Category Archives: Kids

The Ultimate Amazon Gift Guide for Kids (2019)

Hello!

I can’t BE-LIEVE how long it’s been since I’ve pressed publish on a post here (seriously, if you don’t already follow me on Instagram, and you give even the slightest bit of flip about keeping up with M is for Mama, head over there…it’s my “blog” at the moment).

And honestly, I briefly considered letting this year slide without doing an Amazon gift guide (in case you missed it or need a refresher, you can see last year’s here). But I’ve already been asked multiple times if I’m doing it this year, and, once I got going, I was finding all kinds of cool stuff to share. So! Here I am.

And here you are!

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If you buy even one thing from this list for any child in your life, make it this one:

Every single one of my children (including Shiloh, even though he’s not actually allowed to play with them) LOVE these. They all make elaborate creations with them and have even been known to sport silly brain flake crowns. And when their friends come over? Yep. They love them too!

Oh, and here’s a version with a lot more pieces.

Another favorite around here are these magnetic shapes, which are a much cheaper alternative to name-brand Magnatiles.

These wooden magnetic shapes are a lot of fun too.

Basically, one week earlier this fall, when Theo and Honor were, shall we say, demonstrating their need for distraction during homeschooling hours, I hopped on Amazon and started ordering sensory + stem toys (hence the tiles and brain flakes above).

My brief binge of all things little boy distracting was rounded out by a bit of kinetic sand.

Yes, it’s messy, but I dump it in large plastic bins and let the kids more or less go to town, and it keeps them happy for quite a while. And you know what they say: when the 2-year-old’s happy, Mama’s happy. Or…something like that.

The next several items all fall into the “wood toys that look way prettier than their loud plastic counterparts” category, but that’s a rather unwieldy title, so let’s skip the categorization and head straight to the toys.

I can see Honor playing with this for a good long while.

And Shiloh’s a fan of these:

And this:

And I’m genuinely considering these for Honor who has a typical little boy’s obsession with all things that go vroom.

I don’t think he’d complain too much about this cute wooden bus situation either.

This stick horse is another little boy-pleaser. We’ve had several versions of these over the years, and while I can vouch for the fact that the sound effects don’t last long (and the batteries can’t be changed), I can also vouch for the fact that that will be juuuuuuust fine with  all the mamas.

This brightly colored stacking rainbow is a fraction of the cost of the name-brand version. It may not be “heirloom” quality, but I can vouch for the fun pop of color plus open-ended play it provides.

Theo and Honor (well, basically all my kids) are obsessed with cyrstals, and Theo took a particular shine to the concept of having one on a keychain like this one when he saw one while we were out and about the other day.

I have it one good authority from a real-life friend + quite a few good reviews that these mini-robots that will repeat anything you say in tiny robot voice are super-cute and entertaining for pretty much all ages (including mamas!).

For the babies in your life…

These adorable neckerchief bibs are such a fun alternative to conventional versions.

And I have this exact set of muslin blanket and can attest to their extreme softness after a few washes. I use them for nursing covers, and all of my babies have preferred them as their sleeping blankets. They make a fantastic gift!

Another fun baby item are these fringed Minnetonka moccasins.

And for the little girls in your life…I had these on my list last year, but this year’s patterns might be even cuter!

Oh! And these velvet bows are adorable and affordable. I just got some for my girls for family pictures, and they are great quality!

Speaking of velvet, this super-plush stuffed peacock comes in multiple sizes and color schemes and has an Anthropologiesque vibe.

Oh, and to keep the girl gifts coming, these nail art pens have surprisingly good reviews (although it sounds like it’s best for ages 10 and up or with close adult supervision).

Another fun one for girl tweens are these washable “hair markers.”

I don’t know if your kids are anything like mine, but I’m guessing a love of carrying things is pretty universal because all 7 of mine who can express such a preference have been allll about that “pack-pack” life. Skip Hop makes a version for little kids with cute animals/shapes and great reviews!

Speaking of carrying things…I kind of want one of these adorable crossbody bags in my size.

My kids looooooove craft supplies, which means they would be ecstatic to get this Crayola craft kit.

Kids (at least mine) aren’t the best at putting things back perfectly in those awesome craft cases they come in, which makes this cute little art caddy a nice companion to all of those shiny new art supplies.

Another favorite around here: Bananagrams! Even the twins (who are seven) play, so it makes for a great family activity.

You might have noticed a particular demographic that I’ve neglected on this list and that is the tween boy (I’m not even trying very hard to hit the teen+ demographic here). I happen to have a couple of those, and, while I know every kid is different (Ezra and Simon are polar opposites in some ways), both of my boys would love to get a pair of these (extremely well-reviewed!) binoculars. (Of course, so would my 4-year-old).

