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Monday, June 8, 2015

Organizing Your Childs School/Sports Photos

My first born child just graduated. I've taken a week to let that sink in. The last minute frenzy to gather up all of his memories and display them for his graduation open house was overwhelming. I consider myself to be a very organized woman! I have the kids school papers and photos organized and together but the open house process definitely gave me a new found motivation to better store these items!

I spent all school year pinning ideas for open house decor, themed props, and menu planning. It never occurred to me to take care of getting our sons memories in better order first!

I am going to work on a series of blogs to share what I am doing to prepare for the next 3 graduates instead of waiting until the week before graduation!

DISCLAIMER: I do not claim to be the first person to ever think of these ideas. I am sure that there are many on the internet who have similar ideas. Some may be more elaborate than my own. I don't have time to scrapbook or do anything extra creative. Maybe in future years but for now this mom is just trying to keep it simple, manageable...DOABLE!

I hope that you enjoy the simple solutions that I will share, and I'd love to hear some of your suggestions too! Let's help each other get organized and make these special occasions more enjoyable and less stressful! I think that this will also be a great way to have these memories ready to pass onto our children when they are settled and ready to collect these memories!

The first thing I want to do is get the kids school pictures out of photo albums (and by photo albums I mean the envelope that they delivered them in), and into individual binders. This is a great display item for your open house, and also makes it easier to pass down photos to each child when they get older!

I purchased an inexpensive 1/2 inch binder and some sheet protectors. I bought the Avery Secure Top (model 76000) because I like that the photos will not slide out of the top so easily.

I opened up Word on my laptop,created a blank document, and typed up the grade and years for each grade of school on the top of page, and printed these pages out. These pages will hold the school picture for each year. I did this because I only buy the basic school picture package with two 3.5 X 5 prints and some wallets. We don't display 8X10 photos so I stopped buying them years ago. These pages give me a marker to easily indicate what grade and years the school photos are from. If you have 8X10 prints for your album you may want to skip this step and find another way to mark the grade/date for your photos.

I also HIGHLY recommend that you write GENTLY on the back of the photo with the school grade, age, and/or year. Apparently I stopped doing this for a few years and we had to reference the year book...couldn't quite tell what order a few years went in for my oldest!

Once you have the pages placed in order inside of your sheet protectors start adding the photos that you already have...unless your little one hasn't started school yet! My youngest is in 3rd grade so I didn't have too much to catch up on for his. I added classroom photos and team/sport photos too. I figured it would be easier to have them all together.

Lastly I made a cover for the binder. You could get more creative than I have but I just created a word document and typed out the Kindergarten through Senior year, and will add the childs name and school years to it.

Now you have a binder that is ready to go, with all of the years marked ahead, and each year you simply have to add the school photo and any sport/team photos to the binder as you receive them, or as you decide to stop displaying them in your home.

It took me less than 15 minutes to put this together and it will be ready for display when graduation day comes with no additional work needed. Unless you have a very active child and may need to add more sheet protectors for sport/team/band photos along the way as they grow up!

Happy Simplifying!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Paying it forward

It's amazing how the pay it forward concept works. This morning I found myself dreading a trip to the fabric store. My son asked me to make him an Olaf costume for a school event.

I had no idea where to begin. A Facebook status update expressing my situation generated a suggestion. Ask your mom friend to borrow hers. 

I had no idea that this mom friend of mine had an Olaf costume. Not just a costume A mascot worthy costume! She does characters for birthday parties so I should have guessed she'd have the latest characters!

I messaged her and asked if I could rent the costume. She replied that I could borrow it as she has been looking for a way to pay it forward to me for years for a kindness I have to her family years ago. 

I never thought about that kindness coming back my way. I'm super thankful that this worked out. Now I can enjoy my weeknd without being stuck behind the sewing machine and he will look better than anything that I could have ever made him.

So thankful for my mom friends kindness and generosity to allow us to borrow this beautiful Olaf costume for the "Tea with a princess" event!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

On the Road Again

2 of you (haha) may remember that I accidentally deleted my original blog earlier this year. I had to add the word blog to U8MyCrayons for my new blog. As luck may have it my old blog address was released by the Google Gods and I was able to secure the old U8MyCrayons.Blogspot.com name.

