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. 

special holiday deals for readers

special holiday deals for readers

holiday deals for subscribers


Thank you so much for subscribing to!

As a thank you for being a loyal (or new!) email subscriber, here are a few goodies for you that I will update several times each week as promotions come and go.

Here and there, where applicable, I will use affiliate links.


  • fashionABLE, 15% off the entire order this week, with code BEMERRY [until 12/19/14]
  • fashionABLE, FREE SHIPPING on domestic orders over $20 this week, too, with guaranteed delivery if ordered by noon on Thursday 12/18

  • fashionABLE, (Wednesday, 12/17 ONLY) we’re offering 30% off popular Meselu scarf in the beautiful charcoal + teal color

Tiny Prints Cyber Monday
Doodle Crate >>

Online Knitting Class
Online Sewing Class


  • Kidorable, Free Umbrella with $20.00 purchase. Use Code:UMBFR  [Need over $20 without umbrella cost. Coupon code cannot be combined with any other promotion. until 12/31/14]


subscriber thank you long newsletter |



must have gifts for kids and family sq




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

gifts that give back: ideas for kids and family

gifts that give back: ideas for kids and family |

post contains affiliate links




Did you celebrate Giving Tuesday?gifts that give back

It’s a really simple concept: give.

Any way you are able, to anyone. Give.

The concept of giving is especially important at this time of the year, and lucky for us, many organizations have made it super easy–and so meaningful!–to give at holiday time.

Looking at my kids’ bedrooms and our playroom, I see we need very little.

So I’m encouraging all of our family members to do something this year that packs a bit more of a punch: buying gifts that give a little more than the norm.

Though there are thousands of ways to do it–something for every family.

These are the organizations that we will be supporting this year.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Gifts That Give Back–Ideas for Kids and Family:

Though I’m sharing this during holiday time, these gifts can obviously be given at any time of the year, for any occasion.

I encourage you to bookmark this, save it, whatever, and pull it out again for birthdays or other special occasions.

Seriously. Give something life-changing to a family in need. A goat. Some chicks. Some seeds. An education. Clean water.

gifts that give back: ideas for kids and family

And give it in the name of one of your kids: Choose a meaningful gift to give a loved one and help children and families around the world receive training and animal gifts that help them become self-reliant. 

The Heifer International Gift Catalog online is super easy to understand and navigate.

You can purchase a share or whole animal for a family: goat, heifer, water buffalo, honeybees.

Giving an animal is like giving someone a small business, providing wool, milk, eggs and more. Animal donations can provide families a hand up, increasing access to medicine, school, food and a sustainable livelihood.

gifts that give back: ideas for kids and family Or you can support women’s empowerment:

If women farmers had access to the same resources as men, more than 150 million additional people would have enough food to eat. We aim to make that a reality. Your gift will provide support for women’s groups, training in gender equality and the means to send girls to school. Help empower women around the world to reach their full potential.

heifer international

Talk to your kids about the fact that so many of these people lack clean water. Can you imagine? Clean water.

And explain how clean water could totally, completely change their lives:

Millions of people around the world still lack access to clean drinking water. In the impoverished communities where Heifer is working, many of the homes lack running water, and some families do not even have a well nearby. Instead, they must spend each day fetching water. This is often a chore left to the children — especially girls — leaving no time for school.


gifts that give back |


Each gift you choose comes with a little card that you can give to the recipient, an Honor Card.  But more than the card is the impact of the gift on the recipient family.

These gifts are literally changing lives–turning life completely around for people. Equipping them with the tools they need to thrive.




gifts that give back |


I met the creator of To the Market, Jane Mosbacher Morris, at the AYA Summit this year. She’s awesome.

The premise of To The Market is to combine the powers of commerce and storytelling to empower the world’s most courageous survivor populations, in the belief that resilience is more powerful than suffering.  How can you not love it?

You can shop in a number of different ways: by goods, by country, by cause, or by local partners. So you can literally find something for everyone, something that really meets your needs.

gifts that give back TTM ideas for kids and family

I love the Eva Necklace, the Sabrina Sparkle Earrings, and the Bernadette Earrings, both from the Starfish Project.

The Starfish Project is a fair trade jewelry company that cares for and employs exploited women in Asia. Each woman that enters into Starfish has a story of abuse and pain. At Starfish they are employed in legitimate, meaningful work where they start to reclaim the truth that they are capable; through counseling, shelter, education and health care they know they are safe; and through the Starfish community they know they are loved.

I also love the Punjammies–all of them. These are ‘lounge pants’ which I honestly think you could wear for any occasion because they are that beautiful.

