Monday, November 23, 2015

10 NON TOY Christmas Ideas For Your Children!!

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I don't know about you, but I am SO done with buying our kids more toys!!

They receive trinkets for birthdays, AND special occasions, AND rewards...and...and...

 Let's not forget Christmas...

To be honest, we've already toned down gift giving over the past few years.
I mean, between relatives, friends & parties, how many gifts does a child need??

I mean, really. 

How have we toned down already?

Well, for starters, most years our birthday "present" is simply hosting a party celebration.
A cake, some food & loved ones. 

Spending time with loved ones IS supposed to be the highlight :)

Creating memories instead of over filling our home.

We do a few stocking stuffers (or smaller presents) to have something to look forward to, 
but our desire is for the focus to be on the true meaning of Christmas.

So, what does a Mama of six seven suggest other than toys?

Well, I'm going to share a few suggestions that I've found successful.

That are NOT toys!

And will work for a variety of ages.

(for the record, we are gift giving this year for 0-15 years)

1) A Novel! 

This encourages your child to read. Or if they're not quite reading solo yet, it 
gives you the opportunity to read WITH them. Either way, reading gives a child the 

2) Pajamas!

This is something we did last year for our kids. I picked them all
out a cuddly pair of jammies to snuggle up in. Every year our children/teens are growing 
& although we usually buy clothing second hand, this is a nice (affordable) treat.

3) Craft Kits!

I fondly recall my Dad buying us a craft kit each year when we were
young. He said it'd give us something to do, and he was right. It 
was a nice use of our school holidays, and sometimes lasting into the 
new year. Many years I still carry out this tradition with our own kiddos.

4) Science Kits!

Similar to a craft kit, this gives your child the chance to use their time wisely (& creatively!) long after the Christmas wrapping is all cleaned up. A science kit is a good fit for your older, curious or more avid learners. We have received some really good ones over the years, but others
have not lived up to their, ahem, "promises". So check what comes with your kit before 

5) A Learning Book!

Similar to the benefits of a novel, however a book that encourages learning will add that
extra dimension of making good use of time & educating your child/teen. Nowadays there are SO many resource & topical books to choose from!
Note: pick a topic of interest or you may end up later re-gifting...

6) Gift Card!

This one is the go-to nowadays for most teens. We try to stay away from them when a 
more personal touch would be preferable, however they do give your child/teen some decision
making power. Can help foster independence, and even gives them a (small) taste of budgeting.

7) A Family Movie!

This one is really fun to pick out. Think of a movie that you'd all want to see (or almost all...
the teens can be fickle sometimes ;)
You can also enclose --> some popcorn bags, seasonings, & other special family goodies

8) A Treat/Food Basket!

We usually do this mainly in our stockings. Special treats, or goodies is
nice around the holidays. These are also perfect for--> teachers, aunts/uncles, friends, neighbours, etc. I mean, who doesn't like a nice basket of their fav treats??

9) Extracurricular Lessons!

Dance, swimming, music...all lessons are costly nowadays. Purchasing
a wanted lesson helps your child/teen as the gift can help them understand that it "costs" them something (aka this IS the present). Perhaps an area where grandparents can also chip in?

10) Family Outing!

This year we told our children that their main gift was our purchase
of a trailer for our summer vacations. We got it used, and at a reasonable cost.
In the end, we know it'll save us money for future family vacations.

Other years we've gifted them with -->trip to water park, movie passes, and
hotel overnight (we look for deals!).

Christian Toys + Games at


So why not skip (or lessen) the toys given this year and try one of the above?

How about you: do you ever give gifts other than toys?

(*feel free to share in the comment section)


Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Homeschooling With Littles

Homeschooling With Littles 

Although I am by no means an expert, I am finding my own

And on many days that means chaos!

Potty and diaper breaks, and snacks. Lotsa snacks.
Breast feeding while feeding my toddler her little "squishies"

Constantly picking up toys strewn about that could be hazardous 
to anyone walking around the main floor.

Mopping up spills, and hugs for many tears.
Dealing with tantrums, and sickness.

Appointments for growth & check ups.
Ensuring adequate nap times & of course, impromptu extra bath times ;)

On some days it feels like I've got more than a stove full of
pots on the go!

Or I've got my own little reality show going on...

"Mamma Trying To Stay Sane While Raising Little Children

I can just imagine it.


82640: 365 Read-Aloud Bedtime Bible Stories

On more romantic days, I experience the warmest of feelings
exuding from my very breath, as I tightly
hold my precious ones close & read them a short story together.

Discussing the topic at hand & listening to them share
right from their sweet little hearts. Nothing like it.

Children usually hold nothing back & are full of compassion
that us adults often lack.

Just ask a young child, "What do YOU think we should do
about the Syrian Refugees?" OR "How should we
handle someone who is mistreating us?"

Now, of course their naivete means they lack the understanding
of what all that lived out could actually entail..

But their hearts?
So precious. So open. So loving & receptive.

