50 Household Items You Can Use To Paint

As much as I hate to admit it, it’s going to start getting cold outside. I don’t play outside in the snow. That’s something special we save for when Daddy is home (aka, I hate it and refuse to do it, so Daddy does it).

But when we’re inside, I do “plan” stuff for the kids to do that don’t require a screen. It’s rare, but I do it.

When I taught preschool, I rarely had the kids paint with actual paintbrushes. To me, regular paintbrushes were just no fun and honestly, made the paint gloppy and took forever to dry. So I would always find other things around the classroom that they could use to paint. Since I started this blog I have been meaning to write them all down for you guys, so here you go! At the end of the post you will find the printable version.

50 Different Household Items Your Kids Can Use to Paint
1. Spatula
2. Fork
3. Pastry brush
4. Potato masher
5. Bottom of a peanut butter jar
6. Lid of a peanut butter jar
7. Pieces of pasta (wet or dry)
8. Plastic cups
9. Tin foil crumpled up
10. Straw (blow into it onto wet paint)
11. Q-tips
12. Apple (cut in half or the bottom)
13. Cotton balls (use clothespins if your kiddo doesn’t like getting super messy)
14. Toy cars
15. Golf ball (place your paper in a box and drop the golf ball onto wet paint on the paper and roll around the golf ball)
16. Legos
17. Dice
18. Marker cap
19. Pipe cleaners
20. Crumpled up plastic wrap
21. Sponge
22. Wooden skewer
23. Fingers
24. Yarn
25. Leaves
26. Loofa
27. Cosmetic sponge
28. Dental floss
29. Nail brush
30. Wine corks
31. Bubble wrap
32. Toothbrush
33. Toothpick
34. Cut up pool noodle
35. Cupcake liner clipped on a clothespin
36. Ice cubes
3
7. Icing knife
38. Credit card
39. Crumpled paper towels
40. Dry beans
41. Rice wrapped in panty hose
42. Hair brush
43. Comb
44. Rubber stamps
45. Paper towel/toilet paper roll
46. Dish sponge
47. Alphabet blocks
48. Legos
49. Shaped magnets
50. Dryer sheets (held by a clothespin)

I am willing to bet you have most (if not all) of these things already in your house. Ok, maybe not the panty hose (if you’re anything like me) but you can find something similar for sure!

Enjoy making messes! 😉

Questions to ask a Group Child Care Center

So, you’re pregnant. After you’re done accepting all the unsolicited advice (just kidding, it never ends), you start to think about who will watch baby when you go back to work, if you need to/want to go back.

By the way, wanting to go back to work is a thing, and that’s okay.

You have a few options. If you’re lucky enough to have family around and willing to help, you probably won’t end up with child care bills the size of your mortgage. You can also hire a nanny, or if you’re looking for child care, you can choose home child care or group child care.

This post will walk you through the process of finding a group child care center that works for you.

Time out for a sec – why should you listen to me? I was an assistant principal for a preschool/child care center for almost 5 years. I did tours of our school daily and was asked ALL THE QUESTIONS. Some people say “there is no such thing as a ridiculous question,” and trust me, sometimes there is. But I’m going to tell you what you should be asking! Also, at the end of this post, I have created a printable for you to take with you if need be. You can print it off and there’s a spot to write down the answers you receive.

