The 2017 Summer Daily List

I am a list-maker at heart, so when summertime comes around I am secretly thrilled at the opportunity to make a new list to help my children organize their days. This summer our lists come in two pieces: a Household Work chart and a Daily Must Do list. Keep in mind that my children are ages 12, 9, and 7 (the 2-year old is currently exempt from the list).

The Household Work chart is simply our chore chart, and includes 5 sections. Chores are rotated weekly (I just move the names around on the chart).

  • Morning Things are the typical get ready for the day tasks: get dressed, brush teeth and hair, make your bed, make sure your clothes are put away. Each child does this everyday.
  • Each child is given one Daily Job: empty bathroom trash and wipe down the sink, empty recycling, or empty dishwasher. My kids have been doing these tasks for a while now and are comfortable with each of the tasks.
  • I am changing things up for our 5 o’clock Jobs (this used to be table jobs, and each child was in charge of one aspect of setting the table-plates, forks, or filling water cups). In our new system, one child is the dinner helper–they help me with meal preparations, and they get to give input on the menu for the week. One person is in charge of setting the table. One person is in charge of keeping the two-year-old brother Adam happy and out of trouble.
  • We have tried After Dinner Jobs in the past, but haven’t been very successful. It is often easier for me to just do the dishes, but I am finally ready to spend the time teaching my kids how to clean up after a meal. One person will clear the table and sweep the floor, one person will wash the table and load the dishwasher, and the other will rinse and wash dishes.
  • Weekly Jobs are once a week, usually on Saturdays. We have two bathrooms, and a living room, so each child gets one room. They have already been doing these jobs for a while and are fairly independent.

The other big part of our summer schedule is our Daily Must Do list. The tasks on the list are things that we believe are important to do everyday. The list includes:

  • 30 minutes of exercise (before 9 a.m.): The Florida heat and humidity keeps us mostly inside (except when we are at the pool), so it is important to get moving outside before it is too hot. The kids like ride bikes or rollerblades, or we will run/walk a few miles.
  • Scripture study: Lily and Zach each have a goal to read The Book of Mormon this year. Anwyn has her own scripture study goals.
  • Piano practice (20 minutes a day): I teach piano lessons year-round, and summertime is the perfect time to make progress.
  • Workbook pages: I ordered these Summer Brain Quest workbooks for Zach and Lily. They add stickers to a map when they complete their tasks, and the material is pretty engaging. It will keep them thinking. As a rising seventh grader, Anwyn has a school assignment to work on, or she will find other things to learn and review.
  • Memorization: we work on memorizing Articles of Faith or scriptures that we study at Family Home Evening.
  • Life Skills (choose 2 from the list): life skills are activities that we feel are worthwhile. Most activities can take 10-20 minutes each (but my hope is that they will get immersed in a task-like LEGO for example–and spend a lot more time on some). I put together a list for reference, and it includes skills that we want our kids to learn (for example-Zach needs to learn how to tie his shoes summer, and I want to focus on kitchen skills measuring, peeling, eggs, and following a recipe). You can download my list of activities here: 2017 Life Skills Suggestions

There are two other sections on the Daily List page. The Healthy Eating section gives space to keep track of the number of fruit and vegetables and sweet treats eaten each day (hopefully the fruits and veggies will far outnumber the treats!). I included this section to encourage the children to be mindful about what they are eating each day.

The last section is a Family Time Report. This is something new that I am trying. Our children need some practice speaking in front of people, so this will be their opportunity to present something that they have learned or worked on or read that day.

You may notice that I don’t have any reading time on our list. My kids are avid readers, and getting them to read is not hard (really, the effort is to get them to do something besides reading!).

By now, the question you may be asking is “how do you get your kids to actually do the list?!”. The biggest motivator for my children is getting screen time (xbox, movies, computer games, etc). The question I hear from my kids everyday is “When do we get screen time?” And the answer is “When you have finished your list.” My children will earn ten minutes for each item they complete on their Daily list, for a total of 60 minutes. If there is whining or complaining about their jobs, then they can lose screen time. Screen time if not used cannot be used another day. Screen time must be finished by 5 p.m., to prepare for dinner and allow for family time after dinner.

Completing the list should really only take 1-2 hours, and the rest of the day is open for other activities like going to the pool, playing with friends, etc.

