Happy Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day is a time to appreciate your Mom, whether it be your biological mother, your stepmother, the dad who was both mother and father, or the person most like a mom to you. Here are some creative and original ideas to make Mom feel special. Happy Mother’s Day!

  • Bake It Sweet– Your Mom will love that you made her a dessert like a cake, cookies, or whatever her favorite sweet is rather than buying it from a store. You can make it even more special by the presentation or packaging you use for the treats.
  • Make Your Card A Gift – Who says you have to buy a Hallmark card in order for it to be special? Making a card for your Mom not only shows your creativity but also your own words will mean so much to her. These days, it is so special to see someone’s handwriting as we just don’t write as much as we used to.
  • Paint It– Paint a few mason jars to match your Mom’s décor. Fill the jars with flowers and make a lovely center piece in the kitchen or dining room or your Mom’s bedroom. She will think of you whenever she sees these decorative jars. Just Google ‘how to make a painted mason jar’ and you will be on your way.
  • Go Green – Buy your Mom a simple houseplant, but be creative in the pot you choose. A simple colander makes a great hanging basket for outside. Is your Mom into fresh herbs? That would be a wonderful gift to give her seedlings for her favorite herbs. All spring and summer she will enjoy using fresh herbs and the convenience of having them at her fingertips.
  • Get Nostalgic– We all have great digital photos. Why not create a slide show of your favorite moments with your Mom and surprise her with these? Set it to some music and she will be in tears before you know it.

These are just a few ideas to get you started. What are some other cleaver gift ideas you have done for your Mom?

Photo Licensed from Adobe Stock.

How to Get Your Kids Out From Behind Their Electronic Devices

Children today have a myriad of electronic devices to keep them engaged and entertained with minimal adult supervision. However, kids must have other activities beyond school, sports/extracurriculars, and homework to engage them. How to get your kids out from behind their electronic devices? Here are a few ways to engage your children with activities they, and the whole family, can enjoy.

  • Set a Timer – If you’re going to play a game say, “We’ll play for X amount of time and then see how we feel.” If you’re going out, tell your child(ren) “We’re going to the museum for X hours.” Telling kids in advance they will be doing things during a certain time, or for a certain duration, not only reassures them that they will have time for themselves, but also allows them to plan their day. This helps eliminate any potential resistance to doing whatever you have planned.
  • Play Games – A great strategic board game is more entertaining and challenging to do than just stare at a computer/video screen. A good old fashioned board game can break up the day for all. Check out Settlers of Catan, Ticket to Ride, and even Monopoly. Apples to ApplesandLabrynthare great for younger children, or for families with both young children and teenagers who want to have a family game night.
  • Check Out a Museum – Are you aware that a lot of libraries offer discount or free museum passes? You do need to sign up ahead of time to make sure the dates you want are available, but it is the best ticket in town. Museums don’t have to be boring. Choose one that you know has exhibits that your kids would enjoy. Nothing is worse than dragging a child through a venue when they don’t want to be there.
  • Go Swimming – See if there is an indoor water park, like Great Wolf Lodge, in your area. It is great to play in the water when it’s freezing outside. You can pretend it is summer and escape from the reality of colder temperatures outside.
  • See a Movie – Yes you can go to the movie theater, but you can also go to your local library and take out a movie for free. Check out Redboxwhere you can rent a movie for less than $2 for 24 hours. Can you stream movies to your TV? It is time spent together and you can also have a discussion after the movie to further engage your kids.
  • Play Outside – For little to no money you can enjoy time outdoors by going for a hike, bike ride, or just a walk around a new part of your town or state. Getting exercise and more importantly fresh air is great for everyone. You can also teach your kids classic outdoor games like Kick the Can, Kickball, and Freeze Tag. These are fun for the whole family.

What are some other activities that you do with your kids to get them out from behind their electronic devices?

