Category: FAMILY

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…)

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.


Christmas Cards: Do You Send Them or Not?

Christmas cards and letters.

Do you send them?

Do you like to receive them?

Do you enjoy them or feel they are obligatory?

Christmas cards

Personally, I fall into the “LOVE” category.

I love sending them, and I love receiving them even more.

The picture cards with a letter are the best.

I don’t even care if your letter is braggadocious (it’s a word. It means bragging too much). I will still enjoy reading it.

Just know that I’m onto you and your life is not as perfect as the Christmas letter indicates.

I choose to send a picture card and letter, but mainly because I assume everyone else loves them as much as I do. I just love to see everyone’s families and hear what they are up to. The more creative the letter, the more I enjoy it.

My cousin, Janelle, has done the most creative letters for years. I know her husband does not love sending the letters, and it’s an argument in their house every year (Dave let it be known that many of us LOVE them. I’m just glad I make it on the “A” list, so I get the picture and letter.)

Perhaps, it’s because I’m a scrapbooker so naturally I love pictures more than the average person. As a scrapbooker, no picture is complete without a few words and maybe a story or two.

How to display/store the Christmas cards and letters you receive:

  • Hang around a large entryway. This is how we display ours. That way we can see them often, and the girls love to see who sends us cards. They often stop and ask who each person and family is and how we know them. The new cards that come in the mail are not hung up until everyone has seen them.
  • Put them in a basket on a coffee table or next to a favorite chair. My in-laws put theirs in a basket that they can easily pull out to look through and add more to. When we visit they usually share the photo cards, and letters from families we know.
  • Hang from a decorative display that you make or buy on Etsy. There are so many ideas on Etsy and Pinterest that you will be overwhelmed with the options.
  • Hang on your refrigerator. What better place to see the pictures and cards often.
  • Hang on your kitchen cabinets. A little ribbon and some clothespins can make even your kitchen cabinets festive with all of those Christmas cards.entryway christmas cards

After Christmas is over what do you do with the cards?

Given my “Love” of Christmas cards and letters, I bet it’s no surprise that mine do not get thrown away. If you too love receiving photo cards and have a hard time getting rid of them at the end of the year, I have a solution.

If you scrapbook or simply put pictures in albums, then you can put your cards in there too. Every year you can look back and see who sent you a card and how their family has changed over the years. (idea courtesy of my cousin Janelle)

scrapbook with christmas cards

If you do not scrapbook or put photos in albums, then you could get a simple photo album just for putting the cards in and then display that on your coffee table every Christmas season.

If you don’t love sending Christmas cards or photo cards or writing letters, then don’t do it.

Remember to think about why you’re doing what you do. Do not feel pressured to send them just because other people do. Those people may just be like me and enjoy sending them.  It might just be one of the non-negotiables from their simplify the holiday list.

And it is okay if your Christmas card list changes every year – ours does.

People come in and out of our lives, and so our list of card recipients changes. With the advent of social media, it almost feels like our list of “friends” is endless, that doesn’t mean all of those people NEED to receive a card.

Sit back and enjoy the cards you receive and wish those who send them well, but don’t feel obligated to reciprocate.  Merry Christmas from our family to yours.


Do you display your Christmas Cards during the season? What do you do with them after the holidays? Please share in the comments.


How to Simplify the Holidays

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

Did you sing that? You should have.  Singing it immediately puts me into the holiday spirit.

I know, I can hardly believe it is already the holidays, but it is.

Do you ever feel exhausted and overwhelmed during and after the holidays?

Do you resent making cookies?

Then don’t.

Do you hate spending time and money figuring out and sending Christmas cards?

Then don’t.

Make this the year you take back Christmas (reference to Bad Moms 2= hilarious)

Last time I checked, Christmas was about celebrating Christ’s birth (even though he wasn’t born in December but off topic)

Don’t let the “I should’s” take control this Christmas.

Who cares what you should do? And seriously who says you should?

simplify the holidays

I am giving you permission to say NO.

Of course, this doesn’t mean you can say no to everything because if you have kids, there are probably some things they want to do that you may not be interested in. There are times we have to sacrifice for our kids, but along with that, kids don’t need to get everything they want.

I’m betting as a kid you didn’t get to do everything you wanted either. Remember we’re raising kids who know disappointment and know how to deal with it.

You can simplify the holidays and it’s quite simple.


My Little Daughter with a Big Personality

The choice was before me.

Let my child be herself or stifle her personality.

What do I do?

This is a choice that is before me more often than not. God gave me two unique children with a LOT of personalities.

Amelia relaxing

But I asked for it. In fact, I prayed for it.

When we were pregnant with Cassidy, I prayed that we would have a child with personality. Sure I prayed for her health too, but I wanted a kid with personality.

Have you ever met a boring kid?

Be honest, you have.

Well, I have met many of them over the years working in day cares and schools. I knew I wanted a kid with personality and boy did God listen.


The Many Men I Married

In 12 years I’ve been married to three men – sort of.

I mean technically, he’s the same man, but career-wise it is three very different men. I would never have guessed 18 years ago when I met this tall, fast-talking, geology/paleontology studying man child that he would someday be a police officer, but only after a stint as a lawyer. In fairness, I guarantee he didn’t predict that either.

the men I marriedCopyright: konradbak / 123RF Stock Photo

Would I still want to marry him knowing what he would become?


