Packing for Kids Made Easy

Today is Tidy-Tip Tuesday!

 

But first…can I plleeaasse introduce you to my sweet BOY?!

 

Carson Dean Brouwer was born on February 2, 2021 at 7 AM. He weighed 7 pounds 5 ounces and was 19 inches long.

Carson Dean Brouwer

Due to Covid-19, we were not allowed to have visitors at the hospital. Though a bummer, it was pure joy soaking Carson in without having to share him.

We couldn't wait to introduce big sisters Ava and Emma to their little brother. Thank you for these little ones, Jesus!

And Now for Today's...
Tidy-Tip Tuesday: Packing for Kids Made Easy

When my hubby and I were at the hospital having Carson, our daughters were at their Papa and Nana’s house. Here are the steps I took to pack their bags for their two-day stay:

 

 

Packing Steps:

1. Gather Supplies

 
  • Gallon size Ziploc bags
  • Permanent Marker 

2. Place Child's Outfits in Clear Ziploc Bags

Everything your child is going to wear for the day should be placed in a gallon size bag. For my daughters this included socks, underwear, pants, a top, and a headband. 

3. Label the Bag

Write your child’s name on the front of the bag with a permanent marker. Doing so will make it obvious which outfit belongs to each kiddo. 

4. Repeat Step 2

Repeat step two until you have enough outfits packed for the duration of your trip. I always pack two extra outfits per kid because my children are MESSY! 

Why Pack this Way?

1. Keeps Things Organized

No more digging around in the suitcase to find the shirt that matches your child’s pants or the socks that seem to disappear! Simply grab a bag of clothes and put it on your son/daughter.

2. Helpful To Others

When others are watching your kiddos, they will appreciate you taking all the guesswork out of which outfit goes with each kiddo and what top goes with which pants. 

 

I do this packing tip on our own family outings too. It’s nice being able to hand my hubby a couple bags and having him dress the kiddos while I get ready for the day. 

3. Know What is Clean/Dirty

When you return from your trip, you will easily know which clothes are clean (clothes still in Ziploc bags) and which clothes need to be washed (clothes no longer in Ziploc bags)

After our trip, I place the used Ziploc bags back into the suitcase so they are ready to use next time we pack up for a destination. 

Do you hate packing?! I do! However, this packing tip has taken some of the stress out of it! 

Do YOU have any packing tips?

Spice Up Your Seasoning Stash

Do you enjoy cooking? If so, I’m jealous!

 

When asked if I enjoy cooking my response is, “I enjoy eating!” I find more joy in washing the dishes than making the meal. However, I cook anyway because I value gathering my people around the table for a hot meal or yummy snack. 

 

Cooking may never be a favorite activity of mine but I am finding little changes make a big difference in my, “being in the kitchen” mood. Little changes such as today’s Tidy Tip Tuesday: Let’s  Organize the Kitchen Seasonings.

I love that all of my seasonings fit in this clear container. And I love that this clear container sits perfectly in my lazy susan. However, I couldn’t stand having to pick up one seasoning at a time to read the label. It may seem like “no big deal” but spending 5 minutes trying to find the seasoning I was looking for was driving me CrAzY! 

My solution: Buy a Pack of  “Garage Sale Stickers.” 

Steps to Organize Seasonings:

  1. Write on a sticker which seasoning is inside the jar
  2. Place sticker on lid of seasoning
  3. DONE. 

Repeat steps 1 & 2 until all your seasoning jars are labeled on the jar’s cap. 

 

This little change cured me of my “kitchen rage.” Call me a nerd but I seriously love opening the lazy susan and reaching for the desired seasonings without having to dig or get frustrated.

I keep this pack of labels in my kitchen “junk drawer.” Doing so makes it easy to keep up with the organization system when I purchase more seasonings. 

What do you do to make cooking every day enjoyable or at least tolerable? Play music? Light a candle? Meal plan? Let me know!

Valentine’s Day Ideas

Valentine’s Day… Do you tend to play on “Team Giddy” or “Team Groan” when this holiday rolls around?

 

I am Team Giddy all the way! Not because I was spoiled with chocolates, roses, and haiku poetry but because my Mom made Valentine’s Day special for my sisters and I. 

