Birthday Party Made Easier With A Plan! #Grecoville

This past weekend we celebrated Clayton's birthday with his friends. He turned 6 back on December 30th, but this year he asked for a party with some of his friends. So, when planning what to do, where to go and what to eat, I went with the ease of a hosted party, at a fun location and we ordered our food ahead of time from Greco Pizza.

This post is sponsored by Greco. We received pizza and compensation for this post, but all opinions and wording are our own.

Easy, Simple and Stress Free!!

71 Fun Frugal or FREE Winter Activities- Indoors and Out!

 

Well, Winter is here with a bang! The Canadian East coast is being walloped by a Nor'Easter today (Feb, 2017 - 50-80 cm of snow!!). Over the past few weeks I have had this list started and feel that perhaps today is the day to get it posted. Winter can cause us all to want to hibernate, but there are so many things we can do, both inside and outside in the Winter.​

When you are trying to save money, it can often be hard finding activities for the whole family as well. Here is a list of 71 activities that are fun & frugal, and you can enjoy them in the Winter months.

71 Fun frugal or FREE WINTER ACTIVITIES - Indoors and Out!

These free or almost free winter activities are perfect for keeping kids and families days occupied while it is cold outside.

  1. Build Snow forts
  2. Go cross country skiing (some communities have rental or free skis available at parks)
  3. Go sledding
  4. Go ice skating
  5. Go ice fishing
  6. Make snow angels
  7. Make a homemade wind chime with twigs, pine cones, acorns, etc. (found around your yard)
  8. Go for a walk in your neighborhood
  9. Do frozen balloon experiments (Dinosaur Ice Eggs,  or Outdoor Ice Gems)
  10. Play with Bubbles outside (Frozen Bubbles)
  11. Build a Snow Volcano
  12. Make snow paintings with bottles filled with water, add a couple drops of food colouring.
  13. Make a snowman
  14. Decorate your snowman! 
  15. Let the kids experiment and Melt Ice with Salt (can be done inside or out)
  16. Make Snow Ice Cream (
  17. Go on a scavenger hunt inside or outside or play nature bingo
  18. Look at the Stars (go outside at night and look at the stars, using a book or app, find various constellations)
  19. Camp in the back yard (winter camping can be a unique experience)
  20. Build a bonfire and roast hot dogs or marshmallows (with adult supervision of course)
  21. Go bird watching 
  22. Learn how to safely build a fire
  23. Put together a Puzzle
  24. Read Books (then tell each other what your story was about)
  25. Write a short story or comic
  26. Play dress up 
  27. Play video games in a group, have a tournament 
  28. Make Hot Chocolate from scratch (Recipes from Country Parent and Short Presents)
  29. Attend Free Movie Night at a library or community center
  30. Play a board game
  31. Build an indoor fort
  32. Colour in colouring books
  33. Make Borax Icicles
  34. Play with Bubbles inside in the bath tub
  35. Learn how to draw or paint (use Youtube videos as tutorials)
  36. Go to the library and explore
  37. Make a bird feeder (Frozen Treat Wreath, Variety of FeedersPine Cone Feeder, or Hanging Bird Treats
  38. Have a movie marathon day at home
  39. Learn how to sew or knit simple items
  40. Make homemade holiday ornaments or decorations
  41. Play card games like Crazy 8's, Go FishSkip Boetc
  42. Visit grandparents or great grandparents
  43. Write letters to grandparents or relatives
  44. Visit the zoo or a museum (watch for seasonal activities and rates)
  45. Learn to dance, ballroom or line dancing is fun. (Check on Youtube for tips and how-to's)
  46. Make their own Youtube videos
  47. Learn a new skill on Youtube  (craft, play a song, etc)
  48. Make homemade cookies together (Chocolate Chip Cookies, Crinkle Cookies, or Cake Mix Cookies)
  49. Go to a local high school or college sports game 
  50. Visit local landmarks or historical monuments and learn about where you live.
  51. Go to the beach in search of shells or pebbles (the beach is so much fun in winter, a different experience for the kiddos) 
  52. Have an indoor picnic
  53. Give the kids a camera for an hour and then print off or make an online album to showcase the images.
  54. Create a scrapbook (give the kids pictures, stickers and papers to use)
  55. Make their own puzzle (kids can draw or color on cardboard and then cut into pieces, or use photos glued to popsicle sticks and cut to seperate)
  56. Make sock puppets or Sock Snowmen
  57. Make homemade play dough
  58. Fill a cookie sheet with shaving cream and let them "paint" and write notes in it. Add colour with drops of food colouring.
  59. Make homemade musical instruments (tambourines, maracas, etc.)
  60. Make paper snowflakes
  61. Build an obstacle course in your yard (snow makes for a fun obstacle building medium!)
  62. Have a dance party
  63. Indoor Bowling: Use empty water/pop bottles and a tennis ball. Set up in a hallway.
  64. Box Them In! If you have a large box, put the child in the box with markers or crayons and let them decorate the walls of their box.
  65. Make a cardboard box maze indoors (kids can draw and decorate the walls of the maze as they play)
  66. Do kitchen science experiments with the kids (Rainbow Volcanoes) (10 Simple Experiments)
  67. Make simple crafts with supplies around the house (Have Craft Bags ready for use when you need them)
  68. Put on a concert for the stuffed animals in the house. Line them all up like an audience.
  69. Donate toys (have the kids go through their toys and pick out what they no longer play with. Ask them if they want to gift them to someone who has no toys.)
  70. Volunteer at a soup kitchen, help serving or cooking.
  71. Visit seniors at a local nursing home. Contact them ahead of time and ask to visit someone who may not normally have visitors.

