Fourth of July Family Camping Trip

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Fourth of July Family Camping Trip!!!

This weeks To Do List Tuesday topic is…

…Camping Meal Planning!

That’s what I am doing this week as the top item on my To Do List because Saturday we head out on a family camping trip with my brother and his family! I will be preparing our family’s “Camping Meal Plan” for our Fourth of July Camping Trip today so I can begin my prep work for the food on Friday. Camping is about having fun, making memories and being one with nature for a bit, therefore planning ahead and being prepared can save you valuable time and stress while preparing your meals. This is a trip I definitely want to save myself some time during and allow myself more room for memories!!!

Here is some of my camping background:

As a kid camping was the only summer vacation I knew until middle school. We would visit different campgrounds around various parts of Ohio as a family unit of 4, myself, my brother and my mom & dad. By the time I was eleven my parents had purchase a piece of land in southern Ohio for my dad and brother to use for hunting property and within that first year we had built a cabin on our land for us to use, allowing an alternative to tent camping. We had no running water, no gas heat and very minimal electricity available in our cabin but it got us off the ground inside of tents and into a large one room barn with a loft making week-long stays more comfortable, less wet when rain interfered and easier to achieve a few times a summer. We had a grill on a small deck platform on the front and my parents did most of our cooking on that or with the use of our fire pit.

When I met my husband and learned that his family had also instilled a love and appreciation of the outdoors in him, I knew camping would become a common practice in my life again. We were only together for a year or so before we purchased our very first tent as a couple and began building our Camping Kit! Many of those first purchases are still in our Camping Kit, one thing that is no longer included however, is a traditional camp stove…….

…..WHY? This may seem silly, a camp stove helps you eat right? Well in my experience one of these……..

…………… can help you eat when camping MUCH FASTER!

In our original Camping Kit as a couple we had purchased one of these ever so popular portable camp stoves and after our second camping trip the “convenient carrying case” was already broken and no more than a few uses later the handle to open the lid melted right off. I felt like I had wasted my money and the few times I had used it to cook it felt like I was preparing our meal with a stove version of an Easy Bake Oven. The food took forever to cook, it overcooked one side to a char but somehow the food was still cold, or worse I would fully prepare my hubby’s food and watch him eat it all before mine was even half done cooking! Frustrating to say the least, that was about 14 years ago and that was also the last time I prepared meals for a camping trip with the sole use of a portable camp stove. Now my meal planning takes a totally different approach. The bonfire is my primary source of food heating now and I plan to share some of my favorite Bon Fire Cooking Tips here, but first a look inside my Camp Kitchen!

Camp Kitchen

I plan to cover this in more detail in a future post about how I set my Camp Kitchen Up! Keep an eye out for it!

 

Here’s the deal with this specific 

Fourth of July Family Camping Trip!!!

My brother has two sons who live in Florida with their mother, while he resides here with his fiance & their combined 5 other children. It’s been years since my little family has seen them and they happen to be in town for a few weeks this summer! When their visit in Ohio with my brother was set on the calendar and it was scheduled to span over the Fourth of July, the idea of a family camping trip seemed natural.  My girls couldn’t be more excited to have some time to spend with their cousins and I am excited to have the opportunity to spark some memory making fun!

We will be heading out Saturday morning to a campground a few hours from home, a place that has been the site of memory making for our family for years! That cabin my parents bought when I was a child has since sadly been sold, but it is right around the corner from the particular camp grounds we will be staying at. As kids, my brother and I grew up visiting those camp grounds to access the beach and shower houses with my parents during our long stays at the cabin. After the cabin sold and about 4-5 years ago, my brother, my husband and I stayed a fourth of July weekend there with the combined 5 kiddos that we had amongst us. The oldest of my brothers sons had a broken arm at the time, wrapped in a cast and unable to be doused with water at the beach and limiting his adventurous abilities.

We went knowing there was a beach, but when we were kids there was a cement platform in the lake for jumping off of and 2 aluminum playground slides in the water as well. When we arrived for that last trip as adults, we came to find a full floating inflatable playground in addition to our childhood options. We felt terrible and so we planned then to make sure to take another camping trip at a later date when the cast would be gone. Unfortunately we didn’t anticipate it taking so many years to pull off that camping trip, BONUS now we get my sister-in-law to be and her brood of kiddos too! Together we will be camping…….

the 4 adults and………….

children in the gender/age line-up as follows:

B16, G15, B15, B13, B12, B10, G9, G7, G5, G2

We will be missing one of my nephews but sadly he is unavailable due to a conflicting schedule. He will be missed for sure but with the combined 10 kiddos that will span 16 – 2 years old it is sure to be a great opportunity to create memories!