 

I can vividly recall waking up to the sound of bacon sizzling and the sight of our kitchen table covered in pink cloth with red place settings and white heart confetti scattered around. On each of our plates was a little gift to open along with a card that expressed how much we were loved by our parents and most of all, by our Father in Heaven. 

 

Being that Valentine’s Day brings sweet memories to mind, I knew I wanted to create fun and meaningful Valentine’s Day traditions with my kiddos too.

 

Introducing five easy and inexpensive ideas to try…

 

5 Valentine's Day Ideas:

#1. Place a Heart on Your Child's Door Each Day in February

Each night I write something I love about each child on a paper heart and tape it to the outside of their bedroom door. 

#2. Place Bible Verses about God's Love in a Jar

Children take turns picking a Bible verse out of the Love Jar. We then read the verse and talk about how much Jesus loves them. This is a great reminder for us too!

 

#3. Serve a Special Breakfast and/or Lunch

Our Valentine’s Day breakfast tradition is pancakes made in the shape of hearts. And our Valentine’s Day lunch consists of homemade pizza in the shape of a heart. Both meals are served on colorful Valentine’s Day paper products. 

#4. Make Valentine's Day Cookies

My girls and I love to bake. Therefore, we make heart shaped sugar cookies and crank up the music while we dance and decorate them. We then put the cookies in individual baggies, decide who to gift them to, and deliver to the people on our list. 

#5. Give Kids a Valentine's Day Gift

I gift my kids with a book and some candy each Valentine’s Day.

Do you have Valentine’s Day traditions? If so, please share what you do with your kids, grandkids, spouse, nephews/nieces, neighbors, Etc. As always, I would LOVE to hear from YOU!

January: What I’m Loving/What We’re Reading

The host of my favorite podcast, “The Happy Hour” with Jamie Ivey, wraps up her interviews by asking her guests “What are you loving?” And “What are you reading?” 

 

I crank the volume up during this part of the show because I am intrigued by products I have never heard of and find joy in adding book titles to my “to read” list. Plus, hearing what others are loving and reading gets me thinking about what I am currently loving and reading too. 

 

At the end of each month, I will share with you 3 things I’m loving and what we’re reading at the Brouwer house. 

 

What I Am Loving:

#1. SHAPES PUZZLE

My sister Melanie gifted a Shapes Puzzle to my 4-year-old daughter Ava for her birthday. She received this gift in September and has played with it every day since!

The Shapes Puzzle comes with two containers. One holds 36 wooden pieces and the other holds 60 pattern cards.

On one side of the pattern card it shows you what wooden pieces you will need to make the image.

On the other side of the pattern card it shows you how to put the pieces together to make the image.

At our home we refer to the SHAPES PUZZLE as, “The puzzle that never ends” because with 60 pattern cards and the option to make your own creations, it provides hours of entertainment!

 

Interested in purchasing SHAPE PUZZLE for a child in your life? Click on the link: SHAPES PUZZLE.

#2. SQUIGZ

I was thrilled when my Mother-in-law purchased this toy off my 20-month-old daughter Emma’s Christmas list.

 

Emma is a snuggle bug. I love holding her but am thankful that SQUIGZ has enabled me to use both hands while in the kitchen! And with baby #3 due any day, I’m especially grateful for a toy that keeps her entertained for an extended period of time. 

These 24 pieces of silicone stick to any flat surface AND to each other! Emma loves the sound it makes when she presses one against her highchair or the refrigerator and pulls it off again. And her big sister Ava enjoys suctioning the pieces together to make different creations.

I love toys that encourage creative and imaginative play and SQUIGZ is just that! This toy is also great for visual thinking, special abilities, tactile sensory, motor skills, auditor, balance, concentration, and hand eye coordination.

If you have a kiddo in your life with an upcoming birthday, keep SQUIGZ in the back of your mind for a gift idea. It’s sure to be loved by the parents as much as the kiddos! Click to purchase: SQUIGZ

#3. THIS BATHROOM SIGN

We have a bathroom in our basement that my husband uses. Being that it is small, I wanted one statement piece hung up on the empty wall. However, my hubby wanted the wall left blank because he was concerned that I would make his bathroom look too “girly.”

 

This Amazon find was exactly the size decor I was looking for (19×24 inch) AND was approved by my Hubby!