That is why I remind myself over & over again
of why we are choosing to homeschool.

When we experience lack...

When I feel tired....

When I miss the days that I could run off to an appointment....


We have chosen to send our eldest two children back to school,
and we are very thankful for other options.

With the others, we plan to continue,
and take it year to year, allowing the Lord to give us direction.


So what are some of my thoughts on homeschooling with littles?

Here's a few tips that I've found helpful:

*Keep a few baby change stations handy.

I have one upstairs in the littles' bedroom by their two cribs.
I have another one handy near the homeschooling "station" we have,
and yet another in the front room where day time naps are often taken.
Diapers, extra change of clothes, wipes & creams are necessary around here.
The object is to make things as accessible as possible.

*Time your subjects around the schedules of your littles.

I aim to complete our math & English first thing when everyone is fresh in the morning.
The littles included. They're more likely to sit quietly & play when they're
not overtired. When the littles go for their afternoon nap, we aim to do a big chunk 
I find that leads to less frustration than trying to read with two littles clamoring for my full attention.

*Be flexible. Be very flexible indeed!

Although we aim to do our school work around the littles' nap time (last point), in reality we do it whenEVER we can! Having two littles means I am pulled in many directions throughout the day. To meet this need, I have chosen both curriculum that I teach, as well as independent work. The independent work is pulled out in a pinch when I have something to deal with (a quick trip to the potty, or impromptu accident, etc.). Often my children will: write their journal entry, practice their instrument, do an extra  A.C.E. PACE work book, or do some more on one of their projects while I finish up.

*Have a "busy" basket or bin nearby for the littles.

This can include activities (depending on age) --> puzzles, flash cards, work books, colouring books, easy crafts, blocks, train tracks, books, stuffed animals etc. etc.
While we are doing school work, our toddler quite enjoys pulling our her workbooks & pencils. The baby gets excited seeing his box of mega blocks that he enjoys chewing on. I find that after a bit of time has passed, I switch it up to avoid boredom.

In this season, this means I have a mother's helper come 2 times a month to help around the house. For others I've spoken to, it can mean --> having dad do some of the school work in the evening, or a grandparent; or going to a local co-op, play group or incorporating regular hikes & field trips; or getting someone in to clean the house from time to time; or switching up curriculum to a completely independent program (i.e. on the computer or web for example). The point is not to be afraid to look at your options, to best support your family & homeschooling experience.

*Lastly, ensure you get enough rest, exercise & eat well.

I have learned this one the hard way....unfortunately...but if we don't get enough rest, over time, we will become frazzled in our homeschooling experience, and often impatient with our children. Take naps when you can and going to bed early can be helpful. Exercise is one that I find pays back MEGA dividends in energy. Eating healthy, well I'm biased as a Registered Nutritionist, but at least aim to focus your diet on whole foods. Supplement where needed. Overall, aim for balance!

What about yourself: how do you balance homeschooling in your home?

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Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Five Paleo Friendly Snacks!!!

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By Rachael J. DeBruin, Registered Holistic Nutritionist

I know how hard it is to concentrate once that mid-afternoon craving comes.
I have six kiddos. Nuff said ;)

 (& one of them still often wakes up through the night....yes, we know fatigue around here!)

In fact, most afternoons, while trying my best to keep awake, I've struggled with the bad habit of 
reaching for these fillers -->

Stimulants (tea, anything with caffeine)
Or Sweets (sugars can give us that temporary 'buzz')

But then the inevitable crash comes...

And with it even MORE cravings!

& who has time for that?!


563966: Mom"s Night Out Weekly Chaos Planner

I've found that the best way to stop the cravings, is to head them off before they even start.

Staying away from processed foods, or at least, lessening their consumption (i.e. eating them 
while out, or using them for a limited number of meals or parts of)
is a great second step.

So what about when those lulls in energy come, and I'm needing something fast??

To stop a food induced crash, it is important that you focus on something
nourishing, but with a protein power punch.

Why protein?

Basically, protein will give you the energy, without the unwanted fall out afterward.

Read on to find out a few suggestions. Some FREE recipes included!


Five Paleo Friendly Snacks

1. Hard-boiled Eggs & Sea Salt
Note: good quality salt contains trace minerals naturally occurring!

2. Lightly Roasted Almonds & Sea Salt
(or other nut/seed; nuts & seeds contain many necessary vitamins/minerals) 

Easy to make & easy to take on the go!

4.  Homemade Granola Bar --> like our sample here

5. A Quality Protein Bar! 
Protein bars can be glorified candy bars! 
Watch sugar & carb contain, and look for whole food ingredients. 
Tip --> unfamiliar words are usually not healthy ;(

Do you have a favourite protein based snack?
(*feel free to share in the comment section below)

***This article is for educational purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. 

344264: The Daniel Plan Cookbook: Healthy Eating for Life

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Organized Chaos: Accepting Imperfection (Top Ten Tips)

Organized Chaos: Accepting Imperfection 
My Top 10 Personal Tips

With six kiddos (oh, and a hairy pooch!), you can only imagine the sort of clutter & chaos
we 'entertain' regularly in this home.