Here’s the line up of meals I have planned to feed my share of this bunch and then some:

Our 4th of July Camping Menu

Saturday, July 1st
Lunch:
Deli Meat Sandwiches
(sub rolls filled with a variety of deli meats & cheeses with a selection of condiments for sandwich dressing)
*Served with cut fruit & potato chips.
Dinner:
Foil Pack Dinner
(Pre cut chicken & beef cubes drizzled with oil & seasonings. Add veggies of choice of cherry tomatoes, potato chunks, mushrooms, onion & sweet peppers. Fun for each person to personally build to taste!)
*Served with condiments for dipping & rolls warmed over the fire with butter.
Sweet Treat:
Birthday Cupcakes!!!
(Cupcakes for Uncle Len’s Birthday!)
*Served with Sherbet!
Sunday, July 2nd
Breakfast:
Pancake & Bacon Sticks
(Precooked bacon warmed & covered with pancake batter allowing them to be dipped and eaten with fingers! Less waste!)
*Served with juice &/or milk boxes of choice & a piece of fruit
(apple, banana, bunch of grapes)
Lunch:
Deli Meat Sandwiches
(sub rolls filled with a variety of deli meats & cheeses with a selection of condiments)
*Served with veggies, dip & potato chips.
Dinner:
Choice of Walking Taco’s or Frito Chili Pie’s
(Pre cooked taco/chili meat to build your own)
*Served with mini bags of Dorito’s & Frito’s and a selection of taco toppings.
Sweet Treat:
Smore’s & Roasted Marshmallows!
Monday, July 3rd  
Breakfast:
Sausage Egg & Cheese Breakfast Burrito’s
(Precooked scrambled eggs & sausage stuffed with cheese & wrapped in foil to make burrito’s!)
*Served with juice &/or milk boxes of choice & a piece of fruit
(apple, banana, bunch of grapes)
Lunch:
Hot Dogs & Cheeseburgers
(Topped with cheeses & a selection of condiments)
*Served with watermelon & potato chips.
Dinner:
Overstuffed Fire-Side Baked Potatoes
(Fire roasted baked potatoes to be topped)
*Served with bacon crumbles, chili, cheeses, sour cream, scallions & other toppings.
Sweet Treat:
Dessert Hobo Pies
(Bread filled with pie filling, chocolate & Nutella)
Tuesday, July 4th   
Breakfast:
Hashbrown Breakfast Muffins & Cereal
(Precooked scrambled & cheese filled hashbrown muffins with cereal side)
*Served with juice &/or milk boxes of choice & a piece of fruit
(apple, banana, bunch of grapes)
Lunch:
Cheddar Bratwurst
(Fire roasted with a selection of condiments)
*Served with watermelon & pasta salad.
Dinner:
Barbeque Ribs @ Home
(Fire roasted baked potatoes to be topped)
*Served with baked beans, corn on the cob & left over camping sides.
Sweet Treat:
Strawberry Shortcake @ Fireworks!
(Shortbread circles topped with strawberries & whipped cream)

Before I get to the actual Prep Ahead Process, Here’s a few BONUS tips!

*When planning my menu for a camping trip I try to choose meals that will repeat ingredients but in a slightly new way and I try to set meals in a certain order across our trip based on the reuse of ingredients as well as the ease of cooler storage.

*Investing in a large and tight sealing cooler will make the entire trip easier! If you are using a collection of smaller or middle range coolers I encourage also packing your coolers based on meal time as well (ie. all your breakfast & lunch foods in one and dinner needs in another). I do always encourage keeping your beverages in a separate cooler no matter how many coolers you need to use to store your food. Drinks are the main reason people open coolers, if you keep them in one easy to identify cooler then your food and perishables won’t suffer the consequences of the cooler being opened every time someone is thirsty!

*I STRONGLY RECOMMEND you purchase a quality set of Plastic Food Storage Containers, it will pay off when your solid ice turns to arctic water. Having a water tight seal will benefit you greatly by allowing you to still use most of that arctic water without it seeping into your food storage containers, allowing you not to drain that water & waste extra money on a ton of new solid ice. My personal favorite are THESE by Rubbermaid.

2.5 Gal Easy Find Lids Container                                                                                                     EFL_44pc_Front5

Value Pack: 9 cup / 14 cup Easy Find Lids                                                                                            5.5 Cup Easy Find Lids Container Rectangle

Available in a wide variety of sizes you can purchase a variety that work best for you and your families go to dishes. Last, HERE’S a great resource for other camping hacks!

Now Let’s Get to the Prep Ahead Process!

*For this process I prep ahead not in order of when the actual meals will be served but rather in order of meal time (i.e. all breakfast prep before moving on to any of my lunch prep, dinner prep, ect.). This keeps things more sanitary first and foremost but it also allows me to keep my small kitchen less cluttered and more efficient, keeping only a small collection of my shopping list ingredients at hand on my counters. It also allows me to gauge the quantity of one ingredient that I use in one dish, in relation to the other meals that will also need the same ingredients.

I put together a PDF of my Grocery List for this menu (keep in mind the items on the list that specify quantity will feed a small army, so for the average family of 4-6 I would stick with half the quantities, but adjust as you see fit to the appetites you are feeding!). In addition, I typed up a PDF version of My Prep Ahead Process to walk you through my Prep Day. I plan to complete the bulk of my shopping Friday morning, with the exception of my produce because we have a local farmer’s market on Saturday mornings and I will get better produce for my money going there Saturday morning before we head out! The rest of the meals will each have some level of prep in order to obtain maximum ease at time of execution & preparation over the campfire. I did my best to walk you through my process for prep and my fireside instructions, but of course make whatever necessary changes you see fit to best suit your family!

Prep Ahead Process & Fireside Prep Steps

Pancake Bacon Dippers

Here I am finishing up the last of our pancake & bacon dippers at last years family 4th of July Camping trip in the mountains of Pennsylvania!

With the food made simple there’s more time for memories!