 

This bathroom sign is funny, cute, and a great conversation starter. Click to purchase this BATHROOM SIGN

What We're Reading:

I have a few more chapters left in this book by Lysa TerKeurst. I recommend it. Especially during this uncertain time of social distancing.

Click to purchase: Uninvited

I read two "thinking books" followed by a "book to get lost in." This is my "to get lost in book" that I will be starting soon. I love anything by Charles Martin! Therefore, I am confident it will be a hit!

Click to purchase: The Water Keeper

I am reading the Laura Ingalls Wilder series to my daughter Ava right now. We are currently on book 8 of 9.

Click to purchase: These Happy Golden Years

My 20-month-old daughter Emma is OBSESSED with this series from Usborne books! My daughter Ava was crazy about them when she was that age too! Each page includes vibrant colors and a lift the flap!

Contact an Usborne consultant to purchase. I recommend my cousin Ashley!

This is the devotional book that my husband and I are currently reading to our girls. We're only a few Bible stories in but are loving it so far.

Click to purchase: The Gospel Story Bible 

Would you please take the time to e-mail me or write in the comments below what you're currently loving and/or reading too?!

Tidy Tip Tuesday: Organizing Dresser Drawers

When it comes to minimizing the clothes in my dresser drawers, I have tried a number of different approaches:

 

  • Limit oneself to x amount of short sleeve/long sleeve shirts, jeans, Etc. Anything that exceeds that number leaves the house. 
  • Donate a clothing item each time a new item is purchased (Example: Buy three tops=donate three tops).
  • Place seasonal clothing in storage tote (Example: Heavy sweaters go in storage during summer months).
  • Wear a new top each day. If it doesn’t “feel right,” get rid of it. 
  • Dump everything out of the dresser. Keep eliminating items until the drawers can open and close with ease. 

If you’re currently doing one of these approaches and it’s working, keep it up. If one of these ideas sparks your interest, try it. If you have another system set in place that you’re loving, please share!

 

The beauty of organizing is there is no right or wrong way to do it! Everything that Pinterest, Marie Kondo, the show Home Edit, or myself share with you is all OPTIONAL. There are no true one-size-fits-all for clothes or the way you organize. Always remember to do what works best for YOU and YOUR FAMILY!

 

With that said, it’s Tidy-Tip Tuesday, so I would be remiss not to share the tips that I use to minimize my dresser drawers! Here is how I reduce what’s filling my dresser drawers.

 

First, I dump everything out of my dresser. I then hold up one clothing item at a time and ask myself these three questions: 

 

  1. Do I wear it?
  2. Do I have space for it?
  3. Can I see it in my drawer?

Let’s talk about question 1 and 2. Do I wear it? Do I have space for it? 

 

If you’re someone who has a massive walk-in closet with 80 pairs of shoes and enough clothes to wear a new outfit every day, that’s OK! We all have our things, right?! Maybe you have a thing for vases, a collection of earrings, or hundreds of bottles of nail polish. 

 

Mine is books. Some may think I have, “too many books,” but as long as I love them and have a space for them, I refuse to feel guilty or apologize for something that screams, “Me.”

 

If you genuinely wear everything in your closet AND have the space, enjoy being a fashionista!

 

Now let’s reflect on question number 3. Can I see it in my drawer?

 

Have you ever found kid toys under the couch or while vacuuming out your car? I know I have! To which my 4-year-old says, “I forgot about that toy!”

 

The same is true with clothes. If you forgot about clothing items in the back of your dresser drawer, it’s wasted space. Please don’t hold on to clothes you don’t know exist! 

 

Therefore, I like to organize my dresser drawers in a way where I can see everything I own.

 

Introducing today’s Tidy Tip Tuesday: PLACE STORAGE CONTAINERS IN DRESSER DRAWERS TO KEEP CLOTHES ORGANIZED

In the picture above is the dresser drawer that holds my shirts. One basket is for short sleeve, one is for quarter length sleeves, and one is for long sleeves.