I surely didn’t date and marry him because of his career choice. However his career choice has influenced our marriage and family life.

Thirty-seven years old.

Today marks the birthday of my favorite man.

It’s hard to believe I’ve known him for nearly 18 of those years.  I still remember the very first time I saw him. He was slowly pedaling away on an old, rickety stationary bike in the activity room of my freshman year residence hall. He, a community advisor, had brought his floor of residents to my hall for a program that my community advisor had organized. I don’t even remember the program, but I took notice of the tall, older looking guy on the bike.

Who knew he was actually – as he reminds everyone- 53 days younger than me?

He has always looked older than me, something that any woman who is older than her significant other will gladly accept.

So I married my college sweetheart, three men in one?!

The man I married – law student.

law student Brian

So he wasn’t a law student when we got married, he was an aspiring law student – he started law school six weeks after we got married.


First Day of School Joy or Anxiety?

children on playgroun excited for first day of schoolFor some, the first day of school is met with fear, dread, and anxiety. For others, it is met with excitement and joy.

Both can lead to a sleepless night in anticipation of the first day of school.

As a child I was so excited to return to school every fall. I loved school, I loved school supplies shopping, and I loved homework. Brian was similar to me. In fact, at times throughout our marriage, we have said we could be students forever if somehow we could get paid to do so. I imagine once we retire, you will see us both in a classroom again taking classes for fun just to learn something new.

I guess Cassidy came by her love of everything school related naturally. She too loves school supplies, she usually likes homework, and she loves playing school at home. In fact, she was insistent, we home school over spring break and summer.

I recognize how this love of school eliminates a parenting challenge that many of you might still face.  We don’t have a nightly fight over getting homework done, mostly because she’s a strong student and it doesn’t take her too long to complete it. I respect the challenges that other parents face and appreciate the parenting pass we got in this area – for now.

Our school-loving child’s attitude changed drastically last year.


What Your Child Really Wants

When given the choice children choose quality time with loved ones over toys.

Seriously!Your child wants time with you

At Christmas time I shared a post about giving experiences versus gifts. Check it out if the concept is new to you. It’s a real thing and it’s taking off.

Let’s take a trip down memory lane. Do you remember what gifts you got for your 10th birthday? How about your 20th birthday? Or even your 30th birthday?

Do you remember that time you made cookies all day with your Grandma? Or when you had a picnic at a rest stop on the way to your aunt’s house. How about that 19th birthday to Chuck E. Cheese with all of your college roommates? (Yep, I did all of those things.)

Sure, I remember some of the gifts I got over the years, but it’s the memories of times I spent together with family and friends that I cherish and remember. (more…)

Our Favorite Children’s Toys

July is a big birthday month in our house, so toys are definitely on our mind. While I always recommend the gift of an experience, I also recognize the importance of toys as well.  It seems the perfect time to share some of our favorite children’s toys. For a toy to make my favorites list my kids have to play with it repeatedly, use their imagination and play for long periods of time.

You never get too old for some good ‘ol toys in your life. This year Amelia got mostly toys, and Cassidy got books and clothes. As she informed me afterward, she was very happy with what she received, but sometimes it’s just nice to get some toys to play with.


My children discovered these at the Children’s Museum in Madison, WI. They are little tiles that are magnetic around the perimeter so children of all ages can easily build with them. They are great for young kids because they can easily stay together and they are great for older kids to use their imagination. Technically, very small children should not play with them because if they break and a magnet gets loose, a child could swallow it. I have never had one break or even come close to break, but toys have to have ages and warnings just in case.


Epidural? Yes, please.

This is the third part in a three-part series. Be sure to check out the other two parts:

Part 1: “Do You Really Need a Birth Plan”

Part 2: “Emergency C-Section is Only the Beginning”

To get an epidural or not?

That seems to be one of the top questions plaguing pregnant women everywhere.

I’m here to tell you, ultimately, it doesn’t matter.

It is a personal decision that only you, your partner and your doctor (but mainly you) can make.

When I was pregnant with my first child the only part of the birth I actually thought about was the epidural. My husband was under strict instructions that I would be receiving an epidural at the earliest possible time and under no circumstances did I intend to birth a child without medication.

In fact, I was curious if there was some sort of pre-epidural I could take leading up to my due date (spoiler alert: there is not).

I know there is lots of research about why not to use drugs during childbirth, but I have a very healthy and active 3-year-old who is proof that my epidural was harmless.

After having had such an eventful and scary first childbirth with Cassidy, I was hoping for a much calmer more “normal” experience with Amelia. Since I had a C-section prior, I could have opted to schedule another one. However, given the reason for my C-section, I was a good candidate for a VBAC (vaginal birth after caesarean).

We decided to try for the VBAC, and the doctor was willing to let me go to my due date, but after that date, the risks went up so I would have to schedule a C-section.

9 months pregnant
Big sister Cassidy was not patient. She wanted to meet Amelia so badly.

Due to my emergency C-section with Cassidy, I did not have any contractions or labor of any sort with her.

With Amelia, I thought she was moving around a lot and “partying” in there towards the end. I was getting tired of all of her partying. Later I found out it was Braxton Hicks contractions.

Huh? You would think a mom would know.