Photo Licensed from AdobeStock.com

It’s Time to Clean Out Your Cupboards (and Fridge)

Do you hate to empty the dishwasher and put away clean dishes? Are your cupboards and pantry bulging? Does your fridge smell like leftovers? Then it’s time to clean out your cupboards (and fridge). In our busy lives it’s too easy to simply collect more of an item than consolidate it. This goes for everything from kitchen utensils to condiments. Not only that, but over time even the highest quality bakeware, pots, and pans can deteriorate. Here’s how to know when it’s time to clear the clutter out of your kitchen. Working around your kitchen you will also note that dishes, glassware, coffee mugs, small appliances, plastic containers, and other categories in your kitchen can all be examined and edited down to just what you need.

  • Start Slow and Set a Timer – Setting a timer for just 30 minutes will help get you started. Plan to do only what you can in that 30 minutes and come back to finish the rest 30 minutes at a time each week. Setting time limits is motivational because while 30 minutes over a few weeks isn’t a lot, feeling like you have to devote a whole day to your kitchen will feel like drudgery and get put off.
  • Donate the Unused Cookbooks – Let’s face it: very few of us really use cookbooks anymore. It’s just as easy to look a recipe up on the internet. Or if you have a few cookbooks that you use, I am sure you are just using one or a few of the recipes in that book. Wouldn’t it be better to copy or write down the recipe and let the cookbooks go? That would free up space in your kitchen, right?
  • Can the Expired Canned Goods – I think we are all guilty of having a few canned items in our cupboards that are expired. They get pushed to the back of the cabinet or lifestyles and tastes change and you no longer use or need these items in your cabinet. Take some time to pull out your canned goods and look at the expiration dates. Toss what is expired or not needed and make note of what you need to replace.
  • Spare the Spices – Yes, they do expire. Toss any that you don’t use or when you smell them, they have lost their aroma. As a general rule, whole spices will stay fresh for about 4 years, ground spices for about 3 to 4 years and dried leafy herbs for 1 to 3 years. 
  • Ditch the (Ratty) Dish Towels – Are you using what you have? Do some have holes and stains and can be now used as rags? Wouldn’t you appreciate using a fresher looking towel in your kitchen? Go through your stash and keep only what you would use. Donate ones that are in good condition.
  • Clean Out the Unused Cleansers – Gather them all together and see if there are obvious ones that you never use. If there are multiples of the same product, can the contents be combined to lessen the amount? If you have supplies that have just a little left, put this up front to use up first.
  • Sort the Utensils – Spatulas, knives, wooden spoons and whisks can multiply before you know it. The result is too many in one drawer and major frustration when looking for what you really want to use. Sort by category and be realistic about what you use.
  • Toss Out or Recycle Old Bakeware, Pots, & Pans – Again, some of these may be really worn and look gross. Can you minimize the quantity and if there are some really gross items, wouldn’t it be better to replace them, so you feel healthier using them? Pick up inexpensive, high quality replacements on your weekly foray to the discount department stores or the next time Macy’s or Kohl’s has a sale.
  • Freshen Up the Fridge – Before going on your next grocery shopping errand and when your fridge isn’t stuffed to the gills, take inventory of what is in there. Are there condiments that have expired, or the color is not what it should be? These items tend to linger in our fridges way past date of use because they get lost in the back or on lower shelves and we forget to look at them. At least twice a year, you should do a major clean out of condiments in your fridge.

The kitchen is typically a major hub in a home. By cleaning and decluttering this space, you and your whole family will benefit.

Photo Licensed from AdobeStock.com

How To Go On a Date With Your Long-Term Significant Other

Every established relationship occasionally gets lost in the daily grind of work, household chores, children, pets and, in some instances, elderly parents. Here’s how to go on a date with your long-term significant other to ensure you make time for one another.