I put the extra effort into prepping the day or so before the trip to allow us to eat well while not spending the entire time at the campsite preparing, cleaning up from, and waiting on meals. This leaves time for fun activities and excursions around the campgrounds! Here are a few of the campsite activities I have planned to keep the kids entertained while they are bound to the campsite, though I do anticipate more time at the beach and looking for adventure but in those in between moments and moments of downtime I like to have a trick or two up my sleeve to ward off melt downs.

The First Activity is: Painted Rocks, I don’t know if your neighborhood or home has caught up with the rock painting phenomenon or not, but we have a whole Facebook Group devoted to it in our county. I will be taking a collection of acrylic paints & paintbrushes for the kids to paint rocks they are bound to collect around the campsite.

Painted rock / rock painting / rock art / painted stones / adventure / up / balloons     99 DIY Ideas Of Painted Rocks With Inspirational Picture And Words (56)

Next is this cute UP Adventure Booklet that I found over at http://www.family.disney.com, where I found a few other great UP inspired activities that seem cute as well. For this campout we will just use the booklet though.

In addition, I searched Independence DayCamping Hiking while I was looking around http://www.family.disney.com and found these great coloring pages featuring Mickey & Minnie & their pals too.

I borrowed this idea for Outdoor Adventure Hunts from this brilliant mom, I printed mine on paper and taped/stapled them to lunch bag sized paper bags with handles so the kids can easily carry their hunt finds!!! Here is another previous solution I have used for this idea!

Scavenger Hunt Bags

This is a picture of some I made for a Labor Day Camping Trip we took our girls on the summer after #4 was born! I personalized the bags and also the Scavenger Hunt to the areas I knew we would be visiting and the activities I knew we would be doing!

 

To go with them on their “Adventure Hunt” we will assemble some Toilet Paper Roll Binoculars, like these from “Make Life Lovely”.

Well there you go! After a marathon of a To-Do List Tuesday, our meals are planned, activities are prepped and the steps and processes, tricks & tips that come so naturally to me have now been turned into a detailed document to be duplicated by anyone interested to try them. I hope I have inspired you in some way, to try something new for your next family camping trip and I also hope that something I shared will help you take less time working and more time making memories while you camp! Don’t forget that a little planned time to prepare ahead can make all the difference in the memories you make! Now go forth and Dazzle in the woods or wherever you plan to travel with your crew this summer, just remeber the point of trips and vacations with the ones you love is to make memories!!!

As always, thanks for reading!

~Rebecca

Romantic 10 Year Anniversary Road Trip

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This weeks To Do List Tuesday is to…

…pack my bags for a romantic 10 year wedding anniversary road trip with my main squeeze!

 

We married 10 years ago on June 15th 2007 and we covered the bulk of our wedding expense ourselves. Because of this we had plans to take a second Honeymoon when we reached the ten-year mark because after paying for the wedding we wanted with family & friends we couldn’t take the honeymoon we had originally hoped. Our plans originally included a vow renewal ceremony and a Caribbean vacation but our plans have very little to do with our real lives!

After the rough start to our year, and the realization that in the 10 years we have been married, we have only managed a handful of nights away together, but not more than one night at a time and really only a handful of times, my husband and I knew we had to still manage some sort of getaway to celebrate. Ten years is a big deal especially in today’s culture and generation of all time high divorce rate. And even if it wasn’t a big deal to the rest of the world, it’s a big deal for us. We have had our fair share of ups and downs in our 15 1/2 years together, the large majority of those in the 10 years since we have been married. Our lows at times coming so swiftly behind the last that we could barely keep our heads above it all, in those times it has been he that I have needed more than any other person in my life. I regularly tell him, in this crazy ride we call life, He is the only decision I’ve made that I am certain of day in and day out. He is my best friend, my partner in crime, the most amazing baby daddy, loving father to our 4 beautiful daughters and provider above all other than God for our family. Cliche it is but I love him so much more today than I did the day we got married.

A Getaway is needed…

          We need a break…

                    A chance to Refresh…

                            Time to Relax & be playful grown-ups again!

So off we are headed to satisfy this list! We head out in a little over a day thanks to my awesome mother who will be staying with our girls while we are gone, allowing their routine to stay as normal as possible because our absence is bound to be noticed! Our kiddo’s are already expressing their woes that we are leaving….

…This brings me to my 1st of 5 tips to a successful romantic road trip!

Tip #1 – ACTUALLY TAKE A ROMANTIC GETAWAY!

You are only going to continue being happily married and have a successful cohesive parent unit for your kiddo’s if you take time to just be the two of you again. This needs to be done regularly at a far more scaled down level by way of sneaking out for a date night or even setting up a date night in after the kids are in bed. However you do manage to do it, do it often, but occasionally you have to go big and give yourselves the chance to really get back in those places in your mind, memory and heart that will remind and rekindle the feelings you had when everything about your relationship was easy. We all have things that fight for our attention on a daily basis but we must remember to make our spouse a priority amidst all the chaos. Despite the crying children who just don’t want you to go, you must set a plan in action. Find a trusted, responsible caregiver to help you out, friends, family, who ever is in “your village” that you trust with your kids while you two sneak away and then you must actually sneak away, have fun and rekindle…

Tip #2 – TAKE A LITTLE TIME BEFORE YOU LEAVE TO GET YOUR CHILDREN’S CARE & ENTERTAINMENT HANDLED…

This may sound like just another series of things to put on your to-do list but I assure you it WILL pay off while you are gone. (A) If it is possible to get someone to watch your kids in your normal residence that will greatly help keep your kids from wanting to call a hundred times a day to tell you how much they miss you. Being in their personal comfort zone with a caregiver they trust is the first key, in my opinion, to keeping the kids in a calm head space while you and your Honey get away.

