Category: FAMILY

The Ultimate Disney Packing List

If you are headed to Disney World anytime soon, you absolutely must start with a packing list. A trip to Disney World is not cheap, and you don’t want to make it any more expensive than it has to be. Be sure to check out all the ways you can save on your next trip to Disney World. This is where the Disney packing list becomes essential.

With the Essential Walt Disney World Packing List, you can save time, money and sanity while you prepare to “relax” on your next vacation.

My husband, Brian, and I have been to Disney World five times together, and three of those trips included small children. You can print out our Disney packing list and start checking things off your list, or you can read on to find out why some items were included.

Just because it is on this list does not mean you need to bring it. Your needs and wants may be different than ours. Our Disney packing list printable is a starting point and will hopefully prevent you from forgetting something important and having to purchase it while on vacation.

I break our Disney packing list into categories because that is how my brain works to organize all the stuff we need. There is a checkbox to check once an item is placed in the packing zone. For certain things, especially clothing, I designate how many of each item we need to pack for each person.

Once you are ready to pack everything you need for your trip, be sure to check out the “6 Steps for Vacation Packing Success.”

Clothing

Obviously, you need to pack clothes for your trip and what you pack depends significantly on what time of year you go to Disney World. We have gone several times at the end of July, which is HOT. On those days we have been known to switch shirts and underwear when we go back to our room for an S afternoon rest.

If you want to pack fewer clothes, you can always pack laundry supplies and do laundry one evening.

girls in princess costumes

For footwear, we always bring each person a pair of sandals or crocs for the pool or waterpark days and two pairs of tennis shoes for all of the walking. This is important if you get caught in one of the many afternoon rain showers. It takes awhile for wet tennis shoes to dry (put newspaper in them, it helps), and no one wants to wear wet shoes. The one exception would be a little child who will most likely be in the stroller for the walking portions of the day.

crocs

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6 Vacation Packing Tips that Make Packing Easy

A vacation of any kind is exciting and to ensure the excitement lasts as long as possible we even begin our packing early. Of course, there are steps to our packing and if you follow these vacation packing tips you will not start your vacation stress-free.

a car fully packed for vacationVacation Packing Tips Step-by-Step

Step 1: Designate a spot in your house as the packing zone.

This zone can be set up for a month before your vacation. Again, it helps with maintaining the vacation excitement for more than the few days or week your vacation will last. We always use the futon in our office, and we put up a temporary folding table. Whenever we encounter something we will want/need on vacation, we put it in the packing zone. As we buy things for vacation, we add them to our packing zone.

clothes organized in the packing zone

Step 2: Organize items into packing categories.

Whatever categories you used for your packing list should be how you organize the piles for this step.  We organize by category, and for clothes, we arranged by person. For instance, we will group by carry-on items, toiletries, Amelia clothes, Cassidy clothes, etc. If you are looking for a packing list to get your started, check out our Essential Walt Disney World packing list, even if you aren’t going to Disney World it’s a great starting list for a family vacation packing list. I also have the packing list as an excel document so you can edit it.

packing piles

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Summer Schedule for Kids and Moms Who Need Structure

For a person who craves structure, the lazy, free days of summer scare me.

I know myself, and I know that the less structured my day is, the less I get done and the worse I feel. That is why this summer I developed a summer schedule for kids to better organize our days.

This is not to say that every day has to be productive, but I feel much better if, at the end of most days, I can feel like I accomplished something. Last summer was my first summer off with my children, so I am new to this whole 2+ month off thing.

kids walking to the beach
I am not complaining that I have these months off, not at all. In fact, getting this time off was one of the main catalysts for switching jobs, even though it meant a pay cut.

If you are like me and need some structure to your summer, you have come to the right place.

I will share how I am handling summer planning to better structure our summer. This is a new plan, so we do not know how it will work out in the end. I’ll be sure to recap in August whether creating a simple, summer schedule was successful or not.

My oldest, Cassidy, is similar to me and craves structure. In fact, for the second summer in a row, she has asked that we have summer school.  If I left it up to her, we would have a set schedule that we follow every single day down to the minute. We agree to compromise because I think some flexibility and laziness is important as well.

In the spring I started a  folder titled “Summer” in our HOPE file. Anytime I saw something relevant to summer planning such as camps, classes, fun activities, summer learning or a place we might like to visit, I put the information in that folder.

In the middle of May, I had Cassidy look through the folder and pick out which places and things she would like to do this summer.  

This was the start of our summer bucket list.