  • Establish a Date Night Each Week – It doesn’t have to be the same night each week, but it tends to be easier if you do. Compare calendars and see what works best for both of you. Is a Friday or Sunday night a consistent night that you can devote to each other? If you have young children, can you get a babysitter or plan to start your date at home after bedtime?
  • Have a Basic (Flexible) Plan – Any number of things can interfere with a set “date night”: one of you has to work late, the kids have extracurricular activities, heavy traffic extends the evening commute… Choose a day each week but keep it flexible. Want to go out to eat? Try doing so on a weekend afternoon for lunch? Movie that you want to see but you can’t stay awake for a late showing? Sunday morning matinees are great for this purpose.
  • Keep It Low Key, and Low Cost – Going out on a “date” every week can get expensive. Make your Basic Date Night plan – what you will do every week – home based. Each week after the kids are settled in, plan to have a meal and watch a favorite show together on DVR. Planning to stay home means and only going out occasionally means you’ll always make time for each other.
  • Check Out The Scenery in Your Own Back Yard – You don’t necessarily have to leave you home to make time for each other. Unplug from the electronics and make a special dinner for just the two of you. Sit in the backyard and stargaze and talk without the interruptions that occur other times in your lives.
  • Play Tourist – If you want to go out, spend time and check out your local area. There are usually so many attractions or sites to visit right in our own backyard, yet we tend to get stuck in a rut. Remember when you were first dating, and you used to plan special dates or outings? Explore the internet to see what is new in your area and make the date to go. Check out your local library to see if they have a museum pass program and take advantage of free or reduced-price admission to area attractions if they do.

What ways do you make sure you are devoting time to each other that you can share with others?

Photo: Stock Snap Courtesy of Pixabay.com

How To Organize Your Home if Your Child Has Autism

An organized home is an essential part of a successful family. Order and routine are especially important for individuals on the Autistic Spectrum. But how do you organize your home if your child has Autism? Clean, decluttered spaces, centrally placed calendars with important dates marked prominently, and white boards listing different chores help autistic individuals function. These things also go a long way towards creating a comfortable home for the entire family. Here’s a list of helpful home organization tips parents with Autistic children that will benefit the entire family.

  • Create Sensory-Friendly Safe Spaces – If your child does not have their own bedroom, work with them to choose a place they can go when they feel like they are on sensory overload or simply want to be alone. Make sure this space has plenty of room for your child to pace. Keep it within hearing range of the rest of the house but far enough away so that, if your child does have a meltdown or seeks noise, they do not disrupt the rest of the family.
  • Get Comfortable – Invest in sensory-friendly furniture such as giant beanbag chairs, body pillows, heavy or weighted blankets, standing desks and blackout curtains. Be sure to choose these items with your child and have them try them before you buy them to be sure they will get used. These will help your child feel more comfortable in their surroundings. For suggestions, check out Autism-Products.com.
  • Clear the Clutter – Decluttering each room of your home will go a long way towards saving your entire family money, time, and stress. Work with your children to go through their rooms, establish what they are willing to throw away, what they are willing to put into storage, and what simply mustremain out. Take a picture of each room in the house when it is clean and hang it up somewhere where everyone can see it. This will serve as a reminder of how each room should look and encourage children to keep it that way.
  • Store It Within Sight – Store important items within sight so they are easily found. Use shallow wall shelves to store toys, books, and games within plain sight. For large collections, such as trucks, plastic figurines, video games, and stuffed animals, invest in large plastic bins. This Stackable Drawer Unitcan fit in a bedroom closet, keeping items nearby and easily viewable. Label the bins with both a picture of the item and its name. Rotate large collections so part of that collection is always out.
  • Keep It Within Easy Reach – Put items such as coats, boots, keys, remote controls and kitchen utensils where you use them most often. Invest in a coat rack or hook and put it near the door. Keep keys on a ring in the foyer. Place television, video game, and other controls in a basket on an end table next to the couch where you watch television.
  • Keep Chores and Upcoming Activities In Sight – Use visual reminders: white boards, large calendars, schedules, incentive boards throughout your home. Place these items where they will be seen as your family walks through the house. This can be as simple as post-it notes placed in common areas, a large calendar on the refrigerator, or a Behavior Chartset up next to the area where your child plays.
  • Keep Moving Invest in a piece of exercise equipment you can all enjoy, such as a trampoline, ski machine, treadmill, or exercise bike. Check out Nextdoor and Facebook Marketplace to pick up quality equipment at a deep discount.