Also, for more fun ideas for Family Activities in Moncton, check out Free Things To Do In Moncton.

How Music Changed Our Lives #MusicIsaMindBuilder

How Music Changed Our Lives #MusicIsaMindBuilder

RoyalConservatory01

Growing up I was surrounded by music, in a subtle way. My father played guitar and sang often, my mother played our family piano and sang in choirs, and my brother and I both took piano lessons. Entering middle school and into high school, I was a member of a few different choirs, a local girls choir and the high school show choir. Being naturally shy, music allowed me to build confidence, be more aware of my abilities and express myself.

Being scattered and achieving goals is something I have always struggled with. Through music, I was able to focus my energy on setting small goals for myself, joining choirs, performing with them and finally by university trying out for a musical. In high school my friends were all on stage, while I worked backstage making props and painting backgrounds. University was a new beginning for me, and through music, I was able to step a little further outside my comfort zone and actually be on that stage to sing and dance. I was still part of a larger group, not the star of the show, but for me, I was winning a battle of nerves and social awkwardness that I had always struggled with.

When speaking in public now I often remind myself how great it felt to finally overcome that "behind the scenes" mentality I had in my teenage years. It is my natural comfort zone, but as an adult I still consciously set goals to take another step outside my comfort zone when I can.

“Research shows that participating in music study benefits both brain structure and brain function. Just like well-exercised muscles protect the bones and joints, reduce blood pressure and increase energy levels, music education produces bigger, better-functioning brains – a benefit to people of any age.”1

Today, I am a mom of 2, both boys, one 13 years old and one 3 years old. Lorne, our oldest, has always loved music. I remember saying to friends and family, "Boy, can he carry a tune." Knowing he would love to learn a musical instrument was one thing, deciding what would keep his attention was a completely different obstacle. Putting off starting lessons was in part due to not knowing what he would like. Now that he takes lessons for guitar, I realize it really didn't matter what he was playing. In addition to guitar, he has tried drums and vocals, and he loves both of them. His teacher relates well to him, and is able to let him try a few instruments and see what he likes. I have no doubt he will continue to try new instruments through the years.

Lorne has always been hyper and easily distracted, just like his mom! So in late 2011, when he received a diagnosis of ADHD, we were not shocked. What did surprise us was the additional diagnosis of a learning disorder called Non Verbal Learning Disorder (NVLD). This opened our eyes to other obstacles he faces on a daily basis, mainly involving visuals. He feels overwhelmed in crowds, with too much to look at. He can have a hard time expressing himself and his emotions and is often stressed. Vocally he is well spoken, very intelligent and seems years older than he is. Traditional learning in a large classroom setting was causing problems for him, but he was coping. He had always received average report cards, not a major concern, except we knew he could do better. Once we understood more about NVLD, we were able to make better choices for him and guide him in all areas. Music is one thing we committed to as something he would enjoy and perhaps excel at due to his ability to learn through sound rather than visuals.