  • Do you currently have space or do you have a waiting list? How do I get on that list? Personally, I think this is the most important question to ask! Don’t let the answer scare you away, either. If their answer is yes, time to find out how long. And just because they tell you their next spot isn’t available until 3 weeks after you need to start doesn’t mean it’s not right for you. Someone ahead of you may decide between now and then that they don’t want to go back to work, or they got a new job and the location doesn’t work anymore, or grandma decided she wanted to watch the baby. There are so many things that can change. We have also had people go with another school because they weren’t full, so they thought their baby would get more attention there. Not always the case. Sometimes there is a reason why they aren’t full. Don’t pick a school just because the timing is right.
  • What is your sick policy? This question is important for a few reasons – you want to know what precautions they take to avoid everyone else getting sick. When do they allow the child back in? What do they do if a child shows up sick? Do they wait to see if they get better before calling? Do they not let the parent leave the building without the child? Do they call parents if the child just “seems” sick or if there is an actual fever? If you have a demanding job, it might be difficult for you to leave work so you don’t necessarily want to be called for everything. Or, you have a super flexible job and you do want to be called. Most child care centers require a doctor’s note to return and the child needs to be fever free (anything above 100F is considered a fever in most places) for 24 hours without meds to return.
  • What is your policy on payment if the child is sick for an extended period of time? A lot of schools don’t have this in writing but can be flexible if your child misses 5 or more days consecutively, but this is entirely up to the school, especially if it’s not specified in the contract.
  • How do you handle discipline? You don’t want a school that will disenroll your child for biting as a toddler because this behavior is age appropriate. It’s unpleasant for sure, but it is completely age appropriate. Will they work with you to try to rid your child of inappropriate behaviors? (IE, biting at 3 years and up, hitting, etc.)
  • What is your vacation policy? I worked at one school where you had to pay half of your tuition when you were on vacation, and another where each year you get a free week if you’re gone from Monday – Friday and your weeks did not roll over to the next year. So if you don’t use it, you lose out on it.
  • Do you have yearly price increases? What percentage, typically? Most schools do, and we would have a lot of parents who said they had no idea!
  • Do you provide diapers, wipes, formula? You may also ask if they will do cloth diapers for you and how they handle sending home the dirty ones.
  • As an infant, do you follow the parents’ schedule or your own? Some child care centers will adjust baby’s schedule to accommodate the hustle and bustle of the school and some will follow yours.
  • Do infants get outside time? Some group cares will take the infants out for a stroller ride, allow them to sit and get some fresh air, maybe read a book outside. Outside time is important for babies.
  • When you move children up to the next class, do they all move together or with their birthdays? This is important because if they move children based on their birthdays, then how do they adjust to the current curriculum that is happening in the new room? Children should be moved together to cater to their curriculum and current abilities.
  • How do you handle late pick ups? Most schools have a certain amount they charge, per minute usually, for late pick ups.
  • How do you track infants’ milestones? Infant rooms should have a curriculum they follow. To some, this may sound silly. But trust me, in between all that crying, napping and bottle feeding, learning is so important!
  • When children are older, how do your teachers handle rough drop offs? Starting your child as an infant is a great start to avoid rough drop offs. They’re more common with kids that start after 18 months. However, they can still come when kids are old enough to test their boundaries. Find out how they would handle a kiddo who is having a rough drop off and ask why they do those things to help you understand.
  • Can I call to check in on my baby? When are the best and worst times to call? Running an infant room is tough work. You want to make sure they are okay with you calling, or if it easier for the teacher to call  you when they have a few minutes of downtime. You don’t want to call in the middle of 5 babies all needing a bottle at once!
  • What days are you closed? Child care centers are generally closed for major holidays, but some random ones can sneak in there for teacher improvement days so you’ll want to know if you need to make special arrangements for those days. Don’t let them sneak up on you!

Some tips for you when visiting schools….

  • Ask to see more classrooms, not just the infant room. You want a school where you feel comfortable until Kindergarten. Don’t be afraid to take a peek at what older children are doing!
  • Read the contract. Don’t just sign it and hand it over when filling out your paperwork. It’s a lot of reading, but make sure you are reading it right! Every school has different rules and you want to make sure you understand them.
  • Ask for a daily sheet (if they have them) or an example of how you will know how your child’s day went. A lot of schools now have apps where you can read about their day on your phone. Ask to see an example of that so you know how you will be filled in about their day.
  • Ask for references, specifically people who have been there a long time. They have been through lots of rooms, teachers, and kids.
  • Decide if you want a center near your house or near your work. If it’s near your work, it’s easier to get to if something should happen or your child is sick. If it’s near your house, your child will have less time in the car.

I hope this is helpful, and if you have anything to add, please leave it in the comments section below! Here is your printable I promised 😉

2017 Gift Guide

(This post contains affiliate links – meaning, if you purchase from any of these links, I will get a small kick back at no cost to you.)

Choosing gifts for your kiddos can be stressful. But it doesn’t have to be!

