5 Productivity Apps To Help You Get Things Done

We’ve all been there. You thought your husband was picking up from soccer camp. He thought it was your turn.  No one remembered grocery pick up and you aren’t sure when you’re up for snacks.

There is so. much. going. on. And lets get real–it only gets crazier when school starts back! Here are some great apps you can add to your phone to help keep yourself (and your family) on track.

Trello

Trello is awesome because its entirely what you make it–it can be a way to plan your family vacation with out of town guests, a place to store photos or make grocery lists. Think of it as the modern day kitchen cork board–snap a picture of the book sale flyer, generate your packing list, store your favorite sitter’s info. Then, take it with you!

Cozi

Cozi is more geared towards families with multiple users on the app. You can assign tasks and calendars so specific members of your family. That way, your teenage son doesn’t get the notification that you have an OB appointment but your husband knows so he can handle picking up the younger kids.

Grocery IQ

This genius apps lets you share grocery lists and has a barcode function that lets you scan in what you need before you toss the empty. Save yourself a trip for forgotten items and better yet–avoid ending up with two dozen strawberries because you and your husband both grabbed them.

Two Happy Homes

Working with two homes due to custody schedules? This app helps streamline the coordination of playdate, teacher conferences and sports schedule. You can share child-centric information here and not worry about giving access to your personal calendar to co-parents.

OurHome

Delegate! This app allows you to assign various chores and tasks to members of your family. You can follow up to see what has been completed or prove to your kids that you REALLY did ask them to move the laundry.

 

 

Water Safety: Having Fun While Staying Alert

The recent devastating news that Granger Smith lost his son in a tragic drowning incident has brought renewed attention to the importance of water safety.  The implications of having small children around water can be dangerous and even deadly but there are practical solutions to help safeguard your family.

More Than Just Pools

Know that kids don’t need a ton of water to be in harm’s way. They can drown in as little as two inches of water–and it happens fast. Many of us are vacationing in new environments–hotels, AirBnBs, beach rentals. Take a minute to make note of potential hazards upon arrival.

Supervision

This can seem like a no brainer but when you have groups of people gathered for a party of event, the adults often relax because there is a false sense of security with so many eyes on the pool. But there is a big difference between active supervision and passive socializing. Someone should be designated to carefully monitor at all times.

Safety Reminders

This article outlines fantastic safety tips but in particular, I loved the idea of briefing your kids before they swim. Outlining when, where and how far they can go helps set expectations and keep them safe.

Prevention

One of the best ways to help your child be safe around water is to get them into swimming lessons at a young age. Knowledge is key and when children complete water safety courses they are more likely to be able to navigate an emergency.

Be Prepared

As much as none of us want to envision the worst case scenario, it is important to be prepared should you find yourself in the presence of a drowning victim. Knowing CPR and First Aid can often greatly improve the outcome of a child’s situation.

Free Stuff For Kids in July

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.

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Via 

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.

Half drank green slush

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.

Stack of pancake with honey and butter on top

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.

Fresh drink

July 21 is National Ice Cream Day. You can get freebies from Dairy Queen, Baskin Robbins, McDonalds and more.

Blue Ice Cream and Sprinkles in a Waffle Cone

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.

5 Healthy Treats to Make with Your Kids

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:

Warm Chocolate Melting Cups

I was shocked to learn that these are only 200 calories apiece. My daughter loves the individual portion size and this recipe has an impressive presentation for something that does not take much time!

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via Taste of Home

 

 

No Bake Healthy Chocolate Chip Blondies

On hot days, who wants to turn on the oven? I love that these are no bake AND only take one bowl!

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via Laura Fuentes

Strawberry Ice Cream

This is perfect for cool days or as a way to use up strawberries after a picking outing!

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 via Country Living

Homemade Goldfish

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.

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via AllRecipes

Homemade Animal Crackers

 Another one that is a huge hit with kids! Bust out the cookie cutters and make this awesome snack. Added bonus: my kiddo makes up stories with the animals during snack time!

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via King Arthur Flour

 

Kid’s Birthday Parties: Which kind of mom are you?

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.

All children smiling while kind mother bringing birthday cake
In my mind, I was this blissfully happy during these parties and not frantically running around looking for the lighter I forgot to buy.

