deals. Check it out!

And that’s it.

When the photos arrive, we’ll create our family assembly line of addressing, stuffing, stamping, and sealing the cards–one of our favorite holiday traditions!  On the night of doing holiday cards, we make hot chocolate, put our pj’s on, and chat together while we prepare our cards.

Bringing out the old boxes of holiday cards is super-fun, too!

The more simple we can make the holidays, the better. . . and the more family time and simple gift-giving, the best!
Want a few more holiday-inspired learning ideas? Check out: 


fyi: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Forever and always I recommend only products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”  For more information, please see teachmama media, llc. disclosure policy. 

something has to change and it must start here–with you and with me

if we want change to happen it must start here |


I rarely write posts like this.  And this one took me much longer than I’d like to admit.

But yesterday I realized something. Something big.

It’s this: if I want change to happen, it has to start here.

I’m a mother of three kids, 10, 9, and 7 years old, and if I want change to happen, it must. Start. Here.

With me.

With my family.

Because I know that though I am only one person, my voice makes a difference.

And so does yours.

Yes, you.  No matter whether you are sitting there reading this your running car in the driveway while your baby sleeps in the back, or whether you are reading this at the counter when you should be cleaning up after dinner, it doesn’t matter.

It doesn’t matter if you’re reading this at your desk during your lunch break or standing at the copy machine after your students leave the building. It doesn’t matter if you’re reading this in line at the grocery store or in line at your kids’ pick-up.

It doesn’t matter if you’re reading this on the treadmill or at the park or at work or at a lunch with your girlfriends. It doesn’t matter if you work outside the home or you work inside the home.

It doesn’t matter if you work or don’t work. It doesn’t matter if you have kids or if you don’t have kids, whether you’re married or not married.

It doesn’t matter if you’re fat or skinny, tall or short, gay or straight, Muslim or Christian or atheist or Jewish.

It doesn’t matter if you breastfed or bottle fed your kids, whether you stick with organics or couldn’t care less.

It doesn’t matter.

What matters is that you are reading this.

And if you are reading this, then know this: you have a voice. And it’s time to use it.

Because if we don’t start using our voices to let others know that prejudice is not okay, that it’s not acceptable, and that it’s not to be tolerated, unacceptable things like this will continue to happen:

Seven white girls are accompanied by seven black men at a formal school dance.

And a school administrator retweeted this tweet:  @OrNahhTweets: Every white girls’ father’s worst nightmare Or Nah?

A school administrator. Retweeted. That. Tweet.

this must end


And this?

Check out these photos on Politicus Sports, in an articled titled White Students at St. Louis High School Wear Blackface During Football Game, by Justin Baragona:



 photos courtesy of . . . please read the entire article at

 A powderpuff football team. Wearing blackface. At a school event. November of 2014.


Do these things make you feel ill? They should.

I’m not here to debate either story or situation; I’m not here to discuss details of any of the photos.  Because if it’s not these photos, it’s something else. You know it as well as I do.

What I’m here to say is that I’m tired of it.

I’m tired of what I’m seeing. I’m tired of what I’m hearing. I’m tired of what is happening, here, in our country and around the world, in 2014.

And you should be, too.

If we want change to happen, it must start here.

With you. And with me.

And though it’s easy to tsk, shake your head, and ‘like’ someone’s angry comment when they share this kind of thing on facebook, that’s not enough anymore. Because you know what? It’s not working.

We need to do more.

Clearly we need to do more if acts of prejudice like this are still occurring in and around schools in 2014. Someone, somewhere is not getting a pretty important message.

So I’m presenting a challenge to you, and I’m taking it on myself. And I’m hoping–actually, I’m praying–that it begins to make a difference.

It’ll take all of us. And goodness knows we’ll need a little luck.

change to happen |

But this is the thing: if we want change to happen, it must start here.

With you. And with me.

Here’s what we need to do and here’s how we can use our voice:

1. Speak up.  In any way you are able. It doesn’t matter how. Just speak up.

Speaking up may look different to all of us, depending on where we are and where we’re coming from.

And I know it’s not easy. But it’s time we start to use our voice, even if it begins with a whisper.

  • Comment on a friend’s facebook status if he or she shares an article or a link about something that feels unjust.
  • Share your own findings–articles or facts or statements that express racial prejudice or injustice–via twitter or facebook or pinterest.
  • Shake your head ‘no’ and walk away when a friend or colleague starts to share his or her prejudiced ideas. Make it clear that you do not share his or her opinions.
  • Excuse yourself from conversations where prejudiced ideas or topics are being discussed. Explain that you do not share the same feelings and that you are not comfortable with the direction the conversation is going.
  • Don’t allow racial jokes in or around your home. If neighbors, extended family, or colleagues joke this way, politely ask them to stop.