Next summer Amelia, who is only three now, will be old enough to give feedback as well, but we know this year she would say the pool and the park which are both automatically on the list.

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Why and How We Store Toys Without Using Toy Boxes

One of the biggest conundrums of every parent – how do you store toys?

The landscape of your house changes drastically when you welcome children into your home and continues to change with every year they live there.

From playmats, jump-a-roos and exersaucers to Legos, Shopkins and ride along toys there is never a shortage of things to trip over, step on or clean up day after day.

No matter how hard we have tried to keep our floors clear of toys, it is inevitable that they will clutter our spaces for years to come. I know, I know, someday I will miss it.  I don’t doubt the truth in that sentiment, but it doesn’t help to make it less annoying in the moment.

How in the world do little people make such a big, dangerous mess in mere minutes left alone?

 We have many different ways to store toys in our house, but we do not have any traditional toy boxes. This is not to say we didn’t ever have them, because we did. In fact, at one time we had traditional toy boxes in two rooms of our house. A year or two ago we eliminated these toy boxes from our house for one big reason – they weren’t practical.

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13 Fun and Free Activities To Do with Kids When You’re Stuck Inside

It’s cold, it’s dreary, and the days are short. You may be wondering if winter will ever end. Some people like winter; I’m not one of those people.

I don’t hate winter, but I’d be fine if winter only lasted one month. And in that month we enjoyed sunny skies, temperatures not below 30 degrees, the roads were clear for driving, but the fields and hills were covered in perfect white snow that could be used for sledding and building snowmen. It could happen, right?

Alright, so winter in the Midwest is never going to be like that, and with kids underfoot we need to find something to do to entertain them for the long, dreary, and cold days.

Don’t break the bank and make memories to last a lifetime the next time you are stuck inside. Your kids may even be begging to stay inside and play.

13 Fun, Free Indoor Winter Activities for Kids.

Bake or Cook

Have your kids join you in making a special treat or a fancy dinner for the whole family to enjoy. Look through recipe books or search Pinterest together to find something everyone is interested in eating.

Build a tent city

You can do this even if you don’t have kids’ pop-up tents or tunnels. Grab some sheets and chairs and get to work putting them up. It works best if you pick the largest room in the house and create multiple tents. Clothespins or clips of any kind work great for holding the sheets up. If you don’t have those, use heavy books  The bigger the sheet, the better. My kids created an entire room of tents, and the fun lasted a whole week. It only ended because I wanted my living room back.  You’ll be the coolest parent ever if you let them sleep in the tent too! (more…)

Teach kids to save money, even if you’re still learning

Kids learn more from what we do than what we say. This is no different when it comes to money management. Modeling good money saving in your own life is the easiest way to teach kids to save money.

It seems that in our world of instant gratification, no one has to wait for anything. Patience is something that adults and children alike don’t get much practice with. You don’t have to wait for commercials on television. You can buy something and have it delivered in a day thanks to Amazon Prime. We are shocked when someone doesn’t respond immediately to our communication since email showed up on phones and text messaging became a thing.

Why in this world of instant gratification would we be shocked that kids are having a hard time learning to save money?

I want my kids to understand money management and I want them to know how to save money.

teach kids to save

There are definitely money decisions I wish I had made differently years ago, but there are far more things that I am thankful I did know about and did wisely.

Even if you are struggling with money management yourself, you can still help your kids learn to save money and overall money management skills.

In fact, watching you learn how to save and pay down debt can be a great lesson for your kids. Our debt snowball started after we had kids and our oldest, Cassidy understands our goal on a basic level. She knows that sometimes we say no to things because we are working on paying down debt. She also knows that nearly 10 years after her dad finished law school we are paying off the money it cost for him to go.

This is and will forever be a lesson in how student loans and student loan interest can impact your life for years to come. His student loan is older than she is!

cassidy counts her money

How to teach kids to save money:

Be open and honest.

Share some of your financial goals – age appropriate. I do not advocate for sharing all of your financial information with your children. This is an important part of explaining money to a child. It is okay to tell your kids they can’t have something at the store, because you don’t have extra money for it. However, you don’t want to share so much that your kids are worried that you don’t have enough money to live. In our family we talk openly about our debt snowball and how we are paying off a student loan. If you can’t afford a family vacation now, but it is a financial goal- share that information.

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Don’t be Scrooge: How to Set Up a Christmas Budget That Works

‘Tis the season to be jolly, Fa la la la la, la la la.”  It is, right? If you don’t have money set aside for Christmas spending, the holidays are NOT quite as jolly.