(B)You may want to consider either preparing ahead meals for your caregiver to just do basic prep, heating & serving for your kids while you are away but I urge you to at least do a good grocery shop before you leave to be sure to leave food and drinks that your kids will not fight  about with the substitute caregiver. If you chose a few recipes you know the kids will enjoy you could drastically improve the stress at mealtime for them by at least having the ingredients and snacks of choice on hand while you are gone.

(C)Also I recommend you do find a way to take the time to prepare some fun new ideas or activities for the caregiver to do with your kids. No one knows your kids better than you, so taking a little time to prepare ahead for some of their entertainment can be the key to the boredom buster and in my experience when kids get bored and restless they tend to push their luck more. Whether you pick up an inexpensive new toy to help them be excited and distracted by or a new movie they have been wanting to see, some steps of preparation in advance will be greatly appreciated by your caregiver and your spouse alike! It could be a simple as a new book or coloring book, just something fresh & new to them will be a helpful distraction.

(D)It almost goes without saying but, be sure to be ahead of the dirty laundry also because there needs to be a good selection of clean clothes for your kids while you are gone too, and you want the best selections from your closet available for you to pack  from also of course! With no kids to get ready while away, you can take  little extra time to make yourself look & feel fancy again. A good night dressed up and out with my man can do wonders for my self esteem!

Tip #3 – GIVE YOUR VEHICLE A GOOD DETAIL THE DAY BEFORE YOU LEAVE…

This tip may seem like a waste of time because you are heading off on a road trip and you are bound to get the new detail job messed up right? Well yeah you may, but do it anyways! (A)Realistically detailing your vehicle is allowing your contained date space for the road trip to be clean, comfortable and clear of all kid paraphernalia. This is the first step to making sure that you have a good atmosphere for your romantic road trip in your driving date space and let’s be honest you are not messier than your kids, it will likely stay that way the majority of your travels, excluding any crappy weather situations.

(B)While detailing and de-kid-cluttering your vehicle make sure any safety seats for your kids are removed and properly installed in your caregivers vehicle so you know they are installed correctly & safely giving you peace of mind over their travels while you are off on your romantic escape.

(C)Also take the kids music, movies, ecetera out of the player and make room for you and your boo’s  favorite music! No Wiggles, or Disney soundtracks, or Kids Bop cd’s need to be on hand for your romantic getaway. Instead pre-load your wedding songs and any other music sentimental for you two into your vehicle by way of cd’s or blue tooth connection with your phone. We actually have a CD from the DJ at our wedding with all of the key songs and an assortment of others music played during our reception and you can bet that will be going with us so we can musically stroll down memory lane!

Tip #4 – MAKE A LIST & BE DISCREET WITH YOUR PACKING UNTIL THE FINAL GOODBYE

I give this tip because my kids do not like when I or my husband, and especially both of us, are going to be gone. (A)If they watch me wander around packing at the last minute it just creates more unnecessay build up for the moment of the final goodbye. If I pack in stages across the week before leaving I can get the bulk of the work of packing finished completely under their radar before we even load up the vehicle.

(B.)I absolutely always have to write a list, and I start this list usually about 2 weeks out from the departure date. This let’s me tweak my list some on paper based on any changes in the weather or itinerary that may come up and still allows me to have a clear picture of what needs to be packed to work off of when I start pulling things aside. Taking time to actually go through a detailed list of items from, Toiletries to make-up, and clothing selections with shoes and accessories can prevent you from taking too much. Instead of packing a bunch of “in case” and “maybe” items you can focus clearly on the trip at hand, the itinerary & weather you will be anticipating and your actual preferances for outfits.

(C)Remember, the idea of a romantic getaway is to rekindle and reenergize the bond between you two. This means it’s not only ok to put a little extra effort into you “look” while vacationing together, it’s totally encouraged! Don’t try too hard, and be natural for you, but don’t be afraid to try to impress him again like you would have while you were still dating and getting to know each other. Just because you now have spent all these extra years of wedded bliss together doesn’t mean you have to give up trying on behalf of the other! Put the spark back into your confidence and your relationship by allowing yourself the ability to get dolled up for you while you can with no little hands grabbing or little bottoms trying to sit in your lap, and prepare for it.

Tip #5 – ONCE YOU HEAD OUT ON THE ROAD, TRY YOUR VERY BEST TO KEEP ELECTRONIC DISTRACTIONS AND DIFFICULT TOPICS AT BAY!

This tip should go without saying in my opinion but in this super über technological age we are living in, keeping electronic distractions at a minimum can seem almost impossible. (A)If you are partaking in the distractions together, simultaneously and focusing on the same exact distraction then I consider it occasionally ok, but the point of this trip is to get a mini retreat for just you two, so shutting down excess distractions is first and foremost a step you should take. no mindlessly scrolling in the passenger seat of across the table from each other during your meals. No being pulled away for one work trip, or a friend who really needs you, over and over again. With the exception of checking in on your kids via phone, facetime, skype, ect. I don’t really encourage outside phone calls. Be serious and intentional about spending this time together creating memories and talking about your future together. The only time you should be reaching for your cell phone is when you are getting ready to snap a picture of  a moment you want to capture, then if you feel led, QUICKLY share it with the world and move on to the next part of your adventure!