PUNJAMMIES™ mission is to create pathways to freedom for women escaping the ravages of sex slavery to achieve lives of hope and dignity; each woman learns a trade (sewing) and practices refining her craftsmanship by producing quality sleep & loungewear called PUNJAMMIES™. The finished product is then exported to the US and sold online to countries all over the world with proceeds coming back to benefit each of the sewing centers.


Almost all of my scarves are from fashionABLEfashionABLE‘s mission is:

to create sustainable business for Africans so they aren’t dependent upon charity, but instead earn the dignity of a job. We offer opportunity to everyone, with a primary focus on empowering women. When we invest in a woman, statistics demonstrate that she will have a life-changing impact on her family and community… and herself.

 I love it.

gifts that give back ideas  fashionABLE
Some products I really love?

  • the Mamuye Tote because it is the perfect size for my laptop and the leather is simply beautiful
  • the Tizita Bracelet which is so affordable and cool–a set of three bracelets (two pewter and one antique gold) crafted from beads repurposed from bullet casings and scrap metal found by farmers in the Entoto mountains.  The Entoto community is a place of healing for those affected by HIV/AIDS, treating them with dignity + respect, and providing a fair opportunity to support their families. Under $30.
  • the Selam Scarf and the Gebeyew Scarf both which I have and both which I have gifted to friends and family numerous times.


St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is driven by the mission to advance cures, and means of prevention, for pediatric catastrophic diseases through research and treatment. Consistent with the vision of our founder Danny Thomas, no child is denied treatment based on race, religion or a family’s ability to pay.

gifts that give back  st jude

Everyone is welcome. Everyone. My heart.

Every purchase made from the St. Jude Gift Shop helps St. Jude because 100% of proceeds after all related expenses benefit St. Jude.

They’ve got a ton of celebrity gifts that younger kids especially would love, from their Celebrity Friend Collection: ornaments, jewelry, iPhone cases.

gifts that give back | experience gifts st. jude

You can donate event-based gifts for patients like ‘no mo chemo parties’, holiday parties, and more.

You can donate a things the patients would love, like red wagon (because that’s how little ones move through the hospital–no wheelchairs!), or you can donate art supplies or video games.  Toys, books, or meals for families.

You can donate treatments for the patients. You know they need them. This will help.

It’s an incredible organization, and it’s a great way to give back.


It’s a lot, I know.

But hey–it’s a great place to start.

My suggestion? Either make a decision yourself over here, or bring the kids over, look at the options with you, and let them decide.

I’m betting they’d love to say, Grandma! We bought some kids a goat in your and Grandpa’s name this year!!

How will you give? What will your family choose this year? 

Let me know! I love more ideas!

gifts that give back

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


fyi: The fashionABLE 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. This small percentage of money helps offset the costs of hosting this blog, which helps me keep this content free for you. 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

support small business saturday: teachmama faves

small business saturday |

I have always been a huge fan of small businesses, supporting them whenever I possibly can.small business saturday |

It’s a person’s dream. It’s a risk. It’s hard. And often, these smaller businesses are hidden gems.


Friends, if you are able, it’s so worth heading into your neighborhood Mom & Pop shop to support them during this time of the year.

There’s nothing like walking into a store with your kids and talking to them about all that goes into opening your own toy store or jewelry store or yarn shop or pet store–how rewarding and challenging it can be.

As parents, we have to show our kids that anything is within their reach.

And sure, we all want rockstar deals, but deals are seriously everywhere–even in small businesses.

And sure, we are crazy busy and sometimes it’s easier to order online from the comfort of our homes

So do it.

There are tons of small online business, so this Saturday check ’em out give em a chance.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Support Small Business Saturday– For Your Kids:

Over the years, Etsy has been one of my go-to’s for finding sweet and meaningful gifts, and I’ve come across a bunch of small businesses that I definitely want to share.

Etsy is a super place to start when you have a talent or totally rock a craft; we want our kids to know that if they have talents, they can follow them and even make money from them.

Start with Etsy.

support small business saturday--for your kids

Love To Create Stamps

I am a huge fan of the self-inking return address stamp.

I grabbed the return address label stamp that I use all of the time, modeled after the one below, from Todd of Love To Create Stamps.

small business saturday |

The cool thing? He’s giving readers a 15% discount to his shop. Use LOVETOSAVE .


support small business saturday | teachmama faves

Studio Jewel, by The Bead Girl

Years and years ago I met Lisa at a blog conference, and immediately I fell for her simple, cool designs.