Now with one and a half years taking lessons, several rock camps under his belt and public performances as lead singer in his bands, he is thriving.

RoyalConservatory02

Music lessons have provided so many benefits to our son, including more consistent & higher grades in school, confidence in social situations with his peers, and given him a creative outlet that he didn't realize the potential of in the past.

As a parent, I want to support my son in his music, without hounding him. I want him to enjoy it and continue to enjoy music for the rest of his life. I find that allowing him to play for us or for his little brother is a fun way to encourage him to practice at home. We purchased a new acoustic guitar this week and I am looking forward to having some sing songs and maybe a few friends around to jam with him. Music has changed his life, and ours, for the better.

Probably the most important thing you have to decide when starting any music lessons is finding the right teacher for your child. It can be challenging to find the right music teacher for your child, but the Royal Conservatory has tools to help.

Visit the National Music Teacher Directory and see who may be available in your area.
If you are a music teacher, there is an area where you can sign up to be part of the directory and access the teaching resources available as well.

In addition to the directory itself, you will also find a guide to help you with questions you should ask the potential music teacher. Finding the perfect teacher for your child will help your son or daughter grow in many ways. You need a teacher whom your child respects, but can also have fun with. One who will challenge your child to reach for more, but who will also be able to support them if they are struggling or frustrated.

So, if you have been thinking about music lessons for your child, just do it! Search the directory for your area, and find the teacher your child will flourish with. You will be giving them so much more than just music lessons. Just ask my son.RoyalConservatory03

Follow @the_rcm and the #MusicIsaMindBulider hashtag on Twitter and you can also connect with The Royal Conservatory on Facebook.

1 "The Benefits of Music Education: An Overview of Neuroscience Research" published by the Royal Conservatory

* Sponsored by the Royal Conservatory.  All opinions and experiences are my own.

It’s All About Connection – With Your Spouse

Are you Connecting?

5 simple ways to connect with your spouse!

It's All About Connection - With Your Spouse

By the time the children go to bed at night, I am done.

I often ask myself, did I look at my husband today? Or ask him a direct question and wait for the answer? Did we only communicate by text and a few mumbles around the kids squealing and running out the door for work or driving someone to an activity.

Proud Parent Moment – last day of school 2016

Proud Parent Moment - last day of school 2016

PPMSchool

I don't know about you, but I am looking forward to summer break with the kids... day trips and time with my boys.

Today was the last day of school 2016, and grade 7 for my oldest boy. One of the things that accompany the last day of school for the year is a report card. This year has been a year of amazing accomplishments for Lorne. He just completed his second year on swim team, his first year of Army Cadets,  and he played in a band and sang on stage in 3 different performances.

I AM SO PROUD OF HIM!!

MusicSwim

His grades have come from B's and C's to consistent B's and then A's and today...an A+ appeared on the report. This mom is extremely proud and happy for her son, and not just for the marks. The comments from teachers have been positive this year as well. This may not seem like a big deal to some, but he has had some struggles in the past.

I will admit that in previous years (since about grade 2), I would worry about report cards, hoping the teacher's comments improved or I could tell if his behaviour had become more focused. You see, my son was diagnosed with ADHD and Non Verbal Learning Disorder about 3 years ago. We suspected ADHD for a long time, but the diagnosis of NVLD was not expected. It helped to explain some behaviors and reactions we simply could not understand before. It also made it apparent that he learns differently than the majority, and would need a little help to excel. 

Lorne was always a quick learner, retained information to the tiniest detail and could verbally tell you about almost any topic out there. But then, on paper and when tested, he struggled. It was frustrating seeing comments on report cards about his lack of interest at school and his grades, although average, were just not where we felt he should be.

With the help of the official diagnosis, his teachers knowing about it, a computer at school and his personal knowledge that he had ADHD & NVLD,  he was able to overcome and persevere in school, and his grades have improved.

NVLD not only makes it frustrating for him to learn in a traditional school setting, it also causes some social anxieties and misunderstandings. You see, we are bombarded with visual stimuli in today's society; advertising, video conferencing, all our digital gadgets, even classrooms have the walls covered in learning aids. For someone with NVLD, this is stressful and distracting, working against them 100% of the time. Those visual aids are hurting the ability to learn. 