For now I have set up the new old blog to FWD to U8MyCrayons.com. This blog will remain up for now so that the old posts can be located. I have decided not to merge the two, for now. I may combine them at a later time but for now...fresh start. Again.

Thanks for hanging with me.



Monday, July 30, 2012

Daily Routines and a Fail proof Checklist!

I swear by my daily checklists.Every single time I stop using them things fall apart! I have been slacking on them since school ended and we moved into the rental house. School starts tomorrow and it's time to get that routine back! My routine is based off of the Fly Lady system. Many moms tell me her system in hard to follow because of all of the emails. It's too overwhelming. I get that. That's why I had to make up my own thing! It was seriously overwhelming. That was many years ago. Maybe she has simplified the process?

It took me a while to create my routine, but once I got all the kinks worked out it really suits me. Feel free to modify it to meet your needs. I print mine off and put them into sheet protectors. I can then make check marks with dry erase marker on the sheet protector and reuse the checklist every day! I keep it in a binder with my monthly zone cleaning and my other household lists...which I will post blogs on those another day.

I know it seems like a lot, and it may seem silly to have so much stuff in a routine, but when I don't follow the checklist I get overwhelmed and I forget things! Plus it makes it easier to think of one task at a time instead of rethinking of the same task over and over, only to forget it eventually! In the beginning I suggest you use 3 pages for the morning, afternoon, and bedtime routines so your eyes will have less to be visually overwhelmed by.

Now, you will undoubtedly question the method to a few of these things. One thing to know is that spending just 2 minutes tackling a pile on your counter may not clear it away completely but it is a start and I can assure you that 2 minutes every day is better than no minutes at all. It will slowly decrease and you will start to see results and THEN you may be motivated to dedicate 5 minutes instead of just 2. Just take baby steps and believe that you don't have to do it all at once. You have to start somewhere. Small steps lead to bigger steps and before you know it, if you do your checklists every single day, you will see results. It will feel fantastic.

You're not going to finish it all.  Not today, anyway.

If something on these lists doesn't apply to you, remove them. If everything on these lists applies to you that is very creepy. Perhaps we should meet? Anyway...you have to make it your own so copy, paste, print, and use a pencil to add in things and cross off things for a week until you get your final routine figured out. At that time you can reprint your final official list. The best thing about this is that you can adjust the lists as need be depending on if the kids are in school, on break, etc.

Here is a basic copy of my daily routine checklists.

Morning Checklist

 Wake up-make bed
 Wake Daughter 5am
 Fix her Breakfast
 Drink Water
 Eat Breakfast

 Wake the oldest 5:30
 Give him his meds
 Feed the oldest
 Kids Uniform Check

 Take Shower
 Get dressed

 Start washing bedding
 Clean the Master vanity & toilet

 Wake the middle boy 6am
 Give the middle boy Meds
 Feed the middle boy
 Put clean dishes away
 Load dishwasher

 Sign school planner
 Sign reading logs
 Clean the hall vanity and toilet

 Pack moms lunch
 Print reports
 Check e-mail
 SYL Check-in
 TOAO Check-in
 Camera battery & SD card

It may seem daunting to wake-up and serve 4 kids at 4 different times, but it works for us. We have 3 different busses to catch, and this gives me a small bit of one on one time with each child to help the kids start the day off! I usually cook the breakfast all at once, and just serve it in shifts.

Afternoon routine

 Fold/sort Laundry in dryer
 Load bedding into dryer
 Start new load of laundry

 Dinner prep.
 Drink water
 Check e-mail
 SYL Check-in
 TOAO Check-in
 Kids chore charts
 Homework w/kids
 Set Table
 Prepare dinner
Zone cleaning (15 mins)
 Work on one pile of clutter (5 mins)
 Pick up in the messiest room (5 mins)
 Walk around and pick up all trash, recycling,  (5 mins)
 Work on Power Hour checklist (More on this another time. It's basically like which room gets vacuumed on which day, and whose room gets dusted each day)

Evening routine

 Put laundry in dryer
 Load and start dinner dishes
 Shine sink!
 Fold/sort laundry
 Put laundry away

 7:30 bath routines
 Kids brush teeth
 Set out school clothes
 Sign planners & logs

 Charge home phone
 Charge cell phones
 charge camera batteries
 Check alarms are set/on

 Brush teeth
 Drink 16oz. water
 Check calendar
 SYL Check-in
 TOAO Check-in
 Blog post? <--see that question mark? That's is why I rarely get around to blogging. I need to change that!