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!

Birthday Cake
I know its hard to believe but this is literally all your three year old girl wants for her birthday.

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!

How does your family handle birthdays?

Why I Am Not Paying My Kid to Do Chores

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. Young boy doing housework at home

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?

Top 5 Parenting Instagram Accounts

It’s raining–and it doesn’t appear to be letting up anytime soon. What better way to pass the time with a few great Instagram follows? Below are some of our favorites! While you’re at it, be sure to follow PlatinumSitters!

Kid’s Activities

First up, Busy Toddler! This mama of three is constantly churning out the coolest ideas for her preschool and elementary school kids. This is the perfect follow for a rainy day because you will instantly have something to do to keep them busy. Almost all of her activities include household items you likely already have–or something you can Prime in less than a day or two! Plus, I love that she keeps it real with cute hots of her kids followed by the messes they make. It would also be awesome to set up one of these ideas ahead of your sitter’s arrival–then they can handle cleanup!


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Mindful Parenting

Simply on Purpose is an account focused on helping parents get the most out of the journey. Ralphie’s soothing tone and real life examples help make her parenting tips seem practical and doable. I love her whole child approach. She really values childhood and letting kids be kids while also holding them accountable and her stories are a nice reminder in my day to reset my mindset.


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FeedingLittles

Even though I have been at this parenting game for a little while now, I was still a little stumped about introducing my youngest to food. I have always been a fan of babyled weaning and stumpled upon FeedingLittles. I love their take on food and find their infographics super helpful.


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For Keeping it Real

I started following Leslie in the middle of the night while nursing my youngest baby and found myself stifling my laughter as I scrolled her post. She iss funny and refreshing while still recognizing motherhood as a calling. I appreciate the balance and her candidness about things like nursing, date nights and hard topics (her recent posts on talking to her daughter about death were great).


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For the Coparents

Janey is HYSTERICAL so I would honestly suggest you follow her even if you don’t have a coparenting situation. She is also an amazing human being who puts her therapist skills to use on international trips where she helps provide wheelchairs and OT to impoverished children (check out her stories for how to donate to her latest trip). But what REALLY makes me love her is her fresh take on coparenting her oldest son. She keeps it light, encouraging and honest–what more can you ask for?


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Preventing the Summer Slide

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:

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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!

Outdoor Math

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!

Basketball Facts

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!

Get Cookin’

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!

Family Storytime

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!

Free Activities to Beat The Summer Heat

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.

Free Bowling

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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 Library

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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!

Toy Stores

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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.

Splash-pads

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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.

Scavenger Hunts

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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!

How She Does It: Abigail Schneider

This week’s installment of How She Does It features our community manager in the Triangle Area, Abigail Schneider! She is truly the PlatinumSitters expert and is a magician at finding amazing babysitters, In addition, she is raising a baby of her own! Working from home with a little one around is a true challenge and she makes it look easy. Read on to find out how she does it!

Abigail Schneider

Community Manager for the Triangle Area

Mom to Neil II, almost 1

Partner to Neil

Uses PlatinumSitters: Weekly

Your son is 1 ! What has been your favorite stage thus far?

I have loved it all, but the older he gets when new words enter his vocabulary and he learns new things it is so much fun.

What is your biggest struggle in terms of finding balance?

  With a partner who works long days, travels and is gone most awake hours, I have had to learn to let go and set small realistic goals for myself. I have also tried to learn to time block so that I can be present for my child and devote my full attention to work when focusing on that.   

How has PlatinumSitters helped you in that pursuit?

PlatinumSitters has helped a ton with the days/weeks my son is out of “school” or if I have a week where I am overloaded and overwhelmed. I book a sitter for just a few hours so I can dedicate that time to nothing but getting my things done.

What would you go back and tell yourself as a first time mom?

  To believe everyone when they say “time goes by so fast” and to really enjoy each and every little moment. To also be easy on yourself and be sure to take time for yourself to reset if possible. 

 Quick! You have two hours of kid-free time…what are you going to do?

  Either run for the car to run errands kid free OR lay across the couch while catching up on my shows and doing nothing 🙂