I’ve asked some moms of kids ages 0-5 what their children’s favorite toys/activities are and have compiled an Amazon list for you. Please feel free to add toys to the comments and I will periodically update the list!

Don’t get hung up on the age titles. A lot of these gifts can be useful for most of the ages – I just broke it up based on the ages that all the moms gave me. You may also see some repeats!

Under 1 year

1 year

  • Roller Coaster – My daughter has this at speech and she absolutely loves it. I can’t get her to leave!
  • Water Wow – These are so clean – and my 2 year old and 5 year old love them. Just fill the pen up with water and draw away. They’re made by Melissa and Doug so you know they stand up to a lot.
  • Weebles – I had no idea these were still a thing until someone mentioned them. Definitely picking some up for my little one.
  • Touch and Feel Books – These never get old in our house and Amazon is full of all different kind.
  • Lift the Flap Books – Also a huge hit in our house! They are great for working on fine motor skills.
  • Baby Stella & Friends & Accessories – Another favorite in our house. About 18 months was when my daughter really started being interested in baby dolls. These are soft and can be thrown in the wash when they decide their baby Stella needs a drink of water. Not that I’m speaking from experience or anything…..
  • Mega Blocks – Ages 1-2 are a great time to introduce Mega Blocks. Their big size are perfect for toddlers’ little hands.
  • Drum Kit – Toddlers like noise. Need I say more?

2 years

  • Matchbox cars – These were huge when my kids turned 2. Amazon has a ton of them and lots of accessories.
  • Roller Coaster – This is one of those toys that is found in a few age groups.
  • Dress Up Clothes – for boys and girls. Kids love to pretend play. Don’t forget superhero capes, too!
  • Water Wow – Found in a few of our age groups! 😉
  • Weebles – Yes, they’re still a thing!
  • Floor Puzzles – Keep it simple with these large floor puzzles.
  • Train Table – 2 years old is about when kiddos start to have favorite things – superheros, trains, cars, babies, etc. Train tables are huge at this age, too!
  • Elefun – This fun game uses an elephant’s trunk to shoot out little butterflies and you have to catch them! A great game to start teaching taking turns.
  • Career Figures – These little wooden guys are so cute – and start teaching kiddos about different career people!
  • Mega Blocks – Great for this age and so close to Duplos!
  • Luvabella Responsive Baby Dolls – I had no idea what these were until I looked them up. They are exactly as they sound. Responsive baby dolls! They look so fun.
  • Look and Find Books – These are great for the car, doctor’s office, basically anywhere kids have to wait.
  • Magic Track Sets – These are so cool. They are tracks kids can set up by themselves (or with help) and they glow in the dark.

3 years

  • Felt Story Boards – and all their accessories. It’s like reading a book, only you don’t have to read it to them and they can choose the outcome! 😉
  • Matchbox cars – don’t forget all the accessories, too!
  • Cabbage Patch Little Sprouts – Think “little people,” but they look just like Cabbage Patch Dolls.
  • Dress Up Clothes – for boys and girls. Kids love to pretend play. Don’t forget superhero capes, too!
  • Magnatiles and Magformers – Just like Legos or building blocks, but they don’t click together. They stick together! Always a hot item.
  • Leap Frog DVD’s – I am convinced this is where my kid learned his alphabet. You can browse all of them here.
  • Grossery Gang – These will be a hot item this year too, I think. They are little figurines (which seem to be all the rage right now) and you can even grab some cases to carry them.
  • Play-doh – If you’re like me, you hide the play-doh and really only let them play with it when you’re in serious need of quiet time 😉
  • Plus Plus Blocks – A new fun and interesting building block for the kids who can build for hours.
  • Squigz – Another fun building toy! These would be great for sensory seeking kids who need the push and pull effect.
  • Zoob – More building stuff!