These cute backpacks are on the pricey side but are known for their style + durability and might make for an ideal gift from a grandparent.

They would also really dig these fingerless camo gloves as rad accessories for their chilly, epic Airsoft battles.

I could keep going, but I’ll leave it right here. I sincerely hope this helps you knock out a couple of gifts for some kiddos on your list. I’ll be back very soon with my Under $20 for Women post.

Disclosure: when you shop from my gift guides, I receive a small percentage your Amazon purchases–at no extra cost to you. Win-win!

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A Day in the Life of a Homeschooling Mama of 7 (going on 8)

Hey guys! I promised you another homeschooling post a while back, and, since then, I’ve had several requests for a post about how I “balance it all.” I have that in quotation marks because, depending on the day, I don’t. But! I will say that we have a pretty good rhythm at our house at this point, and I’m better about saying, “No,” when necessary than I used to be, so I feel like we actually strike a pretty decent balance between chores, school, and play these days.

Of course, I say that now, and we haven’t officially started homeschooling yet (we just did reading + math all summer). That’s this week. But! I can give you a rundown of what a basic day-in-the-life looked like from last spring and what I anticipate it to look like this semester as well.

Monday is our co-op day, and last year, it consisted of my teaching Body Pump at 5:45 AM, then hustling home to shower/change, while the kids made/ate breakfast, got dressed, gathered their co-op supplies (which we had packed the night before), and did their morning clean-up. We were out of the house by 8:15 and finished with co-op (where I teach high school Spanish, and the kids all play or attend various classes all day) by 3:00 PM. I dropped the oldest 5 off at piano lessons, while the little boys and I rushed through a few errands, before picking up the girls for dance, taking them over to the dance studio, then doing a lightning run at the grocery, picking up the girls at dance, the boys at piano, and then heading home to finish dinner, eat, do evening clean-up, a bit of read-aloud, and then bedtime routines. At which point, I usually collapsed in a coma on the couch. It was the longest day of the year every. single. week.

THIS year, the first 2/3 of the day looks the same, but we don’t have piano lessons immediately after co-op (they’re on a different day), and the girls’ dance studio is only 3 minutes from our house this time around, so we’ll be home by 3:30 and have a bit of time to recoup before dance, which is a huge relief.

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We *technically* started co-op last week for meet-the-teacher and had to come home and finish all the chores that we hadn’t completed in the mad rush to get our homeschooled selves out the door by 8:15. 

So! Since Monday isn’t exactly representative of the rest of the week, and I just gave you a rundown of that already, let’s go with Tuesday because that’s pretty much the most ordinary day of the week, right?

7:00 AM

I’m usually up between 6:30-6:45 (except for mornings that I get up at 5 AM to teach, which are Monday and Wednesday), and the kids get up at 7:00 during the school year. We eat breakfast, do family Bible reading, and then start morning cleanup. Clean-up usually lasts until 8:30, 9 at the latest…unless we all are dragging that morning.

9:00 AM

The kids and I review our memorization (verses, poetry, etc.) for the week, and then everyone starts on his/her independent work. The older kids do their math, reading, spelling, and vocab exercises, while the twins and I read and do math and handwriting together. They would technically only be in kindergarten this year, since their birthday isn’t until September 24 (they’ll be 6), but we’ll be working on mostly 1st grade work this year, since they are already reading at a beginning level just fine.

I check on the bigger kids’ work and look it over/grade it during this time as well. And Honor and Theo play/fight.

11:00

Since last March, a group of 3-6 girls from our church has been coming to our house twice a week to exercise together. They arrive at 11:15, and I pay Ezra and Simon to babysit their kiddos. At certain points, we’ve had as many as 20+ kids in the house, but the boys handle it really well, and it’s usually more like 10-15 (including mine). The moms are just upstairs, so if there’s a kiddo who needs our attention, we’re right there, but it’s nice to be able to exercise in relative peace and, um, well, not quiet exactly. But, it gets the job done. ;)

12:30 

The girls that come to exercise are usually gone between 12:30 and 1, and we eat lunch.

1:30

Honor usually goes down for a nap between 11 and 12 and sleeps until 2, so after lunch, Theo goes down for his nap, and the rest of the kids and I meet in the living room for read-aloud + laundry folding (they fold, I read; it’s fabulous). The twins are usually drawing during folding/reading, but their job is to take all of the baskets of folded laundry to the correct rooms.

day in the life

 

Clearly, Simon was into both the folding and the book. 