She worked with me to create my favorite initial necklace for my kids. I still wear it often and always I get complements on it when I do.

Check out her stacking mothers bangle bracelets. Love, love, love them.

support small business saturday--start here

Lisa is offering a 20% discount to readers with the code: TEACHMAMA20


small business saturday |

Little Lady Bug Press | Christy Allison design

I have dreamed of having a holiday return address stamp for years, and this year? Well I treated myself to one like the one above. I literally danced around the kitchen when it arrived last week, in a sweet little burlap drawstring bag and looking exactly how I wanted it to. Woot!

Cannot wait to get those cards started this year!

small business saturday |




small business saturday |

Cookin Cute:

I love Liz’s designs. I worked with cookincute to design the most beautiful apron for Maddy ever. I absolutely love it.

I knew what I wanted but didn’t see it in her shop.

So via email, we found a great pattern, the perfect color, and Maddy reaches for this apron any time she’s baking or cooking in the kitchen.  She also threw in a matching apron for her American Girl doll! Super fun.


small business saturday | teachmama



small business saturday |

Uniquely Ordinary 

Last year, when Cora was on a ‘personalization’ kick, I ordered a bunch from this store.

Cindi created fabulous plastic straw cup with ‘Cora’ on it from this shop, and she loves it.   All I explained was, ‘I have a 5 yo girl who loves all girly things: hearts, stars, jewels, flowers.  If you could do it in pinks and maybe some black and white to up the cool factor, that’d be awesome. And the 16 oz tumbler we received was perfecto!

small business saturday |



small business saturday |


I also ordered a super cute personalized cake carrier for Maddy from this shop, and every time we use it, Maddy smiles.  This isn’t the one; we ordered a standard, rectangular cake saver that we love.

The cool thing? Cindi’s giving readers a 10% discount to her shop through the end of January. Use the code: blogger. Woot!



small business saturday |

saffron and saege

Loraleigh creates the most fun pieces of jewelry—necklaces with anything you want, including sweet starfish, initials, animals, and more.

I ordered a gold hashtag necklace for myself this summer. I love it so much that I ordered one for my sister, who helps me so much with work. For anyone—blogger, virtual assistant, or hashtag maven, these are perfect and fun.

I love, love the prices here and variety–I think they’re great for just about anyone but know that Maddy and Cora would love anything from this shop!

small business saturday |



small business saturday |


small business saturday |

Home of Gem

I love this shop’s simplicity and beauty–and I love the fact that Gem brings ‘old junk back to life’.  Every piece has a story, which is so awesome and fun.

All of the items here are completely unique, which I think always make super gifts and conversation pieces. Great gifts for weddings, anniversaries, and holidays. Birthdays and any day. Indoors and outdoors.

small business saturday |

small business saturday |


small business saturday |


Baby Elephant

Need an adorable knit hat for your tiny ones? My sister turned me on to this shop which is run by one of my high school friends.

Colleen is one of the coolest gals I know. You will die for any of the things in her shop. The neat thing is that I vividly remember her mom knitting when we were young.  Love it.

small business saturday |


small business saturday |


My sister is in love with Greyson + Cole for baby moccasins:

I want to eat my niece Ruby’s little legs. Especially with these teeny shoes.

small business saturday | greyson and cole small business saturday |




And she also loves Sweet Lucy Jack for baby moccasins and headbands and cute hats:


small business saturday |


sweet lucy



What is your favorite small business? I’d love to hear it!

Many thanks for supporting these great businesses!

Want a few more holiday-inspired gift ideas or activities? 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’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

the only black friday deals you need for kids and family

the only black friday deals you need for kids and family

post contains affiliate links




Friends.the only black friday deals you need for kids and family

I’m not sure if you’re a wild and crazy Black Friday shopper or not, but in case you are, happy holidays!

Here are a few biggie sales that I’m taking advantage of and that you could, too, so that you are less stressed, closer to being finished with your gift-buying, and securing some pretty decent deals this holiday.

Just a few.

A few deals that will help you and will help me.


Here’s the skinny. . .

  • The ONLY Black Friday Deals You Need for Kids and Families:

These are the only deals you really need to grab.

So grab them, and then eat all the turkey leftovers your little heart desires.