4 years

  • Shopkins – I am not sure these need an explanation. These have been pretty popular toys for a while. You’ll find carrying cases on Amazon, too.
  • Dress Up Clothes – for boys and girls. Kids love to pretend play. Don’t forget superhero capes, too!
  • Fingerlings – Apparently these are the hot toy this year. Personally, I don’t get it but I’m not a kid! They sell out pretty quickly.
  • Magnatiles and Magformers – Just like Legos or building blocks, but they don’t click together. They stick together! Always a hot item.
  • Microscope – My oldest has a microscope and will grab anything to put it in there and look at it.
  • Baby Alive – Another cute baby doll is the Baby Alive. You can feed her and her poop comes right out! Haha. Sorry, apparently I’m 4.
  • Twozies – These are sort of like the Shopkins, Grossery gangs, etc. They’re little figurines and you absolutely have to collect them all, duh!
  • Blind Bags – So there is this new phenomenon where people sell bags with figurines that you obviously have to collect all of them. But you don’t know what you’re getting until after you buy it. Whoever created this phenomenon is a genius. Because we’re suckers for it in our house, too. We do a lot of the superhero ones here.
  • Play-doh – If you’re like me, you hide the play-doh and really only let them play with it when you’re in serious need of quiet time 😉
  • Plus Plus Blocks – A new fun and interesting building block for the kids who can build for hours.
  • Squigz – Another fun building toy! These would be great for sensory seeking kids who need the push and pull effect.
  • Zoob – More building stuff!

5 years

  • Nerf guns – And don’t forget the darts!
  • Legos – My 5 year old wants ALL THE LEGOS for Christmas. It is the only toy he is allowed to keep in his room, mostly because I don’t want to be tripping all over them in the playroom.
  • Magnatiles and Magformers – Just like Legos or building blocks, but they don’t click together. They stick together! Always a hot item.
  • Imaginext sets – Fisher Price makes these super fun figurines and accessories. We have a Batman one and it gets played with every single day.
  • Osmo – So I had never heard of this but it goes along with an app for your iPad. You can get all these accessories and is a huge hit for kids who love science and math. You watch on the screen and do the work on the table. Osmo just knows what you’re laying out. So cool!
  • Plus Plus Blocks – A new fun and interesting building block for the kids who can build for hours.
  • Squigz – Another fun building toy! These would be great for sensory seeking kids who need the push and pull effect.
  • Zoob – More building stuff!
  • Mario Monopoly – Um, I want this.
  • Board Games – I think I could play board games all day. Just sayin…
  • My Little Pony – Another classic toy that is still around.
  • Science Kits – My oldest turns everything into a science experiment so we are big on these in our house.
  • Art Supplies – Everyone is an artist, right?

All ages

  • Kindle Fire – great for road trips, waiting rooms, heck, even just quiet time. I don’t judge screen time! Keep an eye out for these on Black Friday!
  • Nest Swing – my daughter has one of these at speech therapy, and like the roller coaster, I can hardly get her to get down from it.

Have an idea that I’m missing? Let me know in the comments! Happy Shopping!

The Best Unsolicited Baby Advice

So, you’re pregnant with your first baby. Yay babies!

I am sure by now, you have discovered that as soon as you make that fun, super cute Facebook announcement, EVERYONE is a baby expert and EVERYONE has the best advice out there.

“Cherish this time!”

“Breast is best!”

“You can’t hold a baby too much!”

“Don’t eat hot dogs!”

“Sleep when baby sleeps!”

“Do you have heartburn? That means baby will have hair. Buy some bows!”

“You are carrying low. You’re having a boy. I just know it.”

“Are you going to find out the gender? You totally shouldn’t!”

The list goes on. and on. and on. and on. so. much.

Now, I am no expert, but I went against a lot of this advice. I ate hot dogs, I had heartburn like a champ and both my babies had no hair, I had no idea what “carrying low” meant. But what I did learn in my 2 pregnancies is you have to take any and all advice with a grain of salt. The bottom line here is it is YOUR baby and if you make any mention at all about said baby, you’re going to get advice or suggestions.

In my moms group, I asked what everyone thought about this advice. I approached them with this question:

“Imagine you have a friend who knows NOTHING about being pregnant, having a baby, labor – nothing. What is one piece of actually helpful advice you would give them?”

The helpful advice started pouring in, and I’m here to compile it for you.

First and foremost – take any and all advice with a big old grain of salt. Like I said earlier, this is your baby. Whatever you (and your partner) decide will (probably) be the best decision. Don’t want to buy that fancy rock n play? Don’t. When I was pregnant with my second, it was all the rage. Everyone told me to buy it. I didn’t – because it was expensive and our house was tiny. Also, I had no intention of my kid rooming with us. And you know what? My kid is a great sleeper.