Family Photo Session

We had family photos taken last night with Elisabeth Smith Lifestyle Photography. She is incredibly gifted with newborn sessions and I can't wait to see how she does with crazy family sessions! She sent a few previews last night and I'm anxious to see more!

This is me!
 My beautiful family <3
 ...and this is my gorgeous barely teen daughter whom will be locked away for the next 17 years or so. 

*Sigh*...Elisabeth knows her stuff!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

A Day Trip to Indiana Beach

I haven't been to Indiana Beach since I was a pre-driving teenager. I remembered very little about the park itself. I just remember the cute boy I met, the window seat we sat at when we shared a soda in the Skyroom, and the Boardwalk Funway Video Game Arcade where said cute boy liked to hang out with the cool kids.

I purchased our tickets from GetMyPerks when the deal o' the day was "Ride & Swim All Day at Indiana Beach for Only $16". Smiley, from WZPL had advertised $10 off your GetMyPerks purchase with a secret code so 2 tickets were just $22. At $11 a person I could not pass up the deal. I had my husband purchase 2 tickets as well, and our oldest son purchased 2 tickets. A family of 6 rarely get into anything for $66. Hey, we can't even eat out for that!

I posted about the excitement of going to Indiana Beach on a social networking site. Immediately the bad reviews started pouring in. Friends were asking "Have you been there? How long ago did you last visit the park? etc..."

I started wishing I had asked people about it first but at $11 per person how could I NOT take a chance?

I believe that every experience is what you make of it. I knew that if nothing else, at $11 the kids would surely enjoy swimming and water slides. I was determined to prove to my friends that Indiana Beach was, in fact, a good time.

When we arrived at the park at noon, an hour after opening, I was pleasantly surprised at how few cars were in the free parking lot. I assumed that the others must have been in the VIP lot. Closer parking is nice, but free is good and we got a front spot. Score!

As we entered the line was very short to check in with our tickets. We had no problem using the vouchers. I always worry about the discount tickets purchased online being rejected at the gate. I asked for a park map and was disappointed that they were apparently out of maps. We had no idea what the park was like, where facilities were located, etc. but we forged ahead. We had all day to figure it out.

When we entered the park the first thing we saw was Adventure point. This area includes The Flying Crow Zip-Line, High Ropes Course, Rock Climbing Wall, and the Adventure Point Outfitters Shop. Since these attractions were an additional $10 to our tickets we did not try them out. I figured if we ran out of things to do we could always come back later and try them out. We were able to see patrons using the new zip line. That looked like a lot of fun. It goes across the lake so I was not willing to ride it but it looked like the riders were enjoying the ride!

The next ride we came to, the Splash Battle, was apparently out of service. Our youngest was disappointed but we assured him that there were surely lots of other fun rides to enjoy down the boardwalk. Next he spotted the Lost Coaster of Superstition Mountain. Sadly it was not operational today either. I told him that we could move on and maybe it would be up and running when we came back through. As I thought to myself "This has got to be just coincidence..." we decided that maybe we should walk to the end of the boardwalk and start with the water park attractions. I knew that the kids would not be disappointed there!

 Along the boardwalk we found a hut selling "Fish food" for $ .50. There is a swarm of Carp right next to the boardwalk. These gigantic fish were another thing that I remembered seeing here from my childhood!

 Our 1st stop was at the Splash Bash. It is what it is, a splash park. We have similar splash parks for free around our hometown. It's nothing fancy but the younger kids enjoyed it. This area offers updated lounge chairs so we could enjoy watching the boys play from a comfortable, clean, and dry seat!

 The 6 and 10 year old boys gave their seal of approval on splash grounds!  

We hopped over to Sandy Beach. This is a lake. Several of my friends had spoken to how nasty this area was. Given that my family are campers, and boaters I had an open mind about it. I suspect they thought the beach would be cleaner water, like one might see near the ocean. I have to say that it was, in fact, pretty decent for a beach in Indiana. I've seen far far worse. Again, this is an amenity that we enjoy for free at several state parks on many weekends. It's not really the feature that I would pay for but the kids enjoyed it and that's what is most important. 