From the toys accumulated, to the clothes' never ending mountain tops...
We sure know how to make a huge mess, and in a very quick timespan!

Part of my job description as a stay-at-home mom is attempting to keep our living space
neat & tidy. Or at least being the 'general manager' of it all.

But for years, and with my Type-A personality, I have struggled with 
trying to keep it perfectly clean. Like perfect. Really, really trying.

But as our family has grown in size, and with my spare time dwindling,
I've had to learn to put precedence to the necessary only, leaving out the 'extras'.

So today, I'm going to let you get a little peak into my world.
How I attempt to keep some sense of order & sanity in our home.

But hopefully, it encourages you. Especially those of you who also
may struggle with time crunches, and deadlines...

We're in this journey together :)

With the diapers...and potty training...and busy teens...and...and!

Last Minute Gifts at

How To (Imperfectly) Manage Lots Of Chaos
My Personal Top Ten Tips

  • Declutter, declutter, & declutter!!! I aim to declutter seasonally, as well as whenever we've accumulated a whole lot of extra 'stuff' (like Christmas for example). I usually take two large garbage bags (or boxes) into a room (or closet, or small area) and designate one for garbage, and one for give away. Getting rid of excess stuff makes cleaning much MUCH more easier!

  • Seek to be generous! This goes along with tip one. I try to keep in the back of my mind people I know who could use something that we have extra of, or don't need. Put it aside, but in an easy to see location (even in the back of the car ready to go!). Optimally, you try to deliver within a week or two. It's always such a blessing to see the smile on someone's face when we pass on a treasure that was a right fit for them. Ensure whatever you pass along is in OPTIMAL condition (unless they're miss or mr. fix it). 

  • Aim for open space in the bathroom! If there's one room in the house that I want to keep tidy, it's our bathroom. I check the garbage cans pretty much daily, and ensure it's changed if needed. Toilet rolls stocked up & soaps. Floor decluttered, and a quick counter wipe helps make the room look tidy overall. Throw away any empty bottles, and containers kicking around. Check that the towels are changed when needed. For those of us with lots of boys (I have four sons & hubby) extra wiping down behind the toilet is not optional!! (smile)

  • Organizing cooking area! The second room that is most important to have organized and ready to go is of course, the kitchen. This is where I spend a huge amount of time cooking, and organizing our meals. Let's not forget washing dishes & all clean up. I enlist help from the kiddos to keep up with our dishes. Daily floor sweeping & mop is essential in our high traffic house. This area more than anywhere else.

  • Laundry, laundry & more laundry! I can barely keep up with it, so we've developed an imperfect system that seems to be sustainable (at least). My hubby puts a load or two each evening in the washer & then dryer. He puts into totes, and then once a week we sort it all, fold and help put it away. Throughout the week I sometimes do mini sorts, but often find it's too difficult to get much of it done with the littles needing my constant supervision. I have learned to live with a very cluttered laundry room, and given up perfection in this area ;)

  • Simplify your routine & learn to repeat! I really don't do that many deep cleans during the year. And (confession time) from time to time, I will spend extra money to pay a cleaner (a family friend) to come & affordably do a deep clean once or twice a year (especially when  I was pregnant and having trouble walking!). In general though, I have a simple routine that I repeat 2-3x's per day. Keeping the main living area tidy, the kitchen, and the front entrance (fairly) organized are important to me. Then there's some extras, and that's about it. So a twenty minute tidy in early morning, after school, and before bed. All of the kids who can walk help out at various levels...and that brings me to our next tip...

  • Keep ongoing communication on who does what! This is something our family is still growing in. Hubby & I have had many disagreements over the years due to simple misunderstandings in the home (i.e. who is supposed to take care of what task, which bill, etc.), but we're learning to compromise :) For example, he enjoys doing the laundry in the evening, so I've learned to let him. I don't like our kitchen all cluttered, so he is learning to help me out by putting his dishes in the sink after eating. Etc. etc. All couples & families can disagree in this area, but as we learn to talk it out, things go much more smoothly! Bring the kids in on the discussions where applicable. In this house, Mama's motto is, "All hands on deck!"

  • Do what you can & leave the rest! I try to get my 'list' done each & everyday (mental or on paper), but in real life it's impossible to always keep up. It really is, and the sooner we all realize that, the better. So I'm learning to compromise & do what I can on the day given to me....leading me to my last tip.

  • Accept "interruptions" as more important than the cleaning or organizing task at hand. A child may need some undivided attention, or an important phone call may present itself. Learn to prioritize people over tasks, and as I remind myself of this from time to time, the person in front of you is more important than our lists ;)

What about you, what are your top teps for (imperfect) sanity??
Please feel free to share in the comments section.




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