This is the thing: if we want change to happen, it must start here.

With you. And with me.

And so we will also. . .

2.Talk about tough topics. With your friends, with your kids, with your spouse.

There’s plenty of material out there, my friends.

Start with our history books.  Watch today’s news.

Talk about slavery.  But talk about how far we all have come to abolish it and to bring our country to a better place. Talk about the awful and the ugly, but talk about the bravery. Talk about power in Martin Luther King, Jr.’s words. Talk about the beauty of people taking risks to support their brothers and sisters, no matter the color of their skin.

Talk about why things like the powderpuff team wearing blackface is not okay and how hurtful and careless and demeaning it is.

Talk about what’s happening in Ferguson, Missouri, and talk about the verdict once it’s shared.

Need a starting point? Black History Month Resources for Families last year. If it’s too overwhelming, just pick up Unspoken, by Henry Cole. It’s a wordless picture book about a little farm girl and a little boy, a runaway slave.  And though it doesn’t answer all questions, it can begin the dialogue for you and your children about this period in our nation’s history and how things are different today.

Talk about race with your friends. Openly and honestly. Talk about what’s happening in the news and how they feel about it. We must have the dialogue, my friends. We must open up the conversation.

And if you’re not completely comfortable with it, it’s okay.  Just be honest. Explain how you’re feeling, and as long as you’re honest and you’re coming from a peaceful place, you will be fine.

Remember that this is the thing: if we want change to happen, it must start here.

With you. And with me.

We will also come together and . . .

3. Celebrate differences.  Celebrate the fact that your children go to school with tons of different people, from all walks of life, with unique hair, skin, and eye colors.   Talk about how cool it is that some kids are preparing for their First Communions while others go to Hebrew school.  Talk about why some of them don’t celebrate their birthdays, while others get to go to Disney World each year for theirs.

Talk about how glasses help Bella see better in the same way that extra reading lessons help Alex read better.

Talk about why some kids buy lunch every day or eat breakfast at school while others bring lunch each day.

Talk about the fact that even though Carly zips through her Mad Minutes in no time flat, Mark can whistle like nobody’s business, and Maddy can do a back handspring on her own.  Lauren can recite an entire poem by heart, and Vincent can write with both hands. Everyone has different strengths; one is not better than another. They’re just different.

Talk about the fact that yes, Nina has a hard time sitting still in class, but she still deserves to learn at your school with your talented teachers.

Talk about the fact that Cole might need the teacher’s help more than the other students, but maybe that’s because his mom was busy working two jobs to put food on the table so she wasn’t able to help him with his ABCs before he got to Kindergarten.

Discuss the fact that some kids’ parents are divorced, some have two moms (or dads), some have one parent, and some are being raised by grandparents. Talk about why some kids live in a one-room apartment while others could land a small plane in their back yards, why some kids’ parents are able to help out in the classroom while others cannot.

Talk about how hard it must be for some families to attend Math Night–because English is not their first language–but how awesome it is that they came anyway. Talk about why your school must have an International Night every single year, even if it’s a homogeneous mix of students.  Make your kids read every single display there and walk around with them, talking about what you see and conversing with each family.

Fill your house with books that celebrate diversity. Read them. Share them. Read them again. Share them again.

Do all of this because really, if we want change to happen, it must start here.

With you. And with me.

Step back a bit, my friends, and . . .

4. Listen to what you say.  I mean really, truly listen to what you say.

  • Are you using derogatory racial terms but don’t even realize it? Think.  Really think hard.
  • Do you use the terms ‘gay’, ‘retarded’ or ‘ghetto’ to describe negative situations or events?
  • Are you singing songs that convey racial–or gender or any type–of stereotypes?
  • Do the programs or games in your home support stereotypes?
  • Do you express prejudice in what you say or do? In the way you interact with those around you?
  • Are you perpetuating the cycle of gossip and toxicity by contributing to negative conversations with friends and colleagues?
  • Do you welcome new people or groups to your clubs and organizations?
  • How do you respond to new ideas, to change, to revisiting old systems and processes?
  • Do you openly proclaim your faith but act in ways that are contrary to those beliefs?
  • Do your expectations for your children vary? Do you demand more from one and less from another?  Are those expectations just?
  • Do you treat your students, colleagues, or friends differently based on their race or gender? 

Just think about it. Be aware, and be brave.

Remember, if we want change to happen, it must start here.

With you. And with me.

Because we all have a voice and it’s time we used it.

Even if it starts as a whisper.


Thanks for hanging in with me. I know this is long, and I know it might be a lot. But you know what? I took a risk and used my voice.

Because really, something has to change, my friends. Something has to change.



fyi: One link in the post above is an “affiliate link.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Forever and always I recommend only products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”  For more information, please see teachmama media, llc. disclosure policy