For kids:

Kiwi Crate, Kiwi Crate Black Friday Offer 
Doodle Crate >>

LOOK at the deals I just scored:

kiwi crate DEALS


Little Passports, Little Passports USA Edition: 1 year at $10.95/month

Little Passports, Little Passports World Edition: 1 year at $10.95/month, Buy 3 Save $15 and get FREE SHIPPING! Use Code BUY3, Black Friday Offers – Buy 2 Save $10. Use code BUY2, Black Friday Offers – Buy 1 Save $5. Use code BUY1

My Night Before Christmas from ISeeMe

ISEEME personalized Children's Books

 The Land of Nod, Nod Chair: Originally $129 Now Only $99

The Land of Nod, Save $56 on The Land of Nod’s High Kids Adjustable Activity Table with Bins and Paper Roller!

The Land of Nod, design for kids and people that used to be kids


For tweens:

Zazzle, Up to 60% off on – Use Code: ZWEEKOFDEALS

Customize iPhone cases, puzzles, bags, totes, waterbottles, and more.

Up to 60% off on

For you (or me):


 Craftsy, Pre-Black Friday Sale: Enjoy Big Savings on Yarn, Fabric & Kits

thread art online quilting class at

Love With Food, Black Friday Sale

Mod Cloth, NEW arrivals at 50% off!

Snow Day Welcome Box Offer

For fun:

 Fanatics, Happy Fans-Giving Sale – 25% off plus free shipping on orders over $50

Huge Black Friday Savings at

Cents of Style, Colored Tights $7.98 – 2 Pack Tights $5.58 & FREE SHIPPING


Do you subscribe to via email or newsletter?

You should! Often we do have fun perks for our subscribers like free printables and goodies.

subscriber thank you long newsletter |

This month? We’re trying something different: an curated page full of super-special holiday deals page. 

NO joke.   Subscribe.  Because I love ya.  Subscribe to now


Want a few more holiday-inspired gift ideas or activities? 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’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

family photo books: easy, quick, and affordable for super-busy moms

family photo books: easy, quick, and affordable for super-busy moms

post contains affiliate links



busy mom trick for making yearly photo books |

Growing up, I loved more than anything looking at our family’s photo albums, listening to stories and recalling vacations, events, and milestones.

I vowed at a very young age that I was going to do the same for my own kids.

But man.


Between school, work, activities, and events, I’ve found it’s really, really difficult to do anything in terms of chronicling my kids’ lives much beyond uploading photos to Facebook now and again.  

It’s awful.

And embarrassing.

But it’s probably more the norm than I think, right?

And poor Cora?  Typical third child blank baby book. At least Owen has a few pictures and that one lock of baby hair taped to the inside cover.

So here it is. I have a way that makes keeping track of things easier for me and awesome for my family. One busy mom trick that will make you wanna dance.

Kind of.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Family Photo Books–Easy, Quick, and Affordable for Super-Busy Moms:

For me, it’s all about maintaining.

So my one superstar trick is this: start NOW for next year. And use the folders in your photo program. busy mom trick for making yearly photo books |

Here’s what I mean:

Create a folder called ‘family snapshot 2014′ and then month by month as you upload photos, drag one or two photos from each event into the folder. 

And then, around holiday time, when awesome photo services start rolling out awesome deals, all you have to do is upload the entire folder to the site, let the photos auto-populate in a photo book, and order it.

You’re photo books: easy, quick, and affordable for super-busy moms

family photo books: easy, quick, and affordable for super-busy moms


Remember, even if you’re super far behind, be kind to yourself.  Unless we take an entire weekend to catch up on something like this, you’ll never get totally caught up. Be good with it.

  • So create a folder for this year–no matter what year you’re in–and then go back to the beginning of that year and start dragging photos over to the folder. Set a timer. Give yourself 30 minutes.
  • And upload that folder to the site.
  • Let the photos auto propagate. That means, let the photos auto-arrange into a book.  It’ll be fine. Let. It. Go. Let it gooooooo.
  • Make a few changes–like the covers–and then add maybe one or two captions.  Repeat after me: all you need are the photos. It’s fine.
  • Then order it.
  • Order one for each set of grandparents. They’d appreciate it.
  • And bam. You’re a star.

(Or you will be one when they open it and love you for it.)


Tiny Prints Black Friday

I try to have one book for the kids to open at Christmas full of the previous year’s events. So each year kind of starts around holiday time from the last year and goes through about early fall or Thanksgiving, depending on when I get my act together.

It’s all good. They don’t have to be totally perfect and flawless. Nothing really is, anyway.


family photo books: easy, quick, and affordable for super-busy moms
family photo books: easy, quick, and affordable for super-busy moms

It honestly takes all of one hour–max–and I mean maximum if you keep it up.

Sure, you may want to run through the folder first and delete any photos that you don’t want included, but that’s easy. Super easy.