Accept all help offered. I wish I had followed this one more. If a friend of yours calls you up and asks “what do you need,” don’t be afraid to tell her “I need my dishes done.” But also don’t feel guilty if you want to be the one to do those dishes. Which brings me to my next point….

Ask for help. Don’t feel guilty if you’d rather do the dishes than sit with your newborn. Caring for a newborn can be incredibly overwhelming and exhausting. My oldest was an awful napper, so once I got him to sleep, I never wanted to start anything because chances are he was going to wake up in 45 minutes anyway.

Don’t be afraid to tell someone “no.” If someone wants to come over and you want alone time, do not be scared to tell them to buzz off. Maybe not in those words, but you know what I mean. 😉

Hormones are real and they suck. You will hate and love your partner 15 times in one day and that is normal. You will laugh and cry at the same commercial. If you thought hormones were crazy when you were pregnant, just wait until your body is trying to level out after having the baby. This too, shall pass.

Don’t put your babe on a schedule just yet. You are 2 strangers getting to know each other. It’s going to take time to figure each other out, and that’s okay. Keep an open mind and expect the unexpected.

You are not a failure. I know you’re going to go through days where you think you are. If you and your baby survived the day, you did not fail.

What I feel to be most important – it’s okay if you don’t feel an instant connection with your baby. It really is. You are both strangers to each other and you’re supposed to just click. Sometimes you don’t. Sometimes it takes a few weeks, months, whatever. I wish someone had told me that it was okay to not feel that instant connection. I felt like a horrible mother. But trust me when I tell you, it will come.

And last, but certainly not least. If you have a boy, point that penis down when you change his diaper 😉

I hope this helps. Is there something you would suggest to a newly pregnant friend that we didn’t list here? Tell us in the comments!

NEW Subscription Box COMING SOON

Hey there moms!

Does Pinterest totally overwhelm you?

Do you see an awesome at home activity for your little one but then cringe at the idea of having to go to a separate store to buy all the supplies?

And what are you going to do with all that extra baby oil? You have zero use for baby oil.

I am here to save you.

I am launching a subscription box this winter. you choose the age of your child (birth – kindergarten) and I send you a box each month with 2-3 activities that you can do together at home. You will also get access to an exclusive group where parents and caregivers chat about activities that they’re doing at home, tips and tricks about keeping your kiddos engaged and suggestions for games/activities.

I also will include an activity guide with your box. It will explain in depth HOW to do the activity and WHY you are doing the activity. It will also give you suggestions on how to differentiate it if your child isn’t feeling the intended purpose. Abandoning is not always necessary!

To keep up with my progress (including information on a local to Naperville, Illinois focus group), please enter your email here. Keep a look out for your confirmation email in your junk or promotions tab!

I couldn’t be more excited about this launch!

An Open Letter Of Apology To All The Moms I Used To Judge

To the mom who just hardly made it to the grocery store looking halfway presentable herself, with her toddler’s hair out of whack, no shoes and socks on (because she took them off in the car and you didn’t feel like fishing around for them) and dirt on her sweet little pink pants. I apologize for thinking you didn’t care enough to get you and your kid dressed and ready for the grocery store.

To the mom trying to leisurely stroll through the aisles of a clothing store while her toddler handles her cell phone like it’s an indestructible dog toy, just so she can get some peace while shopping, I apologize for thinking you are careless and spoil your kid because you are allowing her to play with your cellphone – your lifeline.

To the mom who hands her preschooler an iPad during dinner at a restaurant because it’s the only way you and your husband can enjoy some peace and quiet because you can’t afford a babysitter or have no family to help you. I apologize for thinking “why don’t you just have a conversation with him?”

To the mom who turns on the TV for her kids from 7am – 5pm just so she can have some time alone or because she doesn’t feel like “momming” that day. I apologize for thinking you should really just spend time with your kids.

To the mom who dropped her kid off at daycare when she very clearly had the day off, I apologize for thinking you should be keeping him at home and spending time with him.