Any questions???

Feel free to download the lists I created here: 2017 Summer List (includes the chore list and the daily must do’s).

This is what I have planned for our summer, and I’m sure I will end up tweaking it overtime. Over the years I have had a lot of different versions of the daily list. See the 2015 version, the 2014 version , the 2011 version, and the 2009 version (when my kiddos were just itty bitty!!).

Project Complete: Baby books for three children

It has taken me a little while to figure out the best format for our family when it comes to compiling a history/scrapbook for each child. My oldest child has had most of a first year scrapbook finished for a few years, my second child had two pages complete, and my third child only had a few photos saved in a folder. This past month I finally figured out what to do, and the process was pretty simple. The key was to keep it manageable to complete for each child.

Each child now has book for their first year. This is what it includes:

Cover page

Ultrasound pictures

Copy of Birth certificate and hospital certificate (including footprint stamp)

Birth story (as recorded in our family journal)

First photos at the hospital with parents and siblings

Birth announcement

Meaning of the name and why we chose it

Blessing Day: photos, notes from the blessing, photos with parents and siblings, certificate

Any professional photos that were taken

**Journal text (interspersed with a few favorite photos)

First Birthday: handprint, growth stats for the first year, messy cake photo, journal text on birthday celebrations

**Our family keeps a journal in the form of emails sent to family members. We send out an email on Sundays, not always every week but usually twice a month, in which we give updates on family members and activities. Those emails are eventually compiled, printed, and bound into a book (admittedly I am a few years behind in printing the books). For the children’s books I went back through all the emails from the first year of their life and pulled out anything that related to the baby. This is where we can find the details on how the baby is sleeping, when their first tooth appeared, what they smile at and play with, etc.

I didn’t print a ton of photos, just enough to give a good representation of the first year. The children have really enjoyed looking at their books, and we spent a few days at bedtime reading through the journal pages.

It is nice to finally have this project done , just before baby #4 appears and I will have another book to do!

What’s Next

I think having a first year/baby book for each child is a great accomplishment. For future years I think I will stick to keeping all of their important documents stored in their memory box. I think that digitally created photo books are the way to go in the future, so my plan is to create a nice hardbound photo book for each child that chronicles their life from birth through age 11 (to be presented on their 12th birthday). Then another book covering the years from 12-graduation. After that I think the kids can handle their own memory books!

I am toying with the idea of making a school days book for each child, which would hold all the significant school stuff in a binder: photos from the first day, first day interview and self-portrait, annual photo, and class photo. I know the kids would love to have a binder to look through and see all of that. But for now at least things are organized in their box.

How have you organized your child’s baby memories?

Project Complete: Child memory file boxes

Children accumulate a lot of papers and stuff, especially school-age children! There are lots of ideas online regarding organizing and storing their papers. After thinking about it (for a few years!) I felt that the best solution would be to keep everything in a plastic file box.1-DSC_0020

I purchased a set of two file boxes from Sam’s Club last June, but then summer happened and pregnancy nausea happened. But I finally got to work in January!

Each child will have their own box (right now they are sharing because they don’t have a lot of years yet and we are tight on storage space in our current home). Each box has labeled file folders, one for each school year (preschool, first grade, second grade, etc). Into each folder goes anything we deem worthy of saving: class photos, report cards, awards/certificates, favorite samples of writing and artwork, school journals, etc. 1-DSC_0021

Each folder also includes a back to school section: a self-portrait (template here), an annual interview, a photo, and notes from father’s blessings. We always complete this the first week of school, usually at FHE. There are lots of printables available online, but I have linked to the versions we use.

I also made folder labels for activities that my child may be involved in: Activity Girls/Cub Scouts, sports, talents, Young Men/Young Women.

The plan is that each child will have one box of school/paperwork to take with them when they  have grown up and settled in their own home. This way the paperwork is manageable, and you can only keep the very best.

Here are some of the posts that inspired this project: here, here, here and here.

It feels good to finally complete a project that I have been meaning to do for years! Now I know exactly where to file any school papers worth saving, and they can be found and looked at again. My children had a good time looking back through their papers and journals as I worked on this project.

What’s Next

It seems that finishing one project often inspires a few more projects. A few things I would still like to do:

-Add a cover sheet for each year. Something that includes the year, school, grade, teachers name, and a photo. There are a few templates online, but I haven’t quite settled on the version I like best.