And do the same for all of your other events, too.  Family goes to Disney? Create a folder. Drag all of the awesome photos into the folder, and then it’s ready for a photo book come holiday season.

family photo books: easy, quick, and affordable for super-busy moms


family photo books: easy, quick, and affordable for super-busy moms


Do the same for the beach, a house renovation, a special event, fundraiser, or school event.

I’ve created photo books for just about everything I can over the past few years, and not only do they make rockstar fabulous gifts, they help to chronicle our family’s little life. They love it, and I love it.

We keep all of the photo books under our coffee table in the living room, and we actually look at them. They’re pulled out, opened, and enjoyed more often than not. I love it. And the great thing is that if something happens to them, they’re all stored in one happy cloud on the site that I purchased them from, ready for a re-order if need be.


family photo books: easy, quick, and affordable for super-busy moms


family photo books: easy, quick, and affordable for super-busy moms


Here are some super awesome deals that I’m taking advantage of and you can, too:


Tiny Prints - Holiday Offer

Shutterfly Photo Books 300x600


Shop Personalized Holiday Cards
Though I’m not totally, 100% caught up with chronicling my kids’ lives, I have figured out that this trick helps me to kind of maintain memories for my family.

One super-simple way that, thanks to modern technology and some great websites and coupons, has made it easy, quick, and affordable for me to create family photo books.

And you can do it, too.

What works for you? I’d love to know how you keep track of photos for your family! 


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

must-have gifts for kids (and families!): 2014

must-have gifts for kids (and families!):

post contains affiliate links



must have gifts for kids and families |


Friends! It’s only the second week of November but already I’ve received two dozen emails from you asking for my gift picks for this holiday season.

What should you get for your preschool nephew?

What does your second grader absolutely need this year?

What will your tween totally love you forever if she receives?

How about your babysitter, your mother-in-law, or your sisters?

Right! I love this time of the year, and I love gift-giving.

And I’m so flattered you care about what I think.  I am so excited to share!

I’m trying and have finally assembled it all: the must-have gifts for kids and families 2014.

And though I usually can shove all of our faves into one happy post, this year? Not so much.

So yes–here are the must-have gifts for kids and families. Our holiday picks.

But we’ve also got our Must-Have Gifts that Give Back and Must-Have Books as Gifts posts, too.

So hold onto your seats.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Must-Have Gifts for Kids (and Families!)–2014:

must-have gifts for kids and families BABIES 2014

For our teeniest teenies:  (babies – first year)

  • Match & Build Soft Blocks by Melissa & Doug K’s Kids: Soft blocks with patterns, numbers, letters, and more.  Perfect for any new baby’s first holiday.

best gifts for kids family 2 to 4 |

For the little guys:  (ages 2-4)

  • Deluxe Pounding Bench by Melissa & Doug:  My sisters have been eyeing this set for their boys for a while now. I know that my nephews will love this.
  • Cool Rain gear: I loved having super cute rain boots, raincoats, and umbrellas for Maddy, Owen, and Cora when they were tiny.  Kidorable has sweet patterns for little ones, like the lady bugs, frogs, and fire trucks. [Use coupon code UMBFR and add a FREE umbrella to your $20.00 purchase. You need over $20 without umbrella cost. YAY!]
  • Personalized Cozy Chair: Every kiddo in my family gets his or her own personalized reading chair when they turn two. Really. And honestly, the kids love ‘their’ chair so much that often they become their ‘go-to’ cozy spot for reading, relaxing, and playing.  You don’t have to go crazy here, but you can if you’d like. Check out these chairs that I adore from The Land of Nod; they start at $99, and they’re the perfect holiday gift!
  • Personalized Story Books: We have had personalized story books for our kids for as long as I can remember. Every kiddo needs to feel like he or she is the star, and seeing a first name in print will do the trick! Love these from Frecklebox.
  • Spot-It: Super little game for kiddos with super-sharp eyes, we have had Spot-It for years and still pull it out often to play. Love. This. Game.
  • Play-Doh Fun Factory Deluxe: All kids need Play-Doh, and all kids need a play center where they can make Play-Doh spaghetti and snakes.
  • Role Play Sets: I’ve gone on and on about the benefits of pretend play, even as recently as this fall. Cora loved the Magician Role Play set, and she had a blast entertaining her pals on the soccer sidelines. I highly recommend any of the Melissa & Doug role play sets for little ones; they’re perfect for getting those imaginations going strong!



best gifts for kids and families 5 to 7 |

For the bigger guys:  (ages 5-7)