(B)This brings me to the last part of this tip, don’t discuss difficult topics if it can at all be avoided. There is a time and place for these to be discussed but likely on a romantic getaway is not the best time to get into the nitty gritty of life, focus your discussion in a positive, uplifting place as a couple as much as humanly possible. Now if there is a rift to begin with and this getaway is an attempt to correct & repair that rift, then I understand the need to take advantage of the quiet uninterrupted time with no kids to discuss, but remember to talk. Calming, not defensively, not overly offensively, not heated, not loudly and not too much. Be respectful of each other and look for activities and outings that can draw on the nostalgic beginnings to tap into that good old-fashioned puppy love again.

(C)Be mindful not to forget the ROMANTIC part. Now I am a bit of a verbal prude in the romance department so for this part of the tip I encourage you to tap into what works for you two and allow yourself to be vulnerable & excited about spending this time together. Naturally those sparks will ignite again in ways you may likely have forgotten if you are intentional with each other and in tune with the butterflies of renewed quality time.

Sneak in some new adventures and outside of your typical “box” of ideas!

I am super excited about our chance to sneak away and I look forward to getting to experience some fun first’s together again, explore new areas and enjoy a place of nostalgia for us with no kids in tow this time. I love my girls and I really would do just about anything for them, but I only got them by loving my man well and being open to God’s newest adventure’s for my life, because He knows well that my plans for myself didn’t include any of what I now have. In an effort to continue letting His Will be mine, I know that require’s some nurturing of my marital relationship in a very intentional way. My kids will only be under my roof for a season and though I want to soak in every last second of them being young, I also long to nourish my connection with the man I’ve chosen to spend my life with because when my girls are all grown and off on their own life adventure’s I still want this man to like and love me, and I still want to like and love him back! But maybe even more important to me is taking the time I have with him to create lasting loving memories of just us as well as our family because truth be told, I don’t know how many years God plans for our life here on earth to continue together and I want to be certain there is an overflowing well of memories should God’s Will include one of us needing to draw on them alone one day.

So now I must head back to my list of things to do for our trip and I will leave you with this last thought, before there was a little family tree, there was just the two of you, take the time to nurture just that part of your family tree intentionally, your children need that of you, to allow generations of love to continue to grow from the roots you two have planted together! Now go forth and Dazzle your way through this beautiful summer week and start thinking about the little and potentially BIG ways you can begin to pour back into your marriage roots, maybe you start with a little night out or maybe it’s a Romantic Road Trip! The important thing is that you take a step!

As always, Thanks for reading!

~Rebecca

From Baby Nursery to Big Girl Room

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This past weeks To Do List Tuesday was to transition…

my 2 yr. old from a Baby Nursery to a Big Girl Room!

 

My youngest daughter turned TWO during this past Memorial Day weekend and it was then that she also successfully managed to climb out of her crib for the first time, while it was set at the lowest setting. It was in that moment that it occurred to me, like a ton of bricks, that my sweet little baby girl was a baby no more. In anticipation of getting to this point, we had purchased a toddler bed set with her pals Anna & Elsa on it. It was because my older 3 girls all transferred from crib to bed just after they turned two that we had planned to be prepared. She is the most petite of my girls so I was extra grateful to have a crib that converts easily to a toddler bed

 

We went from an over crowded space with a changing table crammed between a nightstand and a bookshelf and a crib and rocker with ottoman under a full size loft bed. You do what you must when it comes to fitting 4 daughters in across two bedrooms roughly 140 square feet each. Removing the side rail from the crib and turning it into a toddler bed made getting my little one into bed easier (keeping her there is a whole new process though). We took one of her bulky crawling toys out and decided the changing table and rocker with ottoman could go as well opening up more floor space to be used for play. The rocker found a new home in our living room and the changing table and crawling toy will be sold at a garage sale this summer.

 

With the new open floor space I was able to create 3 different vignette play spaces with her most favorite toy sets, ones that she and my 7 yr. old enjoy playing with together so it’s even better!

 

 

We made sure that we highlighted some of their favorite accessories and decor items while putting together this Enchanting Frozen Big Girl Bedroom. There are a few elements that still need completing, I have made a glass block Frozen nightlight that is not pictured because it has not been given to my girls yet. I also purchased a set of removable wall stickers that will replace the aged and peeling Winnie the Pooh ones left from the nursery (3 times re-used). Of course the new ones feature none other than Anna & Elsa and some of our other chilly pals !

20170606_193901

My littlest girl’s souvenir from our last trip to Walt Disney World in Aug/Sept 2016 and boy does she LOVE playing with these chunky plastic versions of her Frozen Friends

 

Both of my girls who share this room where very excited about the changes and the new look of their bedroom. In the week since the bedroom has been set up in its new arrangement and revealed to them, my girls have had plenty of playtime together and for the most part have been very effective at picking the room up before bed every evening allowing it to remain functional still! Yay for the small victories!

Getting my little one to stay in the bed for bedtime or naps has proven to be equally as difficult as it was with my other girls though. We have found her asleep on the floor more nights than in her bed because if she is able to get out of bed, she certainly will. Fortunately she is slowly warming up to laying in it for nap time (I do accredit this partially to the fact that when we find her on the floor after she has fallen to sleep I move her back into ger bed so she still wakes up in her new “Big Girl Bed”!) I know eventually she will catch on, and how could I expect any different when her big sisters would still prefer to sleep on a couch, the floor in a fort or in each others rooms over their own beds at 7, 9 & 15?