So, the comments from teachers letting us know how he is "really" doing, sometimes mean more than the actual mark on the report card. We tend to only hear from the schools when our children are having problems or misbehaving. When it is quiet, is usually means things are okay...but is "okay" enough? That is a whole other post for another time 🙂

This year, I believe Lorne figured out how to focus better and try harder to block some of the distractions. Have I said it yet? I AM SO PROUD!
Way to go Lorne, here's to many more years of learning and having fun.

Cadets

Do you have a child who struggles at school work or maybe the social aspects of being at school? Why not celebrate something that they achieved this year? Feel free to share in the comments. We can all celebrate together!

Frugal Family: Saving with Kids

FRUGAL FAMILY: Saving with Kids

Having children is costly for everyone. We all know that every activity and meal out can cost a whole lot more when you have children. Here are some tips on how to save on some of your expenses with children.

FREE FOR BABIES
There are lots of baby freebies available. Most formula and diaper companies offer free baby kits, samples and coupons. Even if you do not plan to use formula, there are other samples and other useful items in the kits. You can donate formula to pregnancy resource center or a food bank.

On our website, HERE, we have a list of free baby clubs and offers including baby slings, leggings, car seat cover, safety latch kits and more.

CLOTHING 

  • Chances are as your children grow, you will meet and become friends with other moms who have children around the same ages. You can create a group in your neighbourhood/community to do regular (quarterly) clothing swaps.
  • Second Hand / Consignment stores. Buy and sell your clothes second hand. If you go through a consignment store, they usually hold a credit for you to use back in store, or pay you outright when your item sells. (List of thrift and consignment stores in Greater Moncton)
  • Kijiji, Facebook groups, and yard sales are all great places to find high quality clothing for very little cost. Remember, people are looking to get rid of their items, so always ask for a deal! (Tips to preparing for and buy at yard sales)

RESTAURANTS
Many restaurants have free kids meals offers, most require an adult to purchase and entree as well. Most restaurant websites will feature a kids section with whatever their promo is. It could be a certain day of the week, so be sure to plan ahead. Click here for a List of Canadian Restaurants Where Kids Eat Free

FREE FAMILY & KIDS ACTIVITIES

You will find that every community has family and children's activities that are available year round. A few of them are:

  • Home Depot workshops
  • Play groups / programs through Greater Moncton Family Resource Center. Be sure to check for organizations in your city or town.
  • Public Libraries offer many programs for all ages.
  • Water parks/ splash pads are available  around the city and are a fun activity to do with kids. Pack a picnic lunch and spend the day.
  • Open Farm Day at local farms: visit, see the animals and enjoy a tour of the farm.
  • Public Parks offer activities during different seasons, check town and city  websites for free family activities.
  • 11 FREE FAMILY ACTIVITIES IN MONCTON

READING & EDUCATION

  • FREE MAGAZINE: Lego offers a free monthly magazine free for your child. Kids love getting things in the mail, so why not order this magazine for them?
  • When I had my children we received a pack of free books, many pre kindergarten programs offer books as well.
  • Libraries are an amazing resource that many of us forget about. Free reading clubs are a wonderful way to encourage our youth to read.
  • Digital books are available online and at your public library as well

These are only a few ways to have fun and enjoy your growing family, without always worrying about the money going out!

FRUGAL FAMILY: Saving With Baby!

FRUGAL FAMILY: Saving With Baby!