The lounge chairs at the beach were pretty nice. They seemed to be a recent update to the area. They were sturdy and comfortable. I don't like swimming a lot so these things are important to mom while the kids are swimming! Sister seemed to enjoy the chairs as well.

 My little guy thought this gator was fun!

The kids tried out a few of the six water slides that Indiana Beach has to offer. They all enjoyed them. I take their word on those reviews over testing them out myself, thank you very much. 

The kids enjoyed Action river. This lazy river was nice. It had ample room, and was a long ride around the water park area. They seemed to have plenty of tubes for the amount of visitors as the kids only waited a few minutes each to get in. 
They thought it was fun without a tube too!

After the kids were done with the water rides we went to the shower house to get dressed. This left a lot to be desired. The entrance to the locker room is unisex and I watched patron after patron enter with a confused look, as if "Is this it?" or "Are men supposed to be in here?" I just rushed the kids into stalls to get changed and we got out of there. I mean seriously...I've seen nicer bathhouses at campgrounds. There is a lot left to be desired about the shower house at Indiana Beach. 

I knew that we would be eating soon and there was an ATM along the boardwalk. Too bad it was not working. I know that this is not Indiana Beaches fault but after all the shut down rides we had encountered during our walk of the park...seriously? 

We walked up to the Skyroom for dinner. I figured that surely they took debit cards and air conditioning sounded like a great idea at this point! Sadly they were not open yet, and it was hotter in there than it was outside. Luckily we stumbled upon The Burger Shake. Again-it really would have been nice to have a map of this place! The layout is very confusing.

The prices at the Burger Shake were reasonable ($6-ish for combo meals) and the food was good. We tried the BBQ sandwich, the Grilled Cheese, the Cheeseburger, and the Tenderloin. All combos came with fries and a soda. Since a soda was $2.75 the price for a combo seemed like the way to go. Surprisingly, the fries were hot, fresh, and tasty and the sodas were not crammed full of ice. I was quite pleased with the dining experience at the Burger Shake. Good food, reasonably priced in a clean, air conditioned space. Win!

After we ate we decided to walk the boardwalk and see what rides we could try out. I was hopeful that we would find no more closed rides but knew that the kids had a good time in the water should the rest of the day be a bust.

In the Kiddy Land area Aiden enjoyed the Convoy race.  
 ...and the Frog Hopper
We also rode the Den of lost thieves. It was beyond stinky, and overall pretty lame. Half of the targets that you were supposed to shoot at didn't seem to work and the smell was just horrific. 

 My husband attempted to take our youngest on his first Flying Bobs ride. Our daughter had been a fan of this ride for years. Sadly after I took this photo the ride was shut down. They turned it on and you could hear a grinding sound coming from the motor and they emptied the ride. What a bum deal. This boy cried so many times during this visit over rides that were not operational. That's hard for a six year old to comprehend.
Luckily the Galaxi coaster was running so daddy took him on the big kid coaster. He loved that!
 We rode the Tilt-a-Whirl which nearly made feel so sick. Dear old mom just couldn't stomach the whirl! The kids enjoyed that. 
 They also liked the Scrambler and the Paratrooper. 

The kids rode the Music Express while this guy took a time out to rest. This area of the park seems to be a recent addition. I hope they plan to add some real seating. These rocks did not feel as comfortable to my seat as they were for this guy! 

We rode the train back to Adventure Point. The views during the train ride left A LOT to be desired. It was like a tour of all of the behind the scenes action. I really felt like this stuff should have been in a building or at least hidden more from the rides. I do not recall ever seeing piles of things like this at  Holiday World.  

So, all in all here's my take on Indiana Beach. It's no Holiday World. It is basically like a County Fair with a lake, and some water slides. I would never pay $35 to get into the Indiana State Fair. Heck, I'm not even willing to pay the $10 they are charging for the fair this year! So...was it worth $11 a person? Absolutely!

Had I paid full ticket price I would have been very very VERY disappointed.

The Pro's at Indiana Beach are free parking, shorter lines, and reasonable food options.