To the mom who “allows” her kid to climb into bed with her in the middle of the night or who climbs into his bed when he needs her because of a bad dream or just to fall asleep, I apologize for thinking you were just spoiling him – when in reality, that was the only way to get him to go back to sleep and at 3am, you do what you have to do.

To the mom at church on Christmas or Easter with her son in dress pants and a dress shirt but ratty old gym shoes because he refused to put on the nice ones you bought because they were “too tight,” and that’s just not a battle you chose to fight that morning. I apologize for thinking you should be coming to church every Sunday and your son should have something much nicer on his feet than ratty old gym shoes.

To the mom running errands with her toddler (who can clearly walk) strapped to her back in a carrier because if you allowed her to walk, she would tear through the store like a tiny tornado. I apologize for thinking you should let her explore and learn how to walk properly through a store.

I apologize to all of these moms because I am that mom now.

My toddler’s favorite activity is tossing her shoes, socks and hair tie around the car on any trip longer than 30 seconds.

My preschooler spends more time in front of the TV than I’d like to admit so I can get stuff done and he won’t bother me.

I have handed my toddler my cellphone while it plays music so she’ll sit still in the cart at the store.

I have a carrier in my car at all times for quick errands when I don’t feel like allowing her to run around like a crazy person.

I don’t wear jeans simply because “baby weight” is now my normal, even though my kids are almost 5 and 2, and none of my jeans fit anymore. I don’t want to spend the money on new ones and can’t bear to go shopping, finding out what my true size might be.

I have “allowed” my oldest to climb into bed with us in the middle of the night because he “needed to.” I lay with my son every other night until he falls asleep because he “needs it.”

My kid will spend hours in front of the iPad watching ridiculous YouTube videos so I can get stuff done or just not have to answer one of his 4000 questions of the day.

Now that I am a mom, we are all on the same team. So I don’t judge you anymore – I salute you. I am happy that you found a way to get through your days with still keeping your sanity. Let’s keep supporting each other because you don’t know what happened in that mom’s house 15 minutes prior to the activity that you’re judging. And she knows nothing about yours.

Sensory Balloons

(This post contains affiliate links)

We’ve done sensory bins and we’ve done sensory bottles. I love sensory activities (obviously) so I wanted to keep going.

If you search on Pinterest, these can be called “sensory balls.” I couldn’t bring myself to call them that – because I’m 10 years old.

Anywho, I bring you Sensory Balloons.

Like most of my activities, you can find these contents at the dollar store (The Dollar Tree, to be exact.)

If you check out my other post about sensory bin filler ideas, a lot of those little things can be put into balloons for sensory balloons. Here’s what we chose:

*Black beans
*Cloud dough
*Play doh
*Rice
*Water beads

You also should grab a funnel because it will help you a lot – trying to do this without one is pretty frustrating. Just make sure you grab a funnel with a big enough hole for the beans.

The beans, cloud dough and rice went in best in small amounts. The play doh we just rolled into “snakes” (or, if you’re 10 years old like me, poop) and dropped them into the balloon. When they start  to reach the top, blow up the balloon a little and then let the air out. Smush all the play-doh together at the bottom of the balloon. Then keep adding.

The water bead one was done one by one, but that’s only because I didn’t have a funnel near me and I’m lazy 😉

Dylan also wanted to make faces on his and who am I to tell him no? Go to town, bud.

I think I might actually make a few to sit at my desk – they are good stress relievers.

This little lady ran off with them while I was trying to snap some pictures. Trouble written all over her face. Don’t let her fool you.

If you try these out, please let me know in the comments!

And as always with my activities, please be smart 🙂 After I filled the balloon, I put it inside another balloon to be extra safe.

Infinity Jar Review

I have a confession.

I love (and believe in) essential oils. I went a long time trying to avoid them. But then they helped my husband stop snoring. So I was hooked.

Randomly, as I started using them, Infinity Jars emailed me and asked if I could do a review on some of their products. So I chose what I wanted and they sent me these rollerballs for my oils.

As soon as they came, I filled them up. I did 2 diaper rash blends because at the time, Reagan had a real bad diaper rash. One stayed at home and one stayed in my purse.

Then I did a blend for Dylan of Roman Chamomile for calming. I am now “that mom” that whips out her oils when I know he is feeling anxious.