 

Here are the steps I take when organizing dresser drawers:


  1. Measure your drawers. Everyone’s dresser is a different depth and length. Avoid the headache of purchasing, returning, and trying again. Learn from my mistake – measure first!
  2. Decide what clothes should go in what dresser drawer. 
  3. Purchase baskets/storage containers or collect shoe boxes. Try the dollar store first. Don’t spend a lot of money on something that nobody is going to see. Your baskets are for organizing purposes only. No need to be beautiful!
  4. Fold your clothes and place them in the baskets/containers/shoe boxes as seen in the picture above. Putting your clothes in the dresser like this is a game changer for a few reasons:
    • Looks beautiful
    • Can see all your clothes
    • Can fit more in your dresser drawers

Since organizing my dresser drawers in this fashion, I no longer dig for articles of clothing. I no longer stress about, “having nothing to wear” because I only keep what I love. Plus, I enjoy opening and shutting dresser drawers with ease while enjoying the view. 

 

I love my dresser organization so much that I did the same thing with my two daughter’s dresser drawers too. Take a look! 

Three boxes fit per drawer. Here you see one for socks, one for underwear, and one for tights.

Here you see three boxes. One for t-shirts, one for short sleeve dressier tops, and one for long sleeves.

This drawer shows pajamas. One is for lighter PJS and the other is for thick winter PJS

It may seem like a lot of work, but I promise it is worth your time. Who knows? Maybe you, too will find yourself opening and closing dresser drawers simply to soak in your beautifully organized space! 

Tidy Tip Tuesday: Organizing Puzzles

What area of your home would you like help organizing? 

 

I recently asked this question in an online survey and 90% responded with the answer, “playroom or kid toys.”

 

As a Mom to a 4 and 1 year old (with my third baby due any day), I understand the struggle. It’s hard enough to find the motivation to pick up toys let alone organize them. After all, the kids will just destroy everything again. Right?! 

 

Playrooms/kid toys are overwhelming. Therefore, I encourage you to focus on just one area of the playroom/toys at a time.

 

Todays focus: PUZZLES

 

In our playroom we have a 16 cube shelf from IKEA. Unfortunately, I don’t have a “Before” picture. But pretend with me that 4 cubes were filled with boxes of children’s puzzles. 

 

I desperately wanted to condense the puzzles down to 1 cube. However, I didn’t want to get rid of any puzzles.

 

How did I condense 4 cubes of puzzles down to 1? With this EASY Game-changer tip: PUT PUZZLES IN BAGS INSTEAD OF BOXES!

Condensing 4 cubes of puzzles down to 1 gave our playroom more room for games and art supplies.

In the red basket are bags filled with puzzles. Putting puzzles in bags instead of keeping them in the boxes they came in made a big difference!

Organizing PUZZLE Steps: 

Step 1: Gather supplies. You will need either CLEAR binder pouches or Ziploc bags, a scissors, permanent marker and your puzzle boxes. 

I recommend clear binder pouches because they are great quality, inexpensive, and see through. You can find these pouches in the school/office supplies section in any store.

Ziploc bags are another great option! You likely have them on hand already, are easy to replace if they rip, are see through, and come in different sizes.

Step 2: Take the puzzle pieces out of the box and place them in your clear binder pouch or Ziploc bag. 

Step 3: Label/Put image of puzzle inside the clear binder pouch or Ziploc bag along with the puzzle pieces. 

If I am putting a puzzle in a Ziploc bag, I write the number of puzzle pieces on the bag with a permanent marker.

A lot of puzzles come with a mini poster inside the box. Simply slide that poster inside the bag with the puzzle pieces.

If the puzzle does not include a poster, cut the image directly off the box and place inside of the bag with the puzzle pieces.

Step 4: Continue steps 1-3 until all your box puzzles are in bags. Put all the bags in a basket or box. 

Step 5: Enjoy your organized puzzles in a condensed space!

I only do the above steps for puzzles that are in BOXES. When it comes to wooden peg puzzles, I neatly stack them on top of each other and place them on the playroom bookshelf.

How do you organize your kids puzzles? Will you try this approach? Why or why not? As always, I would LOVE to hear and learn from YOU!

Who is the Hero?

“Whoa. Slow down. Is everything OK?” My husband asked as he jogged to keep up with my beelining it to our vehicle after church.

 

“Honey, we literally have 10 minutes before we’re expected to be at your parents house for dinner and I still have to make a salad, change Emma’s diaper, get a bottle warmed up, and write in your Dad’s birthday card.”

 

“What can I do to help you?”

 

“Could you please make the salad? The recipe and bowl I want the salad in are on the kitchen island.”