A LOT of money is spent this time of year.

set up a Christmas budget title

Gifts for everyone on your list.

Buying Christmas cards.

Stamps to mail Christmas cards. Does anyone remember when a stamp was $0.25?

Ingredients for all the baking you want to do.

Food for dishes to pass for every party or family gathering you are attending.

Donations – it seems everyone wants a little bit of your money this time of year. The guilt I have every time I walk by a Salvation Army bell ringer (I promise I give, but not every time I walk by) or say no to rounding up on my bill at a store.

Eating out more because you have less time at home to cook. You’re spending more time tracking down gifts for everyone on your list.

Is there any limit to the spending we do in November and December?

There can be, and the answer is simple . . . A Christmas budget.

Oh boy, there’s that Big Bad B word again that I love to use so much.

Honestly, though instead of being restrictive, a Christmas budget can be freeing. It allows you to spend money and enjoy doing so.

credit cary paying for Christmas expenses

Follow my simple “steps” for how to set up a Christmas budget, and you’ll be singing Christmas carols right along with me all season next year.

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Declutter before Christmas

The holidays are coming, and it is the perfect time to declutter before Christmas. Out with the old and in with the new!

Any holiday that means gifts are coming into your house is a great time to assess what you have and what you don’t need anymore.

If you are like me, being asked what you or your children want for Christmas queues anxiety to kick in. My immediate thoughts are, what could any of us possibly need, and more importantly, where will I put all the “stuff.”

I know, I know, gift gifting at Christmas isn’t really about what we need, but what we want or what would be fun. As a person who wants to simplify her life and home, acquiring more “stuff” is the opposite of what I want.

4 things to declutter before Christmas

I know it’s not fair to my children to put my values on them. Plus both of my daughters LOVE their “stuff” and think of it all as treasures. Yes, even the ridiculous McDonald’s toys are treasured by both of them.

There is a way to find a happy medium and keep my anxiety in check – at least a little bit.

4 Things to Declutter Before Christmas

  1. Toys

Big shocker to see this one on the list. You know that new toys will be coming into your house, so it’s the perfect time to declutter toys. Have your children go through their toys and make some decisions on what they want to donate. If you have children like mine, who treasure everything, be sure to check out, “How to help a pack-rat get organized.” The tips will work great for decluttering with your children.

toy declutter before Christmas

When we declutter toys, we have the girls decide which ones they don’t play with any more. Toys that are being decluttered will be donated, sold (they get to keep the money), or put away in storage for future grandchildren. Only our absolute favorites are put away for future grandchildren and then kept in the attic.

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Five Great Game Recommendations for Kids

My family loves to play games: party games, board games, strategy games, and cards games. We love them all. Who better to give you game recommendations for kids than a family of gamers.

Yes, we are a gamer family.

At our house, we have family game night often. It’s not a set day of the week, but it happens often depending on Brian’s work schedule. Brian and I have both always loved games, and many of our “dates” in college revolved around playing board and card games.

Game recommendations for kids

It was natural that games would continue to be important in our family and whether our daughters like it or not they’ve become gamers too. So far, Cassidy has not resisted our love of game playing and only time will tell with Amelia.

Our love of games, also means that we own A LOT of games.

A wall full of game recommendations for kids

In fact one year, I put a moratorium on any news games in our house for Christmas.

Guess what happened that year. . .

There was a box under the tree

Darn that Santa, he never listens to anything I say.

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Deals After Christmas

Remember those great deals after Halloween. Well, they are back and even better. Now it is time for the deals after Christmas.

Halloween tends to be the preview of what is to come, but there are usually a lot more deals after Christmas.

If you have leftover money from your current year Christmas budget, you can use that to stock up on holiday products for next year. Maybe you have already set up your Christmas budget for the coming year. If you make purchases now for next year, you can easily deduct them from that budget and document what you bought. I guarantee in 11 months you’ll have forgotten what you bought.  We did this last year with LED lights for outside and containers for cookie gift giving. What a great surprise when I discovered the new items we had and that was already paid for and part of the budget!

The best deals after Christmas

So let’s talk deals and what you should be on the lookout for.

The discounts will start right away on December 26. Some stores will be busy with lots of people out seeking these discounts, but they will be more crowded at customer service with returns. (side note: if you have a return try to do it when the store is least busy and definitely not on December 26. Nothing says your return must be done the day after you receive it)

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