Raising an autistic child is an amazing, rewarding, challenging, exhausting, incredible experience. Organizing your home and creating sensory friendly spaces for your child will help them thrive and benefit the entire family.

To learn more about Autism:

The Global Autism Project

The Mighty’s Autism Blog

The Autism Dad

Autistic Allies

If your child is newly diagnosed or you suspect they may have Autism:

Parental Rights in Special Education

My Child Has a Disability – Now What?

An “Alleged Incapacitated Person” aka OK, Our Child Has A Disability. Now What Do We Do?

Photo Licensed from Adobe Stock.

Making The Most of Amazon’s Smartphone App

What did we ever do before Amazon existed? You can buy so many items from different categories and for a lot of people, it is their go to shopping site. Not only are people using Amazon on their computer, a lot of folks depend on their smartphone and only use the app. How are you making the most of Amazon’s smartphone app? Besides what is listed, what other ways do you use the app?

  • Price Check – When shopping for an item, check the Amazon app and look up the price of the same item. If the item is more expensive in the store you are shopping, ask the store if they will price match. Some stores will price match with Amazon under certain conditions.
  • Quality – Amazon is great for reading customer reviews to see the good, bad, and ugly about a possible purchase. Are there consistent complaints or are people just gripping over minutia that wouldn’t apply to you? Knowing in advance of possible issues allows me to make a more well thought out purchase.
  • Wish List – If you are browsing the site and you see an item you are interested in but either can’t afford it now or think it would be a great gift for your birthday, or another special holiday, do you add it to your wish list? I have used the wish list many times and refer back to it when asked what I want for my birthday or Christmas. You can also add items you find in department stores to your Amazon wish list for future purchase.
  • Streaming – Did you know you can stream videos using the app? If the movie or show isn’t available for free, you can purchase or rent videos. This comes in handy if you have a long wait at a doctor’s appointment, stuck in an airport, or just killing time while out and about. Make sure you have your headset, so you aren’t annoying others around you with what you are viewing.

How are you making the most of Amazon’s smartphone app? Besides what is listed, what other ways do you use the app?

Photo by Cristina M. Miller

How to Shop at Marshalls, TJ Maxx, and Home Goods

Discount department stores can be a great source of high quality, brand name merchandise at deep discounts. They can also be a potential drain on your budget, and source of clutter, if you don’t shop carefully. Have you ever notices when you go to these discount stores that you are drawn to go into the entire store to find what you are looking for? You may have one particular item on your shopping list and before you know it you have much more in your shopping cart. Try these strategies to avoid overbuying. Here are some helpful tips and strategies on how to shop at Marshall’s, TJ Maxx, and Home Goods.

  • Shop Your List – Just like you do when you go grocery shopping, you must stick to your list. Don’t get sucked into a cute bobble as it is going to end up being clutter in your home and a drain on your budget.
  • Take A Shopping Cart – Even if you are only going for one item, taking a shopping cart makes it harder for you to navigate through their clothing aisles. If you are going for a particular clothing item, you may still want to take the cart and just go into the clothes section and ONLY look for that item.
  • Know Your Prices – Not all items at a discount department store are bargains. Be aware of the prices and consumer reviews on different items before you buy. Know what you can find for less at each department store and what you might be better waiting for a sale at Macy’s. A few solid staples that you can consistently get for less at a TXJ store Include: K-Cups, travel snacks such as chips, popcorn, etc., gourmet flavored coffee, fat free coffee syrup, drink mixers, sheet sets, certain brands of makeup and skincare products, and workout wear.
  • Use Tunnel Vision on the Checkout Line – Have you noticed that discount department stores make you wind through a line that have merchandise on both sides of that line? They are betting on you making a rash decision while you are waiting to check out. Don’t get sucked in!!! Instead, focus on what is IN your cart and make sure it is indeed what you came shopping for and not an unplanned purchase.

Lots of thought goes into how stores are laid out and how to draw shoppers into making more purchases than they planned. Try not to be one of those shoppers! You can do it!