  • Order’s Up! Diner Play Set or School Time! Play Set: We had a chance to try both of these sets this year, and they are totally and completely adore them both. Both sets are like little treasure boxes of fun. Everything that kids need to play a full game of diner–from cooking to serving and eating the goodies–and everything kids need to play school–from lesson planning to learning to grade reporting–is included.
  • National Geographic 24 in 1 Space:  There’s a Dinosaur set with this collection, too, and both are awesome. Kids build things that actually light up, and each set has a ton of different objects to build, so kids aren’t limited to a once-and-done thing.
  • Personalized Bean Bag Chair: Though my kids’ aren’t personalized (poor kids!) they do have beanbag chairs and love them. Owen plops down on his while playing video games, and everyone uses the bean bag chair in our book nook.
  • PlusPlus Building Blocks: These? So cool. Picture tiny little plus signs made out of plastic. They come in a zillion colors, and kids simply use them to build 2D or 3D objects. Very cool. Popular in Denmark, I think, but may be tricky for little ones who aren’t super savvy with their fine motor skills.
  • Deluxe Roominate: I actually met the gals behind this product at both Toy Fair and at a Radio Shack event this summer, and honestly? They’re awesome–the inventors and the products. Created by two women, an electrical engineer and a mechanical engineer, who wanted better toys for girls, this whole line is geared toward bringing girls into engineering. The Roominate products are a blend of hands-on building and circuits. So totally awesome.

best gifts for kids and family 8 to 11 |

For the biggest guys and gals: (ages 8-11)

  • GoldieBlox and the Builder’s Survival Kit: We’ve written about our love of GoldieBlox, but I seriously continue to share the GoldieBlox love to anyone who will listen. We love this set, and it’s a super gift for our tween girls.
  • littleBits Electronics Kits: I was introduced to these kits at a Radio Shack event our family attended this summer, and my kids absolutely were in awe of them, as were my husband and I. There are several options here, but each one of the kits involves kids actually playing with light, sound, sensors, and energy–without the hazard of soldering.  Young ‘makers’ could do a ton with the Base Kit, but I’d probably think about getting the littleBits Electronics Deluxe Kit for all three kids to share.
  • Zing Bow and Arrow Set: Owen received two of these sets for his August birthday and loves them. He and the neighborhood kids play with them for hours. The only problem is that they come only with three arrows.  For Christmas, we’re getting Owen the target and extra arrows.
  • Gravity Maze: My kids have totally loved playing with this new game from ThinkFun that is literally a marble run and logic puzzle all in one. So cool.
  • Skallops: From E & M Labs, these are crazy little wood clips that actually hold playing cards together so that you can build structures with playing cards. Remember Marcia and Greg’s card tower from way back when? Our lucky kids have it so easy. No dangling bracelet will knock this tower down!
  • Crayola Virtual Design Pro-Fashion Set: This would be a huge hit for Maddy and Cora, I know. I saw it at Toy Fair this year, and I was in awe of how absolutely awesome it was. Combines traditional coloring with graphic design, and then it all comes to life in an app. Sounds involved, but it’s not. Simple and so cool.


best gifts for kids and family  stockings

For stockings:

  • Fandango Gift Cards: Going to the movies is such fun for kids, but it does get expensive after you add it all up. We’re huge Fandango fans over here, so gift cards will definitely be stocking stuffers for my three, okay, Santa?
  • Amazon Gift Cards: My kids are becoming savvy shoppers, so Amazon gift cards are a big win for them, since they can find just about anything their little hearts desire over there.  Even Aero for Maddy, Game Stop for Owen, and Charming Charlie for Cora would be a huge win.
  • Tenzie: It’s a fast frenzie. . . it’s TENZIE! One of our most favorite summertime games, Tenzie is a dice game. With a million, trillion options for play.   Pair it with the 77 Ways to Play Tenzie book, and it’s a perfectly awesome game for kids of all ages.
  • Word-A-Round: Love this game from ThinkFun. Word-A-Round is a little tricky, but basically it’s words in a circle and you have to figure out what the word is. Fun for everyone. It’s my personal fave because (cough) it’s the only game I’m able to beat Owen in at this point.
  • Create super-cute custom bracelets, necklaces, and rings for your kids at My Bling Place: LOVE these and they’re surprisingly affordable!
  • Tooth brushes: Not sure why, but we always had tooth brushes in our stockings. And so do my kids.

