Browsing Category: Tips and Tricks

Surviving the Witching Hour

When my alarm goes off on any given Tuesday or Thursday morning, I tend to bounce out of bed a bit easier on those days than I do the other five days of the week.

Why the extra pep on Tuesdays and Thursdays, you might ask.

One word: PRESCHOOL.

I really *heart* my children and love being at home with them….

…but I love preschool days a lot too.

This is my first year when both kids are in school at the same time, giving me eight hours a week (four on Tuesday, four on Thursday) in which I can accomplish something without a little helper following me around. After those four hours are up, my mommy batteries are recharged and I am ready to see my little ones once again.

The only downside of Tuesdays and Thursdays is the witching hour…that 1-2 hour span before dinnertime where good behavior (children’s) and patience (mine) seems to fly out the window. Sometimes I solve the witching hour problem with a video, but I hate to always have the kids sitting in front of the television like zombies every afternoon.

One trick that I have found for surviving this time on long school days is setting out a project for the kids to accomplish once quiet time is over (We do lunch and nap at home…not at school). I have found that providing a focused activity and a snack (super essential!) that is ready and waiting keeps the whining, fussing and fighting at bay.

One of the activities I placed out last week was a “Create Your Own Apple Orchard.” I left simple directions and all the materials needed for one to create their own orchard. I also had out a yummy cookie and juice to munch on while they crafted.

Such planned activities really take no time to set out. I do not spend a large amount of time thinking up projects or creating materials. Occasionally I print out worksheets or use a page from a workbook. Other times I set out a learning manipulative that is perceived by their minds as being a toy. Usually I toss out some paper, art supplies and a few directions and they are good to go.

Whatever I place out, I always make sure it has a snack to accompany it.

The main key to surviving the witching hour is being sure that blood sugar levels stay in a normal range.

Question: How do you survive the witching hour?

Tips from inside the casa

I once read that Tori Spelling’s mom, Candy, had a room set aside solely for gift wrapping.

Such a haven of paper and bows and tissue speaks to my type A personality. If I had a gift wrapping room, everyone I know…and some people I did not know…would constantly be getting gifts so I could wrap them in my special gift wrapping room.

These days we all are attempting to do two things: 1. Be Green and 2. Save some money. In such a political climate, gift wrapping rooms and excessive fluff on the outside of a package that is going to be thrown away seems a bit wasteful.

My latest solution for wrapping gits in a way that is simple, economically-friendly and budget-conscious is to use reusable bags.

Not the plain-Jane canvas bags one might use at the grocery store.

Rather beautiful bags that can be reused countless times but still hold a gift and look pretty.

Reuseable bags are everywhere these days and I often stumble upon a two or three pack of these type bags for less than $3. They are more sturdy than the traditional paper gift bag and can serve other purposes once a gift has been given. My mother-in-law used reusable bags last Christmas for some of the kids’ gifts. One of those bags was repurposed as our swim bag this past summer. It withheld countless treks to the pool, standing up to a variety of spills and messes that one encounters during the dog days of summer.

Next time you plan on giving a gift, consider the reusuable bag.

Your wallet, Mother Earth, and the recipent will appreciate it.

What tip do you have from your house?

We interrupt this blog for a public service announcement.

In a five minutes span today, I was asked the following questions:

“Where actually is heaven?”

“Why do girls have to sit down to use the bathroom?”

“Why do people go to jail?”

Nothing like two preschoolers to give me a dose of humility and remind me that despite 19+ years spent in school, I do not always have the right answer.

However, I do have a few answers.

I also have a few tips/tricks/ideas as well.

(Notice, I said a “few”.)

Aside from being a mom and a freelance writer, I am also a public speaker. I have a desire to share some things I have learned both in the formal classroom and in the classroom of life with other moms and parents. Lately I have been developing a few workshops that I can share with mom’s groups and parenting organizations. My knowledge on the topics below comes from a Masters Degree in Clinical Child Psychology, several years spent in the Special Education classroom and life experiences.


The Ins and Outs of Preschool: The decision to send a child to preschool can be tricky. How old should a child be? Where do I send him? How can I possibly tell which program is going to be best for my child? Participants in this seminar leave with an understanding of the types of preschool programs, resources on how to determine a program’s fit for a child and tips on how to prepare children for the start of their school career.

Creating and Maintaining a Household Notebook: Being the CEO of a company is challenging. Being the CEO of a family is downright HARD WORK! Learn how to free your home from the clutter and chaos of paper and streamline all your family’s important information into one notebook.

Mom Time Management 101:Being a mom is about more than kissing scraped knees and making a killer pot roast. Being a mom involves maintaining several different schedules at once, knowing the exact contents of the refridgerator at any given time and being able to meet the demands of daily life. If you feel like your role as mother needs a time management overhaul, this is the workshop for you!

Interested in having me come speak to your Moms’ group or organization?

Contact me at for more information.