So there you have it, my 4th completed transition from Baby Nursery to Big Girl Bedroom! As exciting as this fun new transition is, I did sniff back some tears, and I was sure to rock her in that rocker one last time the night before the big transition so that I could savor it one more time. Savor the smell of her sweet freshly bathed & washed head, the tickle of her wispy hair on my chin & nose and the weight of her quickly growing body upon my chest, because I knew it would be the last time I would do that before laying my sweet girl into her crib for the very last time.

After 4 children, I have learned not only to cherish the 1st’s in our children’s lives, like their first words, first steps and first day of school, but also and maybe more importantly, to cherish every moment because we never know when they will be their last’s. When they will suddenly be too cool to come running to mommy to be swept up into our arms or God forbid not here at all to run to us. I consciously try to keep myself in the moments whenever possible when I am with my girls so that I don’t begin to take them for granted.

My girls are my reason for pushing myself to keep trying to be better than I was the day before. I don’t always succeed, if I’m entirely frank, I fail more days than I consider myself successful in this area, but I do still try to be better every day and I am guilty of getting distracted from time to time but thank the Good Lord for GRACE because He knows I ill fail and He loves me regardless because He knows my heart. Every time I am blessed to lift my head off the pillow again in the morning I try to be better in my spirit and better in my flesh. Better for my girls, better for myself, and most importantly better for God & His Will for my family and I encourage you to do the same! Check back again later today for this week’s To Do List Tuesday (…hint, hint….I will be giving you my favorite tips for packing & prepping for a road trip), because I am doubling up today due to my technical difficulties last week! Now go forth this week and DAZZLE through whatever transitions you may be facing and remember, if you are reading this, you are blessed with another day to live intentionally, so go DAZZLE while you do!

As always, thanks for reading!

~Rebecca

Our New Chore System!

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This weeks To Do List Tuesday is to reveal…

Our New Chore System!

I am extremely excited to debut this! I have been working on this project for a few months now. A few months back I knew I wanted to try a new approach to household chores with my girls and so I started looking for other ideas…..you see, what I find, at least with my kids is that what works with them for a season or so doesn’t always continue working so every now and then things need to be shaken up. This theory applies to many areas when it comes to raising kids in my experience, not just chores. We have done a few variations of Chore Systems in the past, maybe I will share some of those in a future blog. We have not typically paid them for chores in the past, this system will be the first time that I will experiment with payment, but I do think this varies depending on the age of the children and your family’s opinions on the matter.

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My girls range in age from 15 to 2 years old and so their skill level and ability varies as much as their ages. Therefore our new chore system has to be easy to understand, fun and appealing to encourage participation out of my youngest three but still mature enough to encourage my oldest daughter to be “motivated” to be the ring leader when it comes to keeping my other girls motivated. This new chore system has 4 components that I have combined to make a system that I feel will work for our family. If you like my new system, here is how you can replicate it for your family!

Component One:

The cork board squares were the beginning of our new chore system right away, before I even had a clear vision for my new system. I had 4 sets of cork squares taking up space from a previous project and I immediately knew I wanted to use those for each of my girls to help them track whatever would become their new chore system! Now I purchased my cork squares years ago and I don’t remember where but I am sure you could find a similar solution at your local craft store. I used Command Strips once they were completely assembled, to hang them on the wall near our cubbies (that I discussed last week in my introductory post for Thirty-One Thursdays).

Component Two:

The half folders were my next peice. In my effort to find a method that would work well across all ages, I stumbled into this mom’s solution she calls Instant Gratification Chore Folders. I tweaked the concept a little so ours aren’t quite instant gratification in the same way because I want to train them up to be prepared for budgeting, tithing, saving & having to wait to “get paid”. I decided to take 4 two pocket folders (again in each of their family colors) and cut the folders down a little less than halfway so that the top of the folder was just 3-4 inches above the pockets inside.

Next I labeled each folder and used spray adhesive to attach them to the cork square. Once the folders were each affixed to the cork squares I took 4 green envelopes (I had a multi colored envelope package & I specifically chose green for this step) and again used spray adhesive to attach them to the front of each folder, labeling the envelope’s with each of my girl’s names & the $ symbol………. this is where they will place their “money” until payday. On the inside of each pocket I labeled six of the 7 days of the week, Mon. – Sat. I consciously decided on not including Sunday because after all, Sunday’s are supposed to be a day of rest.

After the folders were ready, I decided that for each day I would put a single dollar in the pocket, except for Saturday because being a member of the family requires some contribution to our home just because you are a member of our family. I mean no one pays me for all the ways I contribute to our home daily and they need to learn this first hand. They will not be paid for every contribution that they are expected to make, only the contributions they choose to complete that go above and beyond the basic expectations. Back to the single dollar bills, I thought about the payment process quite a bit and decided that since I planned to do “pay days” instead of the instant gratification concept, I didn’t need real dollar bills. One of my girls had some awesome play dollar bills, so I took four of them and after careful placement & a few practice photocopies I had two templates to reuse over to create 4 double side dollar bills. I copied & cut enough to place $5 worth in each of my daughters folders (technically $10 for my oldest daughter as she is responsible for the most detailed & difficult versions of our chores).

Now I began looking for ideas and thinking about a way to assign the chores themselves. As I said previously, I have tried a few methods in the past so I wanted to think of a new approach, not just a recycled one. The hunt was on…….