For families:

  • Trampoline: I can barely believe I’m sharing this, but our kids have begged and pleaded for a trampoline in our back yard for so many years, that I finally think we might cave. I think we might cave. I know they’d love it. But I’m not sure I will be able to handle it.   The Skywalker 15 ft round trampoline comes with very high reviews, as does the much smaller Skywalker 8 ft round trampoline. I secretly with my kids were small enough to fit the Little Tykes 3 ft trampoline, but that one would be a better match for our tiny nephews.
  • Tumble Trak: My kids have wanted a mat like this–one they can practice their flips on–for months and months. It is a super gift for kids in gym, cheer, or tumble classes!
  • Subscription Services:
    • Kiwi Crate sends monthly crafts and cool, hands-on activities to kids. Packages include Koala Crate (ages 3-4 years), Kiwi Crate (4-8 years), Tinker Crate (9-14 years), and Doodle Crate (9-16+ years). Subscription Services like these are SUPER awesome gifts because kids are thinking, moving, and creating. They love these.
  • Little Passports is another fun subscription service, and this one focuses more on teaching kids about the world around them. Early Explorers (ages 3-5 years), World Edition, (5-10 years), and USA Edition, (7-12 years) has something for just about every kid on your list!
  • Playstation 4 Destiny Bundle or XBox OneOur kids have played our Wii long and hard for the past five years. Five years. So we’re thinking it’s time to move on since at this point there are no new games being made for the Wii. I’m keeping my eyes open for a good deal on the Playstation 4 or an Xbox One.  Any advice? I’d love to hear it!

That’s not even it.  I’m on such a roll and I know there are like a million awesome things that I’m forgetting.


Want a few rockstar deals on some of these products and more?

subscriber thank you long newsletter |

 Subscribe to and have access to our super-special holiday deals page. So fun.


Also check out: 

gifts that give back


must have book gifts for the whole family


Need a bit more inspiration?

Check out our gift guides of years past. Though the dates have changed, the suggestions are still some of our faves.

Click on the picture for the link:

teach mama gift guide 2013


gift guide teach mama

Want a few more holiday-inspired learning ideas? Check out: 




fyi: We did receive some of these products from companies to try, but the large majority were purchased (or will be purchased!) by our family on our own dime.  I do work with some of the companies above, but I also work with a ton more that I didn’t mention.  As always, my opinions are all my own, influenced only by my experiences as a parent and educator. I’m sharing the best of the best here–our faves.


must have gifts for kids and family 2


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

a must-read for raising confident kids: ‘God Made Light’

a must read for raising confident kids | God Made Light |

post contains affiliate links




a must-read for raising confident kids: 'God Made Light'

As parents, one of the things that we want most for our kids is that they grow to be happy, healthy, and confident adults.

And one simple way that we can do that is to spend quality time with our kids, reminding them daily that they are special and that they are loved.

Reminding them, too, that God loves them and that through them, His light shines is another super-important piece to remember.

Recently one of my friends published a book that focuses on just this fact. The book is called, ‘God Made Light‘, and it’s beautiful and important and moving.

It’s something that every child should have on his or her bookshelf and a perfect addition to bedtime–or any time–reading.

You’ll love it.

Here’s the skinny. . .

I’ve known that my pal Jessica and her husband were working on this book for quite some time, so when it finally arrived at my door, I was over the moon.

a must-read for raising confident kids: 'God Made Light'

a must-read for raising confident kids: 'God Made Light'

And it was even more amazing than I imagined it to be.

The message of God Made Light is simple: that God made light and that light shines within all people. And that it’s our job to share the light with others.

I love it.

So even when times are tough for our kids, when they are having a tough day or are afraid of the shadows or when the sun sets, that need to remember that they are important and special and loved. a must-read for raising confident kids: 'God Made Light'

One of my favorite passages from the book is:

‘Cause you’re just like the sun

and the moon in the sky. . .

You’re as lustrous as twinkles that dazzle the eye.

You’re as splendid as lightening,

when it flashes so bright.

’cause on the day you were born,

God said, ‘Let there be light!’ 

Written by Matthew Paul Turner and illustrated by Matthew Paul Mewhorter, this book is the perfect combination of engaging, rhythmic language, a meaningful message, and engaging illustrations.


a must-read for raising confident kids: 'God Made Light'

a must-read for raising confident kids: 'God Made Light'

My kids love it. Cora has asked for it every night for the past few weeks. And without question, I’ll read it.

And to carry on the message of love and light and confidence, I’ve also been sending the kids to school with the God Made Light Encouragement Notes for Kids: 32 reminders that God’s light shines in you.

Love, love, love them.