-Cards and letters that the children receive: I haven’t figured out what to do with these yet. Just throw them away? Keep a folder for them in the box? They are currently all stored in a shoebox size document box, but they are growing out of that space.

-Why stop at boxes just for the children? I would like to go through my husbands multiple boxes from his growing up years and see if it can be compiled into one nice neat box. My growing up stuff is already pretty well organized, but it wouldn’t hurt to take another look.

-Family memory papers: I like this file box idea so much, I want to make a box to store family papers (ticket stubs, certificates, photos, etc). Probably a file folder for each year.

How do you manage paperwork and memorabilia for your family? What do you do with birthday cards? I would love to hear what works for you!

Project Complete: Organize piano teaching supplies and music

This week I crossed off one project on my big list: Organize piano teaching supplies and music

I teach a few piano lessons each week as a little side job. I have found many great teaching aids online (worksheets, games, flashcards, etc) and I had previously stored them in a binder and a box. Well, that binder grew to three binders and a junky box, and things were out of control.

So I transferred everything to one file box. Games and worksheets can be quickly found now that they are organized by type (beginner finger numbers, rhythm, note naming, etc), and there is room at the front of the box to hold my flashcard sets and other game supplies.3-DSC_0045

This cute little box will now sit on the piano to keep pencils/pens, stickers, and dry erase markers in easy reach without rolling around the piano.4-DSC_0046

This basket sits next to the piano to corral my children current lesson materials. With three children taking lessons, their books need to be easy to reach and put away. 2-DSC_0044

In the fall I started work on organizing our music collection. The biggest issue was organizing sheet music, so I added a few labeled binders (our collection of Christmas music grows a lot every year since my husband I both end up accompanying various ensembles every season). I finished this up over the Christmas break. Now I have two shelves dedicated to music and it is all easy to find!1-DSC_0043Phew! It feels good to cross all of that off my list!

The Project List

The start of a new year is always a time to reflect and ponder on what needs to be done in my life. Today I am sharing my “Project List” with you. Most of the things on this list are things that have been on my list for years (sadly) and are related to organizing our family history. But with two children in school full-time, and 1 child in preschool part-time, (meaning I have some hours to myself each week) I think that this is the time for me to really make some headway on my list. I am posting it on this blog for a little accountability.

The first item on the list is…grow a baby! Baby boy is due sometime the middle of April. I actually made this list back in August when the kids started to school, but then week eight of pregnancy hit and so did the nausea and fatigue. Consequently, I didn’t get as much done in the fall as I would like.Right now I am in the feel-good period of the second trimester so I am raring to go with projects, but making sure that I am taking care of myself physically is a priority. If in a few months I haven’t accomplished as much as I like, at least I can say that I grew a baby!!!!

(Also, realistically I know that I won’t do everything on this list. But at least it is a place to start!)

Grow a baby!

Organize piano teaching activities/games/worksheets in file box

Create a pretty home charging station (like this)

Anwyn’s memory file box (similar to this idea)

Lily’s memory file box

Zach’s memory file box

Compile family emails for 2013 and 2014

Print and bind family email books

Family memory file box

Anwyn’s baby book

Lily’s baby book

Zach’s baby book

Create a printed family photo book for our first 10 years of marriage

Organize Christmas cards

Organize and purge photos on the computer

Organize and purge computer files

Update menu planning/organize 30 meals we like to eat

Plan a menu of after-school snack ideas

Update 72hr kits for each person

Update emergency documents binder

What projects are you working on this year?

Jars and Boxes: Organizing my home

We love peanut butter at our house. I’m pretty sure that my husband has eaten a peanut butter sandwich every single day of his life. The Sweet Bee prefers to eat her peanut butter on a spoon. My favorite way to consume peanut butter is on a sandwich with homemade strawberry freezer jam and sliced bananas, or in these chocolate frosted peanut butter bars.

Needless to say, we end up with a lot of empty peanut butter jars. These jars are fabulous for storage, and I use them to organize all sorts of things, like this plastic animal set.

The jars are perfect for corralling small toys. Here you can see  how we use the jars to keep our animals, Polly pocket dolls, cars, and bottle caps all in their places.

