Tomorrow is one of my favorite national holidays: Free Chickfila Day! I am only sort of kidding but I have been dressing myself and my kids up for a free chicken sandwich for a few years now and it serves the dual purpose of feeding them and entertaining them. The deal with the freebie is that you have to show up dressed as a cow. They are fairly lenient on this though so a few cut out black spots taped on a white shirt will get it done. If you want to get really fancy you could follow this tutorial from Make It Love It.
Cows not your thing? There are a few other ways to get free stuff in July.
You can get free slurpees on July 11 at 7-11. They do this promotion yearly and it’s a fun one because you can guarantee you’ll need to beat the heat with something cool.
Not a total free one but in honor of IHOP’s anniversary Tuesday, July 16, participating restaurants will sell short stacks, or three buttermilk pancakes, for 58 cents from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Visit McAlister’s Deli Thursday, July 18 for the chain’s annual Free Tea Day and get a free 32-ounce McAlister’s Deli tea sweetened or unsweetened black tea.
July 21 is National Ice Cream Day. You can get freebies from Dairy Queen, Baskin Robbins, McDonalds and more.
To round out the month of goodies, you can hit Cheesecake Factory for half priced cheesecake on July 30 to celebrate National Cheesecake Day. Pro tip: order ahead and pick up to avoid long lines.
One of our favorite things to do together is cook–and with all of the extra time we have during summer break, it is easy to pile up a lot of irresistible desserts. We have been trying to pick healthier things to make that provide lots of energy to get through long days of camp, swimming and playing! Below are a few favorites:
I kind of rolled my eyes at making these because buying goldfish is so cheap–and isn’t the whole point that they’re an easy snack? But, I stand corrected. These were super fun to make and taste really great.
I feel like there are two camps of Birthday Party Moms out there. In fact, at some point, I have been both of them. We are in the throes of planning my oldest daughter’s birthday celebration (no party this year!) and so it got me thinking about how much effort I have put in some years versus how little effort I have put in other years–and how regardless, she has always enjoyed her birthday parties.
So, the first type of mom is the Pinterest mom. This mom loves a theme. My daughter had heavily themed birthday parties for her first four years–giraffes, then Minnie Mouse (I painstakingly halved Oreos to create “ears” for those cupcakes), followed by Disney princesses and then when everyone was doing Elsa, we were also doing Elsa. We went all. out. From the shirt, to the cake, to the banner and of course the invitations, there was a dedication to the the theme.
Don’t even get me started on the goodie bags. My greatest birthday accomplishments to date have been a solid goodie bag–forget candy and annoying trinkets. I would find the good stuff heavily clearance, stockpile throughout the year and whip up something truly spectacular at party time.
Those years I felt a similar excitement and intensity as I did when planning my wedding–the thrill of finding a bargain decor items that matches said theme, the rush of finding out the date you need at the venue is open, the feeling of seeing the party photos after–totally Instagram worthy. But let’s be honest–those parties are for the parents. My kiddo never really cared about much of these efforts—except when I put the Barbie in the cake–that was a win!
Then there is the “laid back” mom approach. In more recent years, we have fallen into the “lets have a cookout and a grocery store cake” camp. Its not because we care less–if anything, her parties are more about her than ever. But the focus is entirely on her friends and the playing that goes along with it and less about the photo ops. I am entirely okay with this– it is cheaper, easier and less stressful.
Although, I do miss the themes and will be returning to this strategy as my youngest approaches her first birthday. She is 8 months old and I have the outfit and a few decor items and I AM NOT SORRY. After all, I survived the first year too, and we are going to celebrate in style.
I think birthday party planning is a lot like motherhood. You have to learn to adapt your approach as the years go by. You have to know when to bring out the big guns and when it’s okay to dial it back. This will the first year my oldest daughter does not have a birthday party. It feels like the end of an era but if I am honest, I know she will have more fun this way. She is a one-on-one type of gal and so having a a couple of friends over to go do all of her favorite things is way more her speed–and after all, it’s her birthday!
Over breakfast, my eight year old daughter broached the subject of an allowance.