The first thing I loved (and noticed) about these bottles is that they come with labels. The labels are reusable and they stick to the bottle. I don’t have to guess which bottle is which.

The color is pretty, but it also has a purpose. It blocks out visible light which keeps its contents fresh for a super long time. They have more than roller balls – all kinds of kitchen glass jars.

They fit so neatly in my diaper pouch in my purse – and they don’t leak. Which is awesome!

Use our coupon code MOSTLYUNDERCONTROL20 for 20% off your purchase! Expires June 9th.

Easy Date Ideas

Date your spouse. This is something I preach.

Real talk – after my husband and I got married, I wasn’t truly sure I wanted to have kids. My biggest fear was that I was going to lose “us.” I was going to lose what made us a family. I didn’t want to get caught up in a kid, only to forget the reason why that kid was here.

That was deep.

Then it just clicked one day. I remember – I went out to dinner with my mom and I just cried. I told her my fears and she reassured me that it didn’t have to be that way. Mama to the rescue.

My husband and I try to go out once a month, just the 2 of us. We have lots of family and friends that are available to watch our kids at the drop of a hat (you know who you are) so finding a sitter is very rarely difficult for us.

But sometimes, finding that sitter isn’t always easy. So I put together a list for you of at home and out of home date ideas. I challenge you to try them all!

In Home Ideas
-Game Night
-Cook dinner together
-Put puzzles together
-Adult coloring books
-Watch your wedding video
-Bonfire in the backyard
-Wikipedia chat/challenge (Pull up a random Wikipedia page and ask each other questions about it)

Out of the house
-Bowling
-Driving range
-Mini golf
-College campus tour nearby (guided or self-guided)
-Tour of your own city
-Farmer’s market
-Day date
-Cooking class
-Drive In movie
-Arcade
-Museum
-Recreate your first date
-Spa day

Also, think about some of the things you do with kids, but subtract the kids. Movie, shopping, the zoo….you get to spend so much more time and energy on the actual event and each other than worrying about wrangling your kids.

Try it. I promise, you’ll like it.

Grocery List Staples

We have all been there. You just got home from work and you have zero desire to make dinner. Less than zero desire. But you are trying to be responsible so ordering pizza or picking up food just isn’t an option.  I know, first world problems.

I am there much more often than I’d like to admit – and I meal plan monthly. Someone asked in my recipe group for suggestions on easy meals to keep on hand when you’re in that exact situation. The lightbulb went off in my head and I decided to write a blog post with some ideas. Because I have staples that I grab at the grocery store when I do my monthly grocery shopping. Of course, I wanted to share. They’re great meals for when you don’t feel like cooking something extravagant (ie, more than 4 ingredients) or you forgot to thaw your meat (happens to be at least twice a week – I need a better system) or (which happened to us all the time) you have a crabby baby who needs your full attention.

Side note, if you are an organic/healthy eating family, some of these may not be for you, or you might have to make some modifications. If you shop at Costco, a lot of them are offered there in their organic version. I divided it into 2 lists – Frozen to Oven Foods and Pantry Foods. A lot of the Frozen to Oven Foods can be homemade and then frozen or store bought.

Frozen to Oven foods to Keep on Hand
-Frozen ravioli (meat or cheese)
-Frozen meatballs (we serve it with pasta, rice or mashed potatoes – Costco has a great all natural instant mashed potato mix)
-Frozen pasta skillet meals
-Frozen burritos (Costco has a great breakfast burrito)
-Pizza (always on our monthly meal plan at least once)
-Shredded chicken
-Hot dogs
-Bacon (for brinner)
-Frozen waffles
-Frozen fish filets

Pantry items for quick meals
-Canned soup
-Powdered “just add milk or water” soups
-Dry pasta and jarred cheese pasta sauce
-Red pasta sauce – I always have at least 2 jars
-Tuna
-Spaghettio’s (I told you this wasn’t healthy town)
-Alfredo sauce
-Cans of beans and tomatoes and DIY chili seasoning
-Corn bread mix
-Rice

Sometimes I put these meals on my monthly meal plan and sometimes I don’t. It all depends on how much grocery shopping I can do!