I also like to use jars for craft supplies, like our pom poms, letter stamps, buttons, and googly eyes. Hmmm, all this talk of peanut butter jars is making me hungry for a peanut butter sandwich! You may notice that none of my jars are labelled. The beauty of these jars is that they are clear, so you can easily see what is inside. If you wanted to be all cute and crafty you could make some cutesy labels. The one time I tried that, my toddler ripped off the label in about three seconds flat, so my jars are staying label free for now.

My other favorite jars in my house are found in my kitchen. I use these to store my everyday dry goods: rice, flour, oats, brown, and white sugar. My favorite thing to eat for breakfast is bowl of oatmeal sprinkled with brown sugar and cinammon (hence the large jar for oats). I think the jars on the shelf add a little character to my kitchen.

Now, to the subject of boxes.

Once upon a time, a cute family of three moved into a nice two-bedroom town home in Florida. A few years later the family had grown to five people, and children’s items and toys were threatening to take over the space. After some thought, a solution was found: cubical storage and fabric boxes!This is our living room storage unit. It is comprised of three different shelving units we purchased from Target (like this one). This system has made a huge difference in our home.  Everything has its place, and it is much easier to clean up. Kid toys and books on the lower shelves, adult books and knick knacks on the upper shelves.

 The fabric drawers do their job well to conceal the toys. I printed, laminated, and tied on simple labels to make it easy at a glance to know which items belong in each box. I like the idea of including pictures for the non-reading children, but at the time I couldn’t find any clip-art that worked for me. My kids have still been able to figure out how to put things away. I don’t have a before photo to show you, but you’ll just have to believe me that this is much better!

We also picked up a 2-shelf unit to corral things in our entryway. We really have zero space by our front door, so this small unit is used to organize kid shoes and bike helmets. The bigger girls each have a box, while Little Boy Z gets a shelf (he only has small shoes!).

Move into my kitchen/dining room and you will see this cute green box (yes, I have a thing for green, even if this box looks more yellow-ish in the picture). This box serves as my “control the paper chaos” container.  It is a constant battle to keep my counter clear of of paper clutter, but this box is my best tool. I have an inbox file for incoming mail or things that I need to deal with asap. A file for school papers. Each family member has their own file (this is where I temporarily store my children’s artwork, until we decide to toss it or save for posterity). A file for menu planning (I keep my printable grocery shopping lists here).

I am still tweaking this system, but hooray for less paper cluttering my counter!

Lastly, we spend a lot of time at our house coloring and glueing and crafting. In August I saw a cute red caddy in the dollar aisle at Target, and I knew it was just the perfect tool to organize our basic art supplies.Colored pencils in one slot, markers in another.  Two peanut butter jars (of course!) keep the crayons and scissors and glue sticks sorted. Toss in a couple of bottles of glue, and we are all set. The caddy fits in my craft cupboard, and it is so easy to just pull out and use whenever anyone gets a creative urge. This caddy was inspired by a post I saw at IHeart Organizing.

Organizing a home is one of my favorite hobbies. Life runs so much smoother when everything has its place. I still consider myself a beginner in this area, but I love to browse online and see all of the great ideas for managing a home. My current favorite blog to read is IHeart Organizing. Jen has so many fantastic ideas I could devote an entire board on Pinterest to just the ideas I have loved on her site! If organizing a home his is a topic that interests you (with everything from kitchens to bathrooms to offices to kids school papers and toys and clothes and…), be sure to check out her blog here.

Thanks for coming along on my organizing journey today!

Our Summer Schedule

The Ant Bug graduated from Kindergarten this week. Let the summer fun begin! We have all been looking forward to summertime, and the increased hours available for water fun (what else can we do in the Florida heat?). However, for the last few weeks I have also been thinking a lot about our daily life, the things we want/need to accomplish each day, and how we can all stay engaged in good activities and refrain from squabbling and whining.

This year we are finally at a place in our lives (the kids and myself) where I can lay out a predictable daily routine. The biggest help is that Little Boy Z is very predictable in his sleeping schedule. He takes a morning nap beginning at 9:30-ish for 1.5 hours, then another nap at 3pm for about 1.5 hours. Monday night I sat down and created a daily schedule, working around sleep time. We have tried it for two days, and I like it so far. We still have a few kinks to work out but the girls are responding well. I love having a schedule to rely on, and children really thrive on routines.