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……..and then I found……..

Component Three:

These ADORABLE Daily Chore Calendars!

So first, I DID NOT design these and openly I take zero credit for the adorable creations themselves, but when I stumbled into them I knew I had found the right component for this important step to creating our new chore system!

The resource that I found these AMAZING calendars through is this blogger’s virtual classroom over at Bloggerific! It’s an awesome blog that looks to be a place I will stop back to regularly for future resources! She is an online teacher/mentor for K12 and after rowsing through her blog a bit I discovered she has a multitude of resources for students Kindergarten through the 12th grade. She provided the four Daily Chore Charts that I linked to below on her blog about them that she wrote back in September of 2012 and it just so happened that the dates line up with the June 2017 Calendar (with the exception of the 31st of course but we’ll just call that July 1st for our purpose!) so I decided that we would kick off our new chore system starting June 1st!

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There are 4 templates provided, two with pet chore’s and two without. I only used three of the templates for my personal execution, both pet calendars and one of the non pet calendars. Even though I have four daughters, I want to encourage my 7 yr. old to be a buddy with my 2 yr. old for chore’s so they were both given one of the calendars with some pet responsibilities. My 7 yr. old greatly thrives from the opportunity to be in charge of something with clear direction and the ability to be a helper so pairing her with my 2 yr. old was a natural decision. My oldest has a fair amount already on her plate outside of the home with friends graduation parties (Uuuugh! How is that so close for me as a mom?!?), Marching Band & local parade obligations, a few church/youth group related outings, in addition to her hope of working for my cousin’s cleaning company part-time this summer as well. Keeping her household obligations separate is certainly best in this case, though naturally she is my most experienced and enthusiastic helper, giving my 7 yr. old this opportunity will encourage her to remember she is a big sister too (because she often feels stuck in the little sister role as her two older sisters mature at their older pace). You may notice that on these Daily Chore Calendars there are days that say “Free Day”, in an effort to encourage they work towards one paid chore Mon.-Fri. these will not be implemented as actual “Free Day”s, rather they will be Free Choice Chore Day. I plan to get some tounge depressors to label with additional chore ideas that I will store in a decorative jar or cup on hand and on those days they will get to choose a chore of their choice from those ideas. These chores will also be available for additional chores, you know, just in case my girls wind up so motivated they blow me away!

Now that the chore assignment method is handled, I have 31 days to design a calendar of my own to use moving forward, but thanks to her beautiful work I have a jumping off point to begin implementing as soon as possible. My children started their summer break the Friday before Memorial Day this year so by the time we celebrated the start of summer, my youngest’s 2nd birthday & Memorial Day, I knew that Tuesday would be the first day that was really just a normal summer day in our house this year. Knowing that I was kicking off our Mindset Mondays this week as well, (1 hr. daily with brain work each day during the week around a certain theme) I wanted to be sure not to completely overwhelm them so starting the new Chore System on Thursday gave them time to get familiar with the weekly theme summer learning for a few days before I shook up their chores.

Component Four:

The last step was not entirely a neccesary component but I found it and thought it was too cute not to use somhow for my daughters. I found this Princess Chore Tracker which I printed a little larger than a business card with the plan to also laminate these so that I can use removable stickers to mark off each day they will be getting paid for so they have a visual reminder to look at on their Chore Boards without pulling the dollar bills out of their envelope a dozen times a week! This is knid of like their time card. they will turn these in to me on payday since I ill be the one regulating the stickers upon completion of the chores.

I decided to print the calendars, these Royal Duties Chore Trackers & prepare the Chore Boards and hang them Monday evening after they had all gone to bed. This way they would see them Tuesday and start to get a little curious about them, and if I was lucky maybe they would even get excited (I could hope)! I also printed out our new

BONUS 

Daily Task List’s

I was introducing these as a more organized approach to our Daily Task List in addition to the Chore Boards. Every day there are basic tasks obviously that must be done:

  • getting dressed for the day & properly handling their pajamas
  • making their bed in a very loose sense, no hospital corners here!
  • teeth brushing
  • breakfast & breakfast clean-up
  • devotions time in their bible
  • caring for our pets (1 dog & a tankful of fish)

I struggle daily reminding my children to do these things, I feel like the nag of all nags EVERY SINGLE DAY. I am constantly asking them if these things were done, or reminding them to complete them, so I finally realized a list they can visualize & check off may be just the trick to ending the nagging. In addition to these daily be dones, I added a few additional items especially for summer to ensure they eliminate the excess of electronics this summer and find healthier alternatives whenever possible, requiring some reading time & creative play time. I put together a Daily Chart that I call the Checklist for Electronics Summer Template. I printed it up Monday evening as well and had them sitting on our dining room table Tuesday morning at their place with their bible & journal.  I did not let them write on them though, after they saw them and I had explained them I took them up to get laminated so they can use dry erase markers to track weekly. (To my glee, the girls were all very receptive to the Chore Boards as well as these New Checklists to earn their electronics use daily when they discovered them Tuesday morning. So excited in fact that I did have to print a new copy for my second oldest daughter because she had starting completing things & checking them off on her paper before I even had time to explain them!)