frugalfamilybaba Our Story I remember when I had my first child over 12 years ago, I thought I knew it all. We bought almost everything new, maybe safest for big items like cribs and car seats; certainly not necessary for everything else. We went the cloth diaper route in the beginning, I breastfed and once he was eating food, I was able to feed him mostly homemade pureed and finger foods. Nine years later, after trying and losing a few pregnancies, we stopped trying for a second child and Voila, along came Clayton. Lorne was so excited to become a big brother and I was glad to finally be able to share our love with another little human being! This time around I was in savings mode, actually shopped more second hand, even my breast pump was from a Kijiji purchase. I knew from previous experience that Cloth Diapers did not work for us, so I was on a mission to save and stock up a bit on diapers. I didn't buy formula, because I was determined to breastfeed again. When it comes to saving and planning for new baby, what are some ways we can save? Breast Feeding is the cheapest, it's free! If you can do it, this is the best money saver to start out. Not everyone can breastfeed, but you also should understand that often the first month is the hardest and it DOES get easier as you and your baby figure it out together. If you are having a hard time with breastfeeding, do not give up, please seek out help and refer to the links provided below for resources in your area. You may want to invest in a pump ($100 – $200+) if you are looking to bottle feed some. This will also allow you to freeze and store milk for future use as well. I breastfed both my children and this was convenient and cost effective for us. I used formula at times with both my children and their father gave them at least 1 bottle a day (sometime formula, but mostly pumped milk) this does not work for everyone, but it was our way to support each other and bond with our boys. Formula: There are several companies who have clubs you can join to receive samples and coupons.  The coupons and vouchers you can get are high value and worth signing up for. These companies usually make follow up formulas and food for babies. They continue to send coupons to you for the various stages of baby growth. Refer to the links at the bottom of this page for details. Watch for Formula and Diapers in the Clearance bins. Formula is put on clearance for 50% off usually a good month or 2 before the expiry date. If purchasing formula on clearance, buy the concentrate or ready made, you will likely not get through the powdered kind in time. Disposable Diapers:  The best way to save on Disposable Diapers is to use a coupon with a sale, and watch the clearance bins. I have been abe to purchase many packages for $0.10 per diaper. They have been brands such as Seventh Generation, Pampers and Huggies. You can often get them much cheaper than the store brand when shopping with coupons. Calculate how many diapers you will use at each stage of development. CLICK HERE with these guidelines. Cloth diapers are another option, with a high upfront cost, but much lower once you have them. When considering the cost of Cloth Diapers, work in laundry detergent, energy costs and water fees if you live in areas that cost you extra. If you have a clothes line and are on a well, you will not need to worry about those costs. Purchasing your cloth diapers second hand is a great way to save on the up front costs as well. If you know you are going to cloth diaper, then research the brands and find the best deals possible either from the company or through distributors. CLICK HERE for a Calculator to help you figure out what works for you. Clothing: Babies grow out of clothes long before they wear out. Consider buying second hand…and sell the ones that you no longer need to make room for new ones. Another great idea is to start a clothing exchange with some friends who have children at varying stages. **Tip: Treat stains immediately and you will be able to keep clothing in better condition for swapping, selling or trading in at consignment stores. Larger items & toys: Second hand all the way for these items. You can shop online on kijiji, ebay or other buying groups, or check out the local thrift shops and yard sales. The younger the child is, the better your chances of finding something in great shape for a fabulous price. **Please consider safety with purchasing older items second hand. There are expiry dates on some items such as Car Seats, and safety standards on others that have changed over the years. Do your research before buying. Here are some resources for free items when you are having a baby. Baby Freebies, coupons and samples! Are you looking for some samples and freebie offers for babies? Here are some great ones! SOBEYS Pharmacy: offers Free Prenatal Vitamins the entire time you are pregnant and nursing (ask for a form to join up) there are also samples and coupons in a bag when you sign up. JEAN COUTU: Ask to join their New Mommy club and get a bag of samples and coupons. In addition to products and samples, look for prenatal and postnatal classes on baby care, nutrition and mommy care. There are many resources available for free or very low cost. Ask your physician or at the Labour & Delivery dept at your hospital. They should be able to connect you with more resources. Breast Feeding resources: La Leche League of Canada Public Health 10 Steps to Successful Breast Feeding Other Baby Freebies: Click on the banners to order the free items, pay only shipping. Use code FREE1MCL to get the 100% discount at checkout! Use Promotion Code FREE1MCL TODAY! Use Promotion Code FREE1MCL TODAY!Use Promotion Code FREE1MCL TODAY!Use Promotion Code FREE1MCL TODAY!Use Promotion Code FREE1MCL TODAY! Use Promotion Code FREE1MCL TODAY!Use Promotion Code FREE1MCL TODAY! The things that will help you keep on budget are simple:·
  • Coupons– often High Value for baby items
  • Cash Back apps– watch apps and use for additional savings
  • Clearance Bins – in store up to 50%
  • Second Hand -many items 50-80% off
  • Baby Clubs – Free sign up and send samples & coupons
  • Rewards points (Optimum points, Airmiles, etc) I did not discuss this in the above sections, but many times you can get any of the items you are looking for free when redeeming point. Also, watch for bonus points being offered on baby items. If you are buying the item anyway, you should take advantage of any bonus offers!