The trickiest part for me to figure out is the time slot from 3-5pm. I need a few minutes of quiet time with Little Boy Z to get him ready for his nap, but I also needed something for my girls to do. In the past they have watched a show, but I wanted to avoid that so early in the afternoon because they seem to have a hard time turning the show off at the required time, and then I have grumpy children to deal with for awhile.

So… enter the “listening and coloring segment”. The girls get to choose something to listen to (like an audiobook or classical music or children’s recording), and to keep their hands busy they can color a picture while they listen. So far, so good. Yesterday they listened to Peter and the Wolf (we’ve been listening to this a lot lately) and drew some great pictures.

Peter and the Wolf, by the Ant Bug

Today they listened to a Winnie the Pooh story CD we had checked out of the library.

Winnie the Pooh, by the Sweet Bee

Winnie the Pooh, by the Ant Bug

In the future we have plans to do the Carnival of the Animals, and other classical music. I will have to see what audio books I can find at the library. Any suggestions?

After listening and coloring comes quiet time. Once my kids outgrew their naps, I haven’t really been able to implement a quiet time. I am trying again, with a few challenges to overcome. The first is space: ideally, each child should be in their own room. But my girls share a room, so the best solution I can come up with is for them to alternate days, one girl upstairs in the bedroom and the other downstairs in the living room with me. But, we also have to deal with some fears about being alone upstairs, so we are still figuring this one out. I’m hoping that this will motivate them a little “After you do your quiet time in your room, you can pick the show to watch” (for 30 minutes).

So in case this might inspire you, here is our daily schedule. Keep in mind that times are not set in stone (you won’t catch me waking up a child who wants to sleep in past 7 a.m.!), but this gives us a good guide and order to follow.

7:00-7:30 a.m.                 Morning Chores #1: Wake up, get dressed, make bed, put away pajamas, say prayers, read scriptures

7:30 a.m.                           Family Prayer and Scripture Study

7:40 a.m.                           Breakfast

8:00-8:30 a.m.                Morning Chores #2: Dishes, brush teeth, brush hair, piano practice (Ant Bug), name writing (Sweet Bee)

8:30-9:00 a.m.                Free play / Mom shower

9:00-9:20 a.m.                Clean up living room

9:30-10 a.m.                    Screen time (Z nap)

10-10:15 a.m.                   Snack time

10:15-10:30 a.m.             Daily jobs

10:30-12 noon                 Creative time

12 noon                             Lunch and clean up

1:00-3:00 p.m.                Out and about

3:00-3:15 p.m.                 Snack time

3:15-4:00 p.m.                 Quiet time (Z nap)

4:00-4:30 p.m.                Screen time

4:30-5:30 p.m.                Creative time

5:30 p.m.                          Evening chores #1: Set table, empty recycling, wash hands

5:45 p.m.                          Dinner and clean up

6:50-7:20 p.m.                Bath time

7:20-7:30 p.m.                Snack time

7:30-7:45 p.m.                Evening chores #2: Brush teeth, bathroom, pajamas

7:45-8:00 p.m.               Family prayer, read aloud chapter books

8:00-8:30 p.m.              Quiet time in bed

8:30 p.m.                        Lights out

Just a few more notes:

“Creative Time” is my code word for craft projects, school activities, workbooks, painting, stories, playdough, science experiments, board games, etc. I want to make a list of all of our ideas for easy inspiration, but that is still on my to-do list for the week. Creative time will also invariably include free play time too, so I have some time slots in the day to do exciting things like clean the bathroom or sweep the floor.

“Out and about” is our time to go to the library, swimming, grocery shopping, errands etc. Sometimes our out and about adventures start a little earlier and involve a picnic lunch, so we adjust the schedule as needed.

Also, I teach piano lessons on the side, so on lesson days our afternoon schedule will look a little different for the girls. (You can check out my brand new Piano Fundamentals blog here-getting this site up and running has made me a little absent from Nurture Mama lately, but “to everything there is a season”, right?!)

I can say more about out chore system if anyone is interested, but I think that is more than enough for this post!