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As one final little EXTRA treat for the moms, I found this helpful Calendar that offers a weekly, monthly & yearly solution to a full coverage clean of your home! FB_IMG_1452031241732

Now don’t get me wrong, I do not follow this to any degree, I have actually had my cousin’s cleaning company out twice in the last month and a half to help me maintain and rebound from our horrific first quarter of the year. I did however find this buried in the files on my laptop while I was file sorting & organizing a few weeks back. I found it and thought it was a good resource for those of you gifted in the cleaning department. I can only find true peace & tranquility in a clean space so I prefer a tidy home. This is a direct reflection of how good a housekeeper my mother was when I was a child and still is to this day. I picked up a good portion of her cleanliness habits but with four kids running around there are just not enough hours in the day to keep up with it all. I have many gifts that God has blessed me with, what I am not blessed to be able to do easily is maintain a regular cleaning schedule. It get’s done, but not weekly when it should, not monthly in some cases and all together, never. I can’t get one room cleaned well and thoroughly and move onto another room without progress either being halted or redirected, thus meaning I never manage to get my entire house clean at once to enjoy it at all……………………unless I have

The Cleaning Ladies

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out to help keep me in line and save me valuable time to make memories with my kiddo’s while! The incredibly reasonable price I pay to have them out to clean are far better than the tortured task of feeling like I never get it all done and honestly when paired with just a little bit of maintenance chore effort through this chore system I am left with time to redirect my energy to another money-saving task, money-raising project or memory making fun! Just once or twice a month and  your whole life could be changed! Take it from me, implement a Chore System that works for your kids and give The Cleaning Ladies a call! Let Laurel know you want your house to Dazzle like mine!  Now head out to get your kids moving, because a little bit of structure can change your world this summer!!!

As always, thanks for reading!

~Rebecca

To Do List Tuesdays

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In an effort to get myself into a consistent pattern of writing this summer and do a better job of continually updating my blog with current & relevent posts through our summer adventures, I have created a blogging schedule that will be producing several different blog series within different themes to be released on each day of the week through out this entire summer. It will be a challenge, I am sure I will stumble, but over-all it is in an effort to follow God’s will for me and my writing and share my fun ideas & occasional anecdote with you all. You may have seen my previous blog posts about some of those other blog series’ like

12 Weeks of Virtues Summer 2017 Challenge and Mindset Mondays, well I decided Tuesday’s I would write a short blog about something in my To-Do List. This may be any number of things, but it won’t be a terribly long blog and it will tackle something on my “to do list” for the week. A project, a chore, a task, ect. if you have anything on your to do list you would like helpful tips or advice tackling ask away and I will do my best!

My first To Do List Tuesday Topic is…

Summer Freezer Meal Planning!

I love to cook but during the summer I hate to be in the kitchen too long, and we are typically so busy that I need to be prepared in advance or we will go broke by the end of summer eating out or making a million trips to the store in a month wastefully buying a few days at a time. After I discovered this past fall that with some planning and a little prep, my husband and I were perfectly capable of prepping 40+ freezer meals for our family of 6, I knew I needed to apply this same method to a summer menu to stock up for June & July at least.

When my husband and I tackled this meal prep project back in the fall (just before I restarted my blog) we prepped over 40 freezer meals across 2 days of actual prep & assembly and one full day of grocery shopping. Essentially 3 days took the hard work of making dinner out of our lives across about 43 meals. Most of the meals had leftovers which doubled as second dinners or lunches for my husband or myself. With the addition of the handful of times that we still went out to eat or ordered in for something special during the fall and winter, we didn’t use the very last freezer meal until February of this year (which wound up being very helpful through our challenging start to the year with two close losses; Heartbroken…. When heartbreak strikes again…too soon ) All together because of a little planning and some thought out prep & help from the hubby with assembly, 3 days of work translated to almost 90 days not having to stress over making dinner in the think about it, find the right ingredients, prep and assembly sense. In most cases they were crock pot meals with very minimal day of effort needed and no more advance thought than the night before to pull them out & thaw.

My To Do List Task for this week (aside from preparing for my youngest daughter’s 2nd birthday & Memorial Day cookout) is to begin gathering recipe’s that will be quick and easy to prepare, allow easy addition of fresh seasonal produce, feed at least 6 people and can be mostly prepped ahead and frozen. If you have any recipe’s you love during the summer months please feel free to share! Here are the few recipe’s I began gathering so far this evening.

Freezer to Grill Shish Kebobs

Ranch Burgers

Buffalo Chicken Wraps (I have used this freezer recipe before and it is one of my favorite, especially for summer!)

Slow Cooker Pineapple Pepper Chicken Stew

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Buffalo Chicken Wraps recipe and picture courtesy of Once A Month Meals

Friendly tip…one of my favorite places to go for recipes of any kind but specifically freezer recipes is : Once A Month Meals, they have an enormous selection of great recipes with tips on how to properly prep for the freezer. They have an incredible team of contributors who track down some great recipes and test them and you can even join as an official member to take advantage of their shopping lists, ingredient prep steps & menu planning tools available.

I look forward to sharing with you the full meal plan & prep day process documented in a future blog! Also as we get closer to fall I will be turning our previous freezer meal experience that I spoke of earlier, with you into blog form as well because I did photograph our fun & I still have those meal plan documents saved!

Again if you have any recipes for summer that we may love please share those ideas below in the comments! I would love to try some of your favorite go to summer dishes! Alright now off to the rest of my “To-Do List” items for the week! My kids start summer break in just one day! Go forth and get ready for your summer but don’t forget to check back for more of our adventures!

As always, thanks for reading!

~Rebecca