*Please note that I do not answer the three questions at the beginning of this post for any public group of forum. I barely was able to answer them for my own children…

Car Entertaining 101

I have two children.

Two kids who still ride in car seats when in a vehicle.

Two kids who become restless in said car seats when riding in a vehicle about 25.7 seconds after we pull out of our driveway.

Did I mention that we travel a lot….around the big city and also out of state to visit relatives?

The combination of antsy children and excessive travel can be pure torture for the unprepared mommy. After a few horrendous car trips, I finally decided we needed a plan in place to keep everyone happy in the car, from jaunts around town to day-long road trips. Below are a few of my personal tips in how to keep kids entertained in the car.

Continue reading

Fear the craft cabinet no more!

Allow me to introduce you to the phillips family laundry room cabinets.

They appear to be the standard laundry room cabinet set-up.
However, when one decides to open said cabinets one likely fears for one’s life. Take a look for yourself…

I have been victim to a stray glue bottle or a forgotten flashlight falling from these cabinets on more than one occasion. My favorite times are when something really loud, such as a large metal container, falls and crashes into the washing machine during a time when the children are sleeping just a few feet away. Lovely.
Today I decided this chaos in the laudry room had to go. I pulled out some trash bags and got to work. My motto is “When in doubt, throw it out.” I tossed lots of old scrapbooking supplies and crafting odds and ends that were older than my children. I also set aside some crafting items not being used here at casa de phillips to donate to the children’s preschool.
After awhile the laundry room cabinets finally had some order and were no longer posing a risk to our personal safety.

Apparently we fear a light bulb shortage here at casa de phillips because the whole left side of the second shelf is light bulbs. The crazy this is that we use halogen bulbs that are supposed to last for years so the stockpiling of lighting equipment really makes no sense at all.
Want to know what the children were doing while I was busy organizing?
Well, they were apparently on a quest to destroy the last place I recently organized…E’s closet. At least they had fun playing (they did not have quite as much fun cleaning up this Little People metroplex they built).
What back to school projects are you trying to get done in these final weeks of summer? Leave a comment and let us know what is going on at your house as everyone prepares to head back to school. On Saturday I will randomly select a winner from the comments. The person chosen will receive a new household reference book made by Parents! This is a great prize for those desiring a household notebook but prefer not to make it themselves.
Good Luck! Comments will close on Friday evening for this contest.

A Conversation with Simple Mom

In case you haven’t heard, I am a big fan of the household notebook.

In fact just this morning I spilled half a cup of coffee on my own, handcrafted household notebook and literally thought my heart had stopped beating for a few seconds.

Fortunately I had the wisdom months ago when I crafted this thing to put my pages in plastic protectors. That Dunkin Donuts coffee wiped right off and I was able to continue on with my day and avoid a untimely and costly trip to the local ER due to an off-kilter heartbeat.

If you have not read about my household notebook, check it out here. Also, click here for some links to websites with more info on Household Notebooks.

Recently, I contacted Simple Mom (one of the “Queens” of the household notebook) and asked her a few questions about this book. I thought it would be a great time to share this conversation with Simple Mom, as we are approaching the end of 2008 and many people are considering what resolutions that will make in January (organization of one’s home is usually top on that list!).

What led you to create a household notebook for your family?
SM: I just wanted a place to store all those little thoughts, papers, and ideas in one central location. I detest paper clutter, so this was a way for me to streamline what I need and focus only on the necessities.

How has having a household notebook helped structure your day?
SM: It provides me a central landing pad for all my tasks, so I routinely go through it and check things off, add to it, etc. I don’t bow down and worship it, however, so when my day calls for change, I don’t freak out over it.

What are some easy, “quick start” tips/techniques someone with limited amounts of time can use to create their own household notebook?
SM: Just START. Don’t wait to do it perfectly, because it will always be a work in progress. Start printing some things you think you might need or use, and see how it goes. You could even start with blank paper, and start jotting down things you think of throughout the day. Then use that as your research for what you need to include.

Is there something currently not in your personal household notebook that you wished you had included or are planning to include in the near future?
SM: It started off as my go-to for everything, but now it’s more of a storage solution for papers, checklists, and the like. I eliminated a lot of things I didn’t need, so now it’s mostly my master forms I created (and are free for download on my site).

What section of your household notebook has been most helpful to you personally?
SM: My Daily Dockets, easily. A close second would be the financial section, where I store my current monthly budget and ongoing financial goals.

Thanks, Simple Mom! Be sure to check out her website and use her handy search engine to read more of her thoughts on how to create a Household Notebook!

Household Notebook Preview

A few weeks ago, I announced a project alert to let all of you know some serious crafting would be occurring over here at casa de phillips.

Serious crafting might be a stretch, but I have (almost) completed my household notebook.
Let’s take a tour, shall we?
Opening Cover.