About menu planning-again (with help from The Food Nanny)

Have you heard of The Food Nanny? You can watch the episodes online at BYUtv, and I am hooked! (Thanks for the introduction, Janene!) Each episode features Liz Edmunds (real-life mother of 7) entering the home of a family who needs their dinnertime to be rescued. Some of the real-life issues the show has covered include picky eaters, dinners on a budget,  and crazy schedules. Not to sound like too much of an advertisement here, but I really connect with the Food Nanny and I agree with her when she says “Family dinnertime is the most important time of the day.”

So I’ve watched her shows and I checked out her cookbook from the library, and I’ve been making some changes to our dinnertime. Mostly in the area of menu planning. Nearly two years ago I shared my method for menu planning. As was evidenced in that post, my method for menu planning usually evolves every year or two, and so….it’s been evolving again the last few months.

This is my new personal cookbook. Isn’t it cute? It’s a photo album that has been sitting in a box for about 5 years, waiting to be used.

After my last major round of menu method organizing, I have my recipes printed and laminated on these cute recipe cards.

However, I got tired of flipping through the ring to find the recipe I needed, so I thought the album would be a good way to view my recipes. I decided to organize my cookbook by themes. I was inspired by the Food Nanny who suggests planning Monday as Comfort Foods, Tuesday as Italian, Wednesday as Meatless/Fish, etc.

After some thought, these are the menu themes that work well for our family right now:




Meat & Potatoes

Soup/Slow cooker

Quick & Easy/Fun Foods


I haven’t completely designated a specific day to correspond to each theme. Generally Tuesday is Pasta, Wednesday is slow cooker, Thursday is Mexican, and Friday is always leftovers or something fun because it’s the weekend and I don’t want to spend a lot of time in the kitchen! But having the themes laid out like this helps me tremendously when it’s time to plan my menu for the week, so I can get the variety in our menu that our family appreciates.

Then I organized my recipes into each theme night, and placed them in my cookbook in the appropriate section. Some recipes overlap (Italian chicken bowties could be pasta or slow cooker), but the system generally works well for me.

I then spent a few hours printing the new recipes I have discovered lately (those gals at Our Best Bites have given me a lot of good food lately!) Actually, I’m still working on this–I’ve got two more to add after this week.

Now all of my menu planning tools can be found at the front of my cookbook, with the recipes to follow.

I also have a section in my cookbook for Breads and Baking (like muffins), and of course Sweet Things (I still need to add the BYU Mint Brownies recipe to that section).

So far the cookbook is working out great. It’s much easier to plan out our weekly menu, conquering the first stage of a successful family dinnertime. If you haven’t seen The Food Nanny, be sure to check her out.

Next mealtime goal: improving table manners and etiquette!

Name Cups

We’re on vacation this week, so today I am happy to be sharing a guest post from my awesome sister-in-law Tiffany.

With several children getting a new cup every time they want a drink you will soon fill up the sink or dishwasher with cups. Our easy solution is to make name cups—simply write a name on each cup and you are set! We use our cups for snack-time and dinner. The name cups come in especially useful on weekends or during the summer school break when everyone is at home.

Helpful Hints:

You will need a plastic cup for each family member and a paint pen. I’ve tried permanent markers (like Sharpie) in the past, but that washes off after a time or two. Paint pens work better—look for an oil based, permanent, fine point paint pen.

Some other ideas…

Colored Cups—if each child in your family has a designated color than it’s easy to get a different colored cup for each child. (I wanted to avoid the arguing over different colored cups so ours are all the same color!)

Kid Decorated Cups—have each child decorate their own cup with their name and a simple pattern or drawing. My mom had us do this when we were younger—I drew a bunny on mine! We mostly used our name cups for road trips and camping.

Water Bottles—this idea also works great for refillable water bottles! We have a set of nice ones we use for road trips.

Tiffany’s greatest joys in life come from her family and her faith. She lives with her dear husband and 6 cute kids in Texas. She loves to read, bake, and stay in touch with family. She tries to find and focus on the joy in the journey and blogs about it at This Journey: with joy wend your way.

What should I clean today?

In case you ever run out of things to clean in your house, you might take a look at this list:

This is a good reminder of the sometimes easily forgotten places that need cleaning. Maybe I’ll get to them someday. 🙂 I know it’s been awhile since my computer has been cleaned. I think I’ll give the Ant Bug the job of sanitizing our telephones–great fun on a summer afternoon for a 5-year old!