Photo Licensed from Adobe Stock

Getting Your Child Organized For the College Application Process

Preparing for college starts with the often terrifying college application process. In order to create a successful college application your teenager need to organize the data they will need and have it ready when they sit down to fill out applications. Getting your child organized for the college application process doesn’t have to be a nightmare. Being prepared will make this task so much easier for you and your teen.

  • Identify The Top 3 – Knowing which colleges your teen wants to apply is the first step in this process. By now you probably have visited all the colleges that are on the top of your teen’s wish list. Schedule an appointment with your teen and their guidance counselor to narrow down the list to the 3 best schools.
  • Create a List – Each college has its own application information and documentation requirements. Create a spreadsheet or word document table with a checklist of all of the application requirements for each college your child intends to apply to. Creating a checklist will ensure nothing is missed and that everything the college needs has been supplied to them.
  • Gather What You Need – Before beginning the application, make sure you have all the necessary items the college needs. Gather all of the information you listed on your checklist above together in a single place and separate it into 4 folders or electronic files: “Every College Requires”, “College A Requirements”, “College B Requirements”, “College C Requirements”. Then when you are ready to complete the application it will be a simple step to locate what they are asking you to upload.
  • Know The Application Deadlines – On the spreadsheet you create make sure you include the deadline for each application. Each college may have a different date and you don’t want to miss any deadlines. The colleges are very strict in this area, so don’t ignore the dates.
  • Allocate Ample Time – You know the deadlines, DON’T wait until the night before to start working on the application. Essays may have to be written and who wants to cram on this step? Map out time to work on the essays and the applications weeks before the deadline.

Getting the applications completed will be well worth the time you put in beforehand by properly being prepared. What a great life lesson to pass on to your teen! Celebrate when all the applications are completed. You both deserve it!

Photo Licensed From Adobe Stock

How To Take a Standardized Test

An essential component of passing any sort of exam, from a high school or college mid-term to the SAT, ACT, GRE, or GMAT is knowing how to take a test. Use these tips to prepare yourself for taking exams and you will succeed, no matter the test. Here’s how to take a standardized test

  • Study Daily– Learning is a gradual process, not an instantaneous one. You cannot ignore a textbook all semester and learn everything you need to know to pass the final two weeks before semester’s end. If you want to succeed you need to start studying way before the actual exam date. Start by studying for at least an hour a day. Don’t wait till the last minute to cram for your exam!
  • Mix It Up– Besides just reading, try another way to learn. Are there online instructional videos you can watch? Take a practice test. Flash cards work for any sort of material and are easy to make. The important thing is to change it up, so your brain is learning in different, but important ways.
  • Know The Rules– How is your test scored? How much time do you have to take the exam? Is it a digital or pen and paper exam? Are you penalized for incorrect answers? Can you go back and change your answer or skip a question and go back to it? Ask and get the answers to these questions in advance of the exam. This information will be helpful and less stressful to you if you know in advance how to take the exam.
  • Get A Good Night’s Rest– This is the most important component to setting yourself up for success. Don’t stay up the night before cramming for the test. Get a good night’s sleep. Set at least 2 alarms so you don’t oversleep and miss or be late for the exam!
  • Don’t Skip Breakfast– Make sure you eat a good breakfast. Don’t skip it! Eat protein and avoid sugar so you don’t crash mid exam. Drink plenty of water so that you are well hydrated and don’t get thirsty during the exam.
  • Gather What You Need– Make sure you have all the items you need to take the exam. Do you need to bring a calculator, your own pencils? Arrive early. Scope out the room.
  • Eliminate What You Don’t– Use the bathroom prior to exam time. Leave the cellphone in the car or at home, or if you must have it with you in the exam room, turn it not just to silent, but off entirely. Even a silent phone will still vibrate, creating an unnecessary distraction.
  • Do What You Know First– If you can, read the entire test. Then go back and answer all of the questions you immediately know the answers to. Answer the rest of the questions in the order of difficulty, doing the slightly difficult questions after you answer the easiest ones and saving the most difficult questions to answer last. This will maximize your time and ensure you the best possible score.
  • Review– IF time permits, do take the time to review your answers, especially, if you were unsure of a question but were at first concerned about timing. It’s ok to change an answer. Trust that you put in the time to study and are in control and know your stuff.
  • Don’t Panic– Most importantly, try to stay calm. If you feel yourself starting to panic, take deep, long breaths. Don’t be hard on yourself if a lot of the room has finished. Take whatever allotted time you need to complete the exam. Everyone takes a test differently. Trust in yourself that you have prepared for this exam and will the best of your abilities.