The Con's are many. The park is pretty run down. I hear that it is under a newer ownership so to be fair...they may be working on it. Everything needed repainted. EVERYTHING! The wood decking on every ride could stand to be power washed. The landscaping was pitiful and looked like it hadn't been mulched in years. The shower house is in dire need of improvement. The broken down rides, if they were broken down, should be fixed. It wasn't clear if they were broken down. Some patrons just thought that they didn't have enough staff members to run them. The Blue Bunny Ice cream stand appeared to be abandoned. No sign of it being open for business on this day. In fact, many of the retail store fronts along the boardwalk were vacant or not open. Perhaps this is another sign that the business is failing.

The impression I got from the park is this. Indiana Beach doesn't care about their visitors. They care about making money. Why do I feel this way? The lack of operational water fountains to keep people, who cannot afford six Dasani waters at $ 2.50/bottle, properly hydrated. Not allowing guests to bring in their own water bottles. Not providing sunscreen, and not selling sunscreen. (I would honestly not expect them to provide sunscreen, although Holiday World does provide it in unlimited quantity, but at least sell it for parents who forget it) and lastly because the park looks like it is lacking so severely in basic maintenance I am sure there are some not-so-safe areas within this park.

Would I go again? If they offered tickets as cheap as the one's that we purchased, perhaps. Would I go again with full price or slightly discounted tickets? Not a chance.

We had a good day as a family, and we did have fun at Indiana Beach but when I rate the value on the quality of fun we had we could have had more fun at Holiday World for a comparable full priced ticket or we could have had about as much fun for much less back home without the four hour drive time.

I'm glad that we went so the kids can say they did something new in Indiana this summer. I'm sad that such an iconic park has gone so downhill, and also that I wasn't able to prove my friends wrong about how poor the facility was, overall. 

Monday, July 9, 2012

Your Highest Heights

A good friend of mine once asked me if I felt that someone in my life helped me achieve my highest heights". The phrase/question stuck in the back of my mind for nearly a decade. As of late it's found it's way to the forefront and I've put some major focus on reducing the things in my life that don't help me be the best me that I can be. 

I strive to help others achieve their highest heights too. In fact, I think that I may be better at helping others than I am at supporting myself. With that said I have had an increase in friends whom have needed extra love, support, and positive energy lately.

I have a friend facing an unwanted divorce, and another who's only sibling was in an accident and has been hospitalized and has undergone surgery. Friends suffering with illness, and broken hearts. I've had a friend catch her husband having an affair, and the depressing list goes on and on.

One thing that I am really struggling with today is this. I have some friendships that are teetering on dissolution over really minor things in the big game called life. There. I said it. I have friends who are not happy with me right now because I choose to continue to befriend others that they do not like. 

I could say that we are not in high school anymore but that doesn't seem to hit home with those who behave, at times, like a child.

When I call someone my friend it's because I feel that they know me well enough on a personal level to have earned the title of friend. Once you are my friend I will go to the ends of the earth and back to support you in living your best life, in whatever way that may be. I try. I'm not perfect but I always try to help when I can do so without taking too much away from my family. 

Lately I have some friends who seem to be confused about how my actions could be helping them achieve their highest heights. I have some friends who feel like I should be taking sides. I absolutely refuse to do that. I've said it before...if you ask me to or expect me to take sides you have already made the decision for me. 

When I do not agree with your actions I will do my best to respect your right to do what is best for you. Do not expect me to always agree with you, or light a torch and jump in line behind your bandwagon. Expect me to be a good enough friend to be honest with you. If you don't want to hear my honest opinion about your actions I suggest and request that you do not ask me.

My "job" as your friend is to support you. It is not to engage in petty cat fights with you. It is not to condone your behaving like a child. It is not to condemn someone else for being a bitch to you. It is not to fill your ears with lies. If I lie to you then I am doing you a great disservice, and you will experience NO growth from that. 

So, if you expect me to jump on anyone's "team" simply because I am their friend then you don't really know me that well. I'm not in a clique. I don't have a crew. If you ask me I think that I'm the most uncool mother up in this place. I have too much life to live to be sucked into every messy situation that comes up.

I'm not a leader. I'm not a follower. I'm just a girl who is trying to live her life with love and light while I lift those around me up whenever I can.