“Can I have five dollars every time I do the dishes?”
Go big or go home, am I right? While I respect a woman who reaches for the top of the salary charts, I still shut her down immediately.
Growing up, we had chores we were expected to do. My mom worked and there was typically an hour or two where my brother and I were alone after school. The reminder of what was expected of us was typically jotted on the back of an old envelope. “Jamie–empty the dishwasher, clean your room. Jeremy–take out the trash, fold laundry. NO TV UNTIL CHORES ARE DONE.” No one was there to check on us yet I am pretty sure that more often than not, the chores were done before we turned on the TV. It was just expected, so we did it.
I have the same expectation of my kids. My daughter is just reaching the age of being able to independently (and correctly) handle dish duty. I don’t make her do it every meal or even every day, but when I ask, I expect it to be done without a fight–and for free. Pitching in is the price you pay for being a part of a family that lives in a clean and orderly house. Quite the trade off, if you ask me.
I was so excited when our community manager in Raleigh, Abigail, shared this article with me about the concept. I was particularly drawn to this quote from Daniel Pink, author of The New York Times bestseller, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, about what paying kids for chores does:
“…sends kids a clear (and clearly wrongheaded) message: In the absence of a payment, no self-respecting child would willingly set the table, empty the garbage, or make her own bed. …. It converts a moral and familial obligation into just another commercial transaction—and teaches that the only reason to do a less-than-desirable task for your family is in exchange for payment.”
I want both of my girls to value a dollar but to also value what it means to contribute and what a healthy family dynamic looks like. I refuse to martyr myself over loads of laundry and piles of dishes. There are three capable humans here, so I shouldn’t be doing it all. More importantly, one day my daughter will likely be raising her own family and I don’t want to raise her with the expectation that she has to do it all–or even pay for her family to help her.
That doesn’t mean my kids won’t have a chance to earn money. We talk about basic things that keep our household running–laundry, vacuuming, dishes–as obligations that belong to us. It helps that my husband models this by pitching in regularly and owning specific tasks (hello, mowing the lawn).
But when my daughter wants to earn money for something? There are tasks that go above and beyond–dusting ceiling fans, cleaning golf clubs (you’re welcome husband), or pulling weeds.
How do you handle chore distribution in your house? Do your kids get an allowance?
As a former teacher, I can attest to how much a student can backtrack during the summer months. There are so many exciting things happening–vacations, lazy days, playdates–that it can be hard to remember to keep skills fresh. However, it doesn’t have to be as humdrum as a workbook. Here are some creative things we do to keep the learning alive:
Find a PenPal
My 8 year old loves to write letters to her Mimi–and loves getting them in the mail even more! Sitting down once a week or so to share what is happening brings them closer, keeps her practicing writing and grammar, and teaches her life skills like addressing an envelope! You can write grandparents, other faraway family members or friends!
Writing math facts on paper? Dull. Writing math facts with chalk or a squirt bottle full of water? Fun! Keep it fresh by varying your materials and location and your kids will actually look forward to practicing math!
Word of the Day
Introduce a fun new word each day–or let your kids pick one themselves. Challenge them learn the definition and work it into a sentence at dinnertime. As the summer progresses, keep track and have a competition. The one to use the new words the most gets a prize!
We all know H-O-R-S-E. But what if you had to play to get name the parts of the scientific method? What about the branches of government, colors of the rainbow or the names of planets? The possibilities are endless!
Cooking and baking together is a great way to stock the fridge for the endless snacking your kids will do while home–but is also a great way to get academic. Following directions–reading! Halving or doubling recipes–math! Meal planning–budgeting and finance! Making the right choices–health and nutrition!
Even if you have family of varying ages, you can engage everyone for 20 minutes during family story time. Older kids can read aloud while younger kids draw scenes or hold the book. Its a nice way to unwind after those busy summer adventures!
Summer is here! It’s official–and its freakin’ hot already! If you’re like us, school is wrapping up and I am looking at the next two months wondering how we will keep cool, keep our sanity, and keep busy. I did some research on some free (or super cheap!) things you can do this summer with your kids that go beyond just throwing popsicles at them.