 

It was a blur, but we made it to our destination right on time! I walked in the house and proudly handed the Raspberry Vanilla Jell-O Salad off to my Mother-in-law so I could assist my girls in taking off their coat and shoes.

 

The pink salad stuck out amongst the buffet of food acting as a conversation starter; “Your salad looks amazing, Stephanie! What is all in it? Your salad is too pretty to eat…”

 

Once gathered around the table, the praise continued. “I’m on my third helping of your salad. Our kids keep asking us for more of your salad. Your salad was a hit. We devoured the whole thing!”

 

Who is the hero in this story?

 

It may appear that I was. After all, I choose the recipe, bought the ingredients, and carried the salad inside the house. However, the true hero in this story is my husband because he is the one who made the salad.

 

I had a choice to make. I could choose to accept the praise for the salad or give credit where credit was due. (Despite my husbands nudges under the table each time I received a complement; I chose to take the credit…oops.)

 

How about you?

 

  • Do you pat yourself on the back each time you gain more Instagram followers because you worked hard at staging that photo?

 

  • Do you celebrate your job promotion because you earned it?

 

  • Do you showcase your kiddos report card on the fridge and think to yourself, “I must be doing something right!”

God gives each of us specific gifts and talents not for our praise but for His. The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 10:31, “Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”

 

Friend – What motivates you to use your gifts? Is it praise? Is it to keep up with your expectations of what it means to be a good spouse, parent, church member, or employee? Is it because you long to be accepted? Guess what? You already are! In Him, you are seen, chosen, accepted, and so dearly loved.

 

Answer honestly. “Are you motivated to use your gifts so people will make much of you? Or so people will make much of Jesus?” I’m asking myself the same question.

 

Because when we land on that answer, we know who the true hero in our story really is.

 

Tidy Tip Tuesday: Seasonal Decor

Let’s talk seasonal decor.

 

Even if you cringe at the idea of decorating your home, you likely appreciate a vase of fresh flowers on your table in the spring or pumpkins on your porch in the fall.

 

But many don’t make decorating a priority. Why? Because it’s too much work!

 

If decorating doesn’t interest you and you’re content with looking at the same throw pillows and wall decor year round…do it! Your house = your rules. Please don’t feel obligated to hang Christmas lights or display pumpkins if it doesn’t bring you joy.

 

However, if the thought of doing a home “refresh” throughout the year appeals to you but the action of doing so is overwhelming, you will appreciate this EASY Game-changer tip: TAKE PICTURES!

 

Decorating Steps:

 

Step 1: Decorate for current season 

Step 2: Take pictures of what you decorated

Step 3: Print or Make a file on your computer/phone called, “Home Decor”

Step 4: Refer to pictures you took each time that season rolls around 

Step 5: Enjoy your home refresh without the stress!

 

Let me walk you through the steps I take in more detail…

 

Pretend with me that it’s fall and I want to decorate my home accordingly. The first thing I do is pull out my storage tote that is labeled, “Fall Decorations.”

 

 

I prefer totes that are clear but please use whatever tote or box you have on hand.

 

I also recommend labeling your totes or boxes with a label maker. Doing so is visually appealing and easy to peel off if you decide you want to use the tote/box for something else in the future.

 

Don’t have a label maker? No problem! Label your box by printing or neatly writing what is being stored on a piece of paper. Then, tape it to the front of the container you’re using.  

 

Step 1: Decorate for Current Season (Fall)

Step 2: Take Pictures of What You Decorated

You likely have a phone that can take pictures. Even if your phones camera is poor, it doesn’t matter! We’re not looking for professional looking photos. Don’t overthink it. Simply take a few clicks of the decorations you put up. 

 

Bonus tip: If there is anything left in your tote/box after you’re done decorating, get rid of it! Keeping only the decor that you use makes decorating easy and stress free. Anything else is clutter!

 

Step 3: Print or Make a File on your Computer/Phone called, "Home Decor"

Once you take your pictures, it’s important to put your photos in a place where you won’t loose them. Put them somewhere safe right away so you aren’t scrolling your phone for hours looking for pictures you took a year ago!

 

I use to develop my seasonal decor pictures. I put the fall pictures in the tote labeled “Fall decor” and the winter pictures in the tote labeled “Christmas decor,” Etc. But lately I have been snapping pictures and placing them in a file on my phone labeled “Home Decor” instead. 