Along with our Positive affirmation notes for kids, it’s a rockstar combination. And the fact that the notes carry on the same messaging as this special book? Rockstar.

a must-read for raising confident kids: 'God Made Light'


My feeling is this: the more that we talk about the fact that each one of us–including our children–carry God’s love with us everywhere, all day long and all through the night, the better.

I’m hoping that knowing they are not alone as they walk into these crazy tween years will make it that much easier for them.


a must-read for raising confident kids: 'God Made Light'


I’ll give this book to my nieces and nephews for Christmas, and I’ll give it as gifts for Baptisms and First Communions.  I love it.

And I do believe it’s the perfect thing for all families to find under the tree this season.



There are a few ways to buy God Made Light and the related products.  I’m doing what I can to grab the best deals possible for you:

Tons of great resources on the God Made Light website. Definitely check them out:

god made light freebies


It’s heartbreaking for us as parents to watch our little loves go through the inevitably difficult pre-tween, tween, and teen years. Let’s do what we can to make them as seamless and enjoyable and meaningful as we are able.


fyi: Though I did receive my copy of God Made Light from my friends Jessica and Matthew Paul Turner, my opinions here are all my own, influenced only by my experience as a parent and educator.  Affiliate links are used in this post

holiday note gift idea for families: unique, thoughtful, and FREE

holiday note gift idea for families: unique, thoughtful, free |

post contains affiliate links



Post originally published on 11/24/09 but republishing because I think it’s worth it.  



holiday note gift idea for families | teachmama.comIt’s so easy for our little ones (and even adults sometimes!) to lose sight of what the holiday season is all about.

So last year, when I saw this idea on a late-night, dvr’d Oprah, I knew I wanted to use it. With a little prompting, my family tried out Holiday Notes with both sides of the family.

Even though some interpreted the exchange a little differently, it was a success overall. Most have said they want to do it again, and with a little tweaking, hopefully it will become a worthwhile and cherished holiday tradition.

This Quick Trick is far from quick, but it’s something that seemed to work well for us, so I thought I’d share.

  • Holiday Notes: The idea behind Holiday Notes is that everyone takes a small amount of time to complete one of three different note cards for each member of the family. Over the holiday season–or at a holiday gathering–the notes are then delivered to each person’s special box, envelope, or bag and is read at another time.

Since our immediate family presented both sides of our extended family with the idea, we made special Holiday Note Card boxes for each person–as our small gift.

holiday note gift idea for families |

I picked up the small wooden favor bags at the craft store, and each maybe cost a dollar. Then over the course of two or three weeks, Maddy, Owen, Cora, and I worked on the bags.

First we painted all of them. Then we glitzed, beautified, and decorated. We added bows, glitter (glitter glue is easiest!), sparkles, ribbon, sequins, feathers, and anything we wanted, trying to make each one special for every person in our family.

After everything was dried, we added appropriate name tags.


Then we sat down together and wrote short messages. And I mean short. The three Holiday Note Cards each begin a sentence, and the note cards are tiny.

All our personal messages do is complete the sentence. One note begins, What I love about you. . . The other is My holiday wish for you. . . , and the last one is Thank you for. . .

The Holiday Note Cards can be downloaded here if you’d like: holiday note cards

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Sure, some notes were longer than others. Some messages turned out to be completely hysterical, and others were more sentimental. Some were really long, and others were just one sentence.

holiday note gift idea for families | teachmama.commore note bags

Maddy and Owen (as a 4 and 3-year-old) were very excited about what we were doing. As we worked on the bags, I’d ask them what they wanted to thank their Nanny for or what they wished for their sweet cousin.

I was often surprised at what they remembered (Maddy wanted to thank her Great Grandma for letting her “ice” her own bagels with cream cheese, and Owen loved his Great Grandma’s great big loud laugh and wished that his Nana’s cats weren’t always hiding around her house).

We wrote Cora’s for her because she was so young, but no one was too young to appreciate reading the notes that were written to them. We read them over and over and over. My husband and I both read and re-read our own notes from family members.

Sometimes even a short note–one or two sentences–can mean so much.

holiday note gift idea for families |


We’ll do these notes every year as an immediate family, and maybe the tradition will continue for a few years with our extended family–or maybe this will be the last year. It can become a lot to do when there are many people involved.

But for us, the act of sitting down together, really thinking about what we are thankful for, what we wish for for our loved ones, and what we love about them is what the holidays are all about.

Toys will come and go, but these notes–and the bonds they will help to create–we hope will last for years and years and years and years. Happy Holidays!

Want a few more holiday-inspired learning ideas? Check out: 



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