Sign up to receive up to two free games per child–every week! You will have to rent shoes but otherwise, this a great indoor activity that you can count on each week.
The local library offers so much to do! Every summer we do their summer reading program, which can earn you free perks like amusement park tickets! We also attend story time and other programming. The first week school is out, our local library has three different programs for kids!
Charlotte still has old school toy stores like Toys and Company that have lots of toys on display. Lakeshore Learning Toys also has a location in Matthews which offer fun, interactive activities for kids. Local LEGO stores often offer building classes, too.
Our go to “free day” is a trip to the park–and we always pick one with a splash pad! We bring a change of clothes, bathing suits, and a picnic lunch and it lasts for hours. Many of them have shaded coverings which really helps on scorching hot days. Bonus point if you bring cups and buckets to add to the water fun.
We often go online and print out free resources like this to guide outdoor play. Finding shaded wooded areas helps keep kids cool and the guided play keeps them entertained longer.
What other things do you do to save money and keep cool and entertained in the summer? I’d love to hear!
Summer is upon us! This weekend there will bet the collective sound of grills being fired, kiddie pools being filled and cold drinks being cracked open. We thought it would fun to share a few ways to spice up your weekend BBQ with kid-friendly options that go beyond just hamburgers and hot dogs!
Here’s your cheaters guide to looking good at drop-off when you’re expected to roll up with something allergy-friendly, cute and creative.
I am a fan of anything self-contained so throw the pre-cut ears, nose and whiskers in the cup alongside the googly eyes. This is a cute craft that isn’t terribly messy and will keep kids occupied indoors or out!
This couldn’t be easier. And it’s perfect if you forgot to buy Easter eggs. Stuff , staple, repeat.
Cut some yarn. Cut some ovals. Call it a day.
Normally, I think this stuff is a bit extra– but the printable you can find here makes this a snap and the cotton tail is super cute.
Let Target Do It
When all else fails, buy online and pick up on your way. What kids don’t love this stuff anyway? Everyone wins!
We all know the feeling: your kids are safe with a sitter, your husbands driving, and you are headed for a scream-free dinner. Its pure bliss, right? Well, at PlatinumSitters we believe you deserve to feel that carefree and relaxed more often. Additional date nights are a great place to start but we can help with so much more!
There’s the cupcakes that need handing out–Beckett wants chocolate and Aiden prefers vanilla. There is the juice boxes that need straws in them and someone needs to fill up the next round of water balloons. Has anyone seen the lighter for the candles? Oh, and maybe you’d also like to enjoy your kiddo’s expression as he opens his gifts. Hire some extra hands and soak it all in–they’re only this young once!
Let me set the scene: you’re cruising the aisles. You’re drinking Starbucks. It’s hot. You’re actually following your list. No one has asked you for Oreos. You’re getting Oreos you can hide somewhere to eat in your closet later. It’s heaven, really. Totally worth that two hour minimum.
You know what you don’t need? To spend two hours cooking, cleaning and prepping for your mother-in-law to come in and criticize your youngest’s outfit. Someone to come hang out with the kids while you get ready for your parent’s anniversary dinner will make all the difference for the night–and your sanity.
When’s the last time you got to soak your feet in a pedicure tub while sipping a cold drink? Too long? Hire someone to take the kids to the park for the afternoon. They’ll be thoroughly worn out while you’re thoroughly relaxed and then you can still enjoy some low-key family time before bed. Win-win!
PlatinumSitters vets all of our sitters through background checks, reference checks and interviews. We believe in hiring engaging sitters who are going to have your kids asking when they can return. Our sitters know to follow your house rules regarding screen time, meals and bedtime. PlatinumSitters is run by moms and we only hire sitters we would trust with our own kids because we know how important safety and reliability is.
Its simple to register (www.platinumsitters.com), input the dates and times you need, and review profiles of available sitters. Rates are set per child (starting at $14/hour) and no cash exchanges hands–we charge the card on file! We are making babysitting easy and stress free so you can have peace of mind to enjoy the day-to-day and the special times.