Step 4: Refer to Pictures You Took Each Time that Season Rolls Around

I use to dread decorating for the different seasons. I would put up a tree at Christmas but that was it. As a new teacher and later a mom of young kids, decorating was something I longed to do but didn’t make a priority because, “Who has time for that?!”

 

However, since deciding to take pictures of my decor, I no longer dread the process. In fact, I enjoy it! 

 

Step 5: Enjoy your Home Refresh Without the Stress!

When I’m done decorating, I like to celebrate my home refresh by lighting a candle, sitting by the fireplace, reading a book in my cozy space, or drinking a hot beverage while I soak in my surroundings.

 

Don’t stress decorating anymore. Enjoy the home you’re in!

Tidy Tip Tuesday: Winter Storage

“Mom! I can only find one of my gloves! Have you seen my hat? I don’t see my scarf anywhere! Mom!”

 

Mornings are rough. It’s hard to get kiddos to eat breakfast, get dressed, brush their teeth, comb their hair, and get out the door in a timely fashion.

 

Now, add Minnesota winters to the morning blur!

 

Depending on the ages of your kids, it can take up to 20 minutes to put on snow pants, a coat, hat, scarf, mittens, and boots!

 

Desiring a peaceful morning routine, I set out to organize our winter gear. Maybe then I would no longer hear, “I can’t find my ____.”

 

Solution:

 

  1. Purchase three baskets to place in the entryway closet.
  2. Sort them by scarves, mittens/gloves, and hats.
  3. Hang each child’s winter coat and snow pants on their designated hook with snow boots placed neatly underneath. 

Displaying coats and snow pants on appropriate hooks with snow boots underneath proved to be successful but the entryway continued to be a chorus of, “I can’t find my ____!”

 

“All the hats are in this basket!” I said proudly. But this only led to the basket being dumped upside down in search of the specific hat each child was looking for.

Determined to try again, I tried this approach:

 

Solution:

 

  1. Buy more baskets so each family member has their own.
  2. Sort scarves, mittens/gloves, and hats by person it belongs to. 
  3. Have each member of the family go through their designated items. Encourage them to keep only what fits and what they truly wear.
  4. Place “keep items” back in their own basket. 
  5. Donate the rest of the items.

This approach = GAME CHANGER!

 

Our entryway continues to be chaos due to everyone wanting to talk at the same time! However, winter items get put back where they belong and are no longer disappearing! Hurray for getting out the door on time and without yelling!

 

Want a solution to the winter gear headache? Grab a basket or box for each member of your family and try this quick and easy approach!

Mail A Hug

Hugs. Honestly, I’m not a huger. If someone stretches out their arms toward me, I will reciprocate. But unless you’re my husband or kids, I find a head nod, wave, or shoulder squeeze to be sufficient. However, social distancing must be getting to me because I wanted to hug the UPS man today. And I’m an introvert!

 

Have someone you long to hug? Why not MAIL them one?!

 

My three-year-old had a blast making and mailing hugs to her grandparents, cousins, and friends of all ages. Seriously – this has kept her entertained for days! 

 

I have included two different ways in which you can “Mail a Hug.” For both options, you will need paper, scissors, and crayons. For the second option you will need string/ribbon too. That’s it! Talk about EASY!

Hug Option One: Upper Body Trace

Step 1: Trace Child's Upper Body with Outstretched Arms

 

I had easel paper on hand. However, one can easily tape printer paper together too. 

Step 2: Decorate!

 

Talk about hours of entertainment! Ava enjoyed drawing facial features, coloring clothes, and even “painting fingernails” on her self portrait. 

 

Once your child is done adding details, simply cut out the portrait and fold it to fit into an envelope. I guarantee the recipient will love the hug as much as your kiddos enjoy making them!

Hug Option Two: Hands and String

Step 1: Trace your child's hands

Step 2: Cut Out Traced Hands

Step 3: Decorate!

 

Draw rings, color on nail polish, or write a message on the hands to let the recipient know you love them and can’t wait to give them a real hug in person soon. 

Step 4: Cut String to Size

 

Cut a string or piece of ribbon the length of your child’s arms. Then, tape the ends of the string to the back of the hand cutouts. DONE!

Who will you "Mail a Hug" to?