I purchased one pad of coordinating scrapbook paper at our local craft store. I knew if I didn’t make my household notebook semi-cute, that I would not be interested in using it. I bought paper that coordinated with my kitchen (colors of red, yellow, and sage) so the notebook would not look too obvious in its resting place on the kitchen counter. Although it might appear that I got “scrapbook-y” while making this notebook, please note I made all dividers and the cover one night while watching Food Network.
Pocket of Useful Tools:

This pocket contains two Sharpie fine point pens, scissors, hole-punch, and a calculator. It could really use a roll of Scotch tape…but I am currently running low.

Divider One: To-Do Lists and Calenders

This is where I keep my daily to-do lists, my running list of things I need to do eventually, and my monthly calenders.

Divider Two: Menu Planning and Grocery

This section is where I keep my menu plan for each week. If you aren’t doing menu planning, you need to start. It is a great time-saver (no more moments of panic at 5pm when you wonder what you will possibly serve to your family and hope they don’t notice you are eating PB&J again) and money-saver (no last minute trips to the grocery store in search of needed items…only to return home with such items plus ten more). I menu plan for two weeks at a time and do our major grocery shopping every two weeks as well. I do have to get milk and sometimes fruit/bread every week simply because we don’t have the freezer space to buy such items in bulk.

I also keep a running list of past meals that were big hits in this section as well as a list of recipes I want to try out. Nothing fancy here…just a list I can add to when needed.

Below is a photo of my price book, every thrifty shoppers friend. I keep a running record of what I pay for certain items (milk, cheese, meat, diapers, etc.) so I make sure I am not forking over too much money for our neccessities.

Divider Three: Emergency Information and Family Info

This is an important aspect of my Household Notebook. It has emergency information for all members of our family should an outsider need these details quickly. It has doctor’s phone numbers, emergency contacts, medical releases for each child in case someone else needs to give consent for their care, etc. Such forms can be found on the Internet…simple Google it!

Divider Four: Kids

In this section I have all information related to Isaac and Evelyn. This includes schedules for each, rules for each, basics of what they like/don’t like, and suggested activities in our area for them to participate in. At the back of this section I also keep ideas that I have stumbled across that I would like to try out with the kids (crafts, activities, educational things).

Divider Five: Cleaning

I wish this divider did not have to exist, but I never want my home to be submitted for Clean House. Therefore, I clean on a schedule each week. This divider has a check-list that I can use each week of chores that need to get done…some are daily, some weekly, and some monthly or seasonally. For example, each day I make beds, sweep, clean counters (multiple times), put away stray items, and pick-up toys (before nap and before bedtime….kids help with this one). Each week, I do a good basic cleaning of all the standards: mopping (actually do this about three times a week because I live with toddlers), vacuuming, dusting, cleaning bathrooms, washing linens (Tobe does all our other laundry), etc. Each month I attempt to clean baseboards, dust fans, and find those odds and ends that need to be cleaned but seem to get skipped.

Ah, cleaning…the task that never ends.
Divider Six: Contact Information

(This picture is missing and I only have about ten minutes of blogging time left…hopefully I will get it on here soon. Until then, use your imagination)

This is where I keep a list of close friends phone numbers and addresses so I have quick access to them. We keep an extensive address book on our computer as well, but I wanted a place to keep those that I use on a regular basis. I also have a section for business numbers that we use frequently (Pharmacy, pizza, library, etc).
Divider Seven: School

Isaac’s preschool sends out a newsletter each month along with various handouts. This section serves as a base for such paperwork. Because I will immediately know where to find his newsletter, I will never miss out on knowing the letter of the week or what item he needs to take for show-and-tell.

Divider Eight: MOPS

My MOPS group has excellent newsletters filled with important, useful information. Rather than letting the papers pile up in my purse, I now have a great place to keep them organized. If you haven’t joined a local MOPS group yet, I strongly encourage it.
Divider Nine: Library

We are frequent patrons of our local library. I like to keep our receipt handy to know exactly what we checked out each visit and when it is due. Also, I like a place where I can jot a note down to myself about a book I am interested in scooping up on our next visit.
Divider Ten: Christmas

This is the place where I keep a running list of Christmas presents purchased and a list of those still left to be purchased. We attempt to Christmas shop through the year to soften the financial blow (we haven’t been great about this since having Evelyn…probably because shopping is quite a bit harder with two kids in tow). I also keep a note of where purchased presents have been stored to prevent losing one before the holiday season arrives.

Divider Eleven: Blog

Sometimes blog post ideas strike me during odd times of the day…usually when sitting down at the computer is not convenient. This section is where I can keep a running list of potential posts or jot down a funny statement uttered by one of my children when I don’t have a moment to blog.

So there it is…my household notebook. Nothing fancy, but very practical. I do keep each sheet in a plastic protective cover to keep the papers from becoming stained or torn (remember, I keep this book in the kitchen which is similar to a war zone somedays).

Have you made a household notebook? If so, leave a comment with a link so others can see your work.

Interested in making one of your own? Here are a few links to help you out.

Simple Mom’s Household Notebook’s Household Notebook


Information on how to start a household notebook

Great source for FREE printables via Real Simple

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