The hardest part about taking a test is often not the test content, but overcoming our own fear of taking the exam. By following these tips, you can increase your self-confidence on test day, allowing you to ultimately ace even the most difficult test. It’s important to remember, that while you can always retake a class, an exam, or a standardized test such as the SAT, you cannot take back the hours of agony you spent stressing out over taking the exam. Don’t spend time doing that.

Photo Licensed from Adobe Stock

Get Rid of Those Unhealthy Habits!

The old adage that diets – food, financial or otherworldly – don’t work is true. A diet is a temporary restriction or elimination of something to reach a specific goal. Studies have shown that most food-related diets fail. Instead of dieting, setting up a strict budget, or restricting something you love (that is otherwise healthy in small amounts), focus on purging unhealthy food, financial, and procrastination habits. The scale and your savings account will almost invariably follow. Here’s how to get rid of those unhealthy habits!

  • Know Yourself – The first step in breaking a habit is to recognize it as a habit, be it grabbing a pint of Ben and Jerry’s when you’re feeling down or hitting up Macy’s after a stressful day at the office. Ask yourself how you benefit in the long term from that comfort food or mall binge. If the answer is no, ask yourself if you really want to break that habit. Be sure to answer honestly, just to yourself. If the answer is “Yes, I know this is bad for me and I want to break this habit,” then proceed. If the answer is “Maybe” or “No”, pause.
  • List Reasons Why– Regardless of whether or not you are ready to break a habit, you can still improve your life by increasing your level of self-awareness. Start by listing all of the reasons why you need to break that habit in positive statements such as: “Breaking that habit will improve my energy,” or “Breaking that habit will allow me to take the kids to Disneyworld next year”. It doesn’t matter how long or short of positive reasons are, the important part is writing it down.
  • Make the Decision to Start– With your self awareness and commitment to stop the habit, each day you need to consciously act on stopping. Getting in the practice of saying self-acclamations is really powerful. Saying, I choose to eat healthy (or whatever the bad habit is that you want to break) often will enforce the change within you.
  • Take Action– Here is where you need to have a plan of attack. Start small so you don’t burnout and fail before the week is out. Want to lose weight? Start an account on MyFitnessPaland start tracking calories or join Weight Watchers. Don’t purge anything from your daily diet, just track. Trying to save money? Grab an empty jar and at the end of every week, drop your pocket or wallet change into it. Want to get in shape? Start by walking at a comfortable pace every other day.
  • Accountability– Tell your closest circle of friends and family. Set aside time every week and go to Weight Watchers meetings. Share your goal and plan. If you are comfortable, ask them to check in on your progress. By telling others you have really made a commitment to take charge of changing your bad habits.
  • Increase The Difficulty– As you become more and more comfortable with cutting calories, saving money, and/or exercise, increase the difficulty. Use the NIH website to figure out your healthy weight and calorie range and enter that number into MyFitnessPal. Add an extra dollar or two to that jar of coins. Add some wrist weights to your every-other-day walk or change it up to a daily walk.
  • Deal with Failure– You will not be alone when I tell you that you will have setbacks. Everyone does. There’s always that party you overeat at. You will fall prey to that sale at Macy’s. You’ll occasionally miss your walk. The key is how you handle those things. Pick yourself up and acknowledge actions. Ask yourself why they happened and file the information away for the next time. Then get moving. Recommit to breaking that habit and off you go!
  • Reward Yourself– Keep a chart so you know your progress. Give yourself a reward at various goal points. It doesn’t have to be something big. But congratulating yourself will encourage you to keep going!

Habits are hard to break. We all know it. However, the reward is unbelievable!

Photo Licensed from Adobe Stock