2:00

The twins have rest/play time in their room while the older kids work on co-op homework, science, grammar, and history with me.

3:30

Theo takes somewhere between a 1 hour and 2 hour nap, depending on his level of tiredness, so he’s up by now, usually wanting a snack. Honor’s up too, and, honestly, eeeerrrr’body wants a snack/break at this point. They usually get their own/take care of each other while I start dinner prep, flip the laundry, or just chill for a bit.

4:00

At this point, the older boys go out to water the flowerbeds, and then everybody has free time and usually spends it drawing, playing, reading, fishing, jumping on the trampoline, or helping me finish dinner prep (the twins and Theo are especially keen on that one).

5:00 

Tuesdays are usually our library day, so we  head there for about 30 minutes before heading back home for dinner. (It’s 5 minutes away…one of the many things I love about living 10 minutes closer to town than we used to).

EXTREMELY RANDOM TANGENT: Did you know that there’s an actual thing called the Mariko Aoki phenomenon, which observes that being in both libraries and bookstores has been linked with the urge to, ahem, poop. I observed it for myself when I noticed that Honor gifted me with a stinky diaper pretty much every time we visited the library, and then, when I posted about it on social media, I got sooooo many “mine toooo’s” that I had to investigate. Wonders never cease.

ANYWAY.

6:00

Dinner. It doesn’t take us an hour to eat, but we usually spend a good 45 minutes around the table.

7:00

We have an Alexa timer set for after dinner clean-up. We’ve been doing this consistently for over 8 months now, and I absolutely LOVE the difference it makes in all of our moods (but, let’s face it, mine the most) to go to bed with the dishes done and the downstairs picked up at least.

7:30 

The kids usually do something fun with Shaun at this point. He works from home, but he’s not usually available between 8 AM and 5 PM (at least), so this is the kids’ time to roll around on the floor or play ping or darts with their daddy. Honor goes to bed around this point as well.

8:00

Bedtime routines. During the summer, we don’t usually start these until 8:20 or so but we try to stick to 8 during the school year. Bedtime routines consist of teeth-brushing, potty, water, kid Bible reading (the older boys read a story to the younger kids and briefly discuss it), and any other nonsense, er, reasonable rituals that the kids feel attached to (i.e. making sure they know where their favorite sleep toy is). It usually takes about 20 minutes, so, most nights, everybody is heading to bed by 8:30.

8:30

With kids in bed, dinner stuff put away, and the house in decent shape, Shaun and I have some time to chill on the couch and talk about the day. We usually read or watch a show starting around 9 (our repertoire is very small, since we’re picky about what we watch, but we recently finished watching the first two seasons of The Man in the High Castle on VidAngel…wouldn’t recommend it unedited, but it’s an interesting watch with all of the junk edited out).

10:00 

By this point, we’re at least headed to bed, but when I don’t get up at 5, I usually manage to find something to occupy myself (ahem, catching up on Instagram) that means I end up going to sleep closer to 11.

day in the life1

This has nothing to do with what we look like when we are vegging on the couch, but this was how we felt the other day when my mom had the oldest 6, and Shaun, Honor, and I got to sneak out for a croissant at a local bakery when Shaun got back from a work trip. 

Aaaaaaaand there you have a typical Tuesday in our house.

Obviously, there’s a fair bit of flux in our schedule, depending on whether we have appointments (for example: my midwife only takes appointments on Tuesdays, so we’ll be adding that to our schedule this fall). And when Shaun’s gone on work trips (which he always does more in the spring and fall), Tuesdays are our nights to go to the gym for a bit after the library and then Chick-fil-a for dinner.

day in the life2

Honor might be a slight fan of Chick-fil-a nights…even if he does miss his daddy something fierce. 

And I think it’s pretty obvious that there are no hard and fast scheduling rules here. Some days, we finish all of our schoolwork in 4 hours (the older ones), and some days, it takes longer. Some days, shorter. We’re out of the house some days more than others, but, I’ll be honest: the majority of our days are spent at home. We wouldn’t be able to get everything done if they weren’t.

In case you’re wondering, Wednesday looks very similar, except that I teach early in the AM, the girls don’t come to exercise, and my mom comes to help with homeschooling around 10 AM. She leaves at 3. Then, at 4:30, I teach another class, usually while the kids stay home and watch a show (which is one of their only opportunities to have screen time during the week) and fold clothes (Shaun is home but working in his office, which is on the bottom floor).

Shooooo-wee! That was a lot of words about the boring stuff I do all day (boring in the “ordinary” sense…I don’t find it boring).

What about you guys? What does a day-in-the-life look like for you? Anything I skipped that you were dying to know? I’m happy to answer!

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