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Looking for a chore and allowance app to help your quirky, creative kids stay grounded? Look no further than Homey – the perfect chore app for exceptional families. 

This post was sponsored by Homey. The post contains affiliate links and I was compensated for my time. All opinions are my own. Please see my disclosure policy for details. 

The seven-year-old walked through the front door clutching two bills, three advertising flyers, and a padded manilla envelope sporting a familiar smiling logo. I watched as this darling, brilliant, sensitive child, one of three keepers of my heart, stepped over a discarded dishrag, two pairs of shoes, four Legos, and a crumpled chocolate milk box on her way into the dining room. Deciding she had reached an appropriate destination (ahem – the foot of the stairs), said child flung the bills and the flyers to the floor, then flopped down with the mailer in her lap.

Inside that mailer was a treasure – a long-awaited novel for she couldn’t wait to read. This child would be reading it regardless of the circumstances.

Regardless of the unfinished chores on her list.

Organized Living with Quirky, Creative Kids

Up until very recently, we had not been an organized household. I am the wife of a (very handsome, hardworking) paper piler. I am also the work-from-home, homeschooling mom of three gifted kids. If you were to classify our previous approach to housekeeping it would be something along the lines of brushing one’s teeth while eating Oreos.

A valiant effort, of course, but devoid of progress. 

And gross.

What my living room looks like on a regular basis.

How did we get to this point? It’s a combination of things. Neither I nor my husband walked into our marriage with neatnik tendencies. We’re also raising three absent-minded professors, passionate about their interests but lacking executive functioning skills.

The girls’ bedroom. Yes, it really is that bad.

I didn’t help the matter much, to be honest. I wanted to get the kids involved in helping out around the house, but my own crazy schedule and lack of commitment resulted in a vicious cycle:

  1. Notice house growing more disheveled than usual. Get motivated to clean things up.
  2. Clean like a madwoman when the kids are occupied. I don’t want them to help me because they will get in my way.
  3. Become frustrated I’m the only one working; assign chores to each child the next day.
  4. Expect children to do chores regularly, but don’t give them any physical reminders or assistance. Watch in annoyance as the effort is half-hearted at best.
  5. Lose my cool and fuss at the kids when the house has reached critical mass. Insist they help me. Get irritated when they don’t do it the way I like.
  6. Tell them to forget it and find something to keep themselves occupied.
  7. Repeat steps one to five, nourishing resentment all the while.
This is a not-uncommon phenomenon, especially in houses with exceptional, easily-distracted kids.

It’s not that they’re lazy or the product of negligent parents.

It’s the reality of brains wired this way.

Research has proven time and again that creative people tend to fall on the messier end of the spectrum. I’ve always chalked it up to the busy nature of our brains. The day-to-day minutiae of ordering time and space get lost amid the dreams, the theories, and the projects. After all, sweeping the floor is anticlimactic when you’ve got a dying rainforest to save.

So yes, up until a few weeks ago, the description above fit our family to a T. That is until I met the chore and allowance app Homey. It’s been the perfect executive functioning solution to help our quirky kids to stay grounded in their responsibilities, AND learn to manage money at the same time.

Meet Homey: the Perfect Chore App for Quirky, Creative Kids Setting Up Your Account

When I downloaded the Homey app, my first step was to create a family account. Each family member has her own profile: mine has an excellent permission system which allows me to set the frequency of chores, designate a particular time of day for completion, and provide more features to my older child. For example, I can give my eldest permission to approve completed chores for her siblings and edit the time or day of a chore if we have to skip a day.  

Once the profiles were up and running, I could choose from a variety of preset chores or create my own. I chose to do both, pulling chores from the kids’ room, kitchen, and bathroom sets as well as creating specific chores pertinent to our family home (clearing the dining room table; straightening the living room, etc.). 

A sampling of chores available on Homey, plus an individual chore I set for my family.

Depending on which version of the app you choose, you can pay for additional preset packs or use only those which are available for free. If you choose the premium account option, the paid chore packs are included with your subscription.

Responsibilities and Jobs

Homey separates chores into two categories: responsibilities and jobs. What’s the difference? Responsibilities are tasks performed as part of the family. It’s the “many hands make light work” philosophy: since we live in the same home and share our spaces, we pitch in to make the household work.

In the Homey app, responsibilities must be completed before moving on to jobs – chores which earn a designated amount of money once completed. Any task in the app can be designated a responsibility or a job depending on your family’s needs.

Photo Proof and Parent Approval

When a child completes a responsibility or a job, the Homey app records it as completed. If your kids are anything like mine, though, their definition of done might be vastly different from your own. To prevent this, parents can set the app to require photo proof and parent approval in order for a task to be marked complete. This came in super handy for us:

A picture of my daughters’ “clean” room

The Savings Jar Feature

Homey’s virtual wallet feature helps children keep track of their job and allowance earnings. They can also designate how that money will be saved, spent, or donated, encouraging them to set goals for their earnings and keep a running tally of how much money is in each account. My oldest is saving money for the next installment of the Wings of Fire series, so that was the first savings jar she set up.

My kiddo shaking dirt out of the welcome mat before sweeping the front hall. She’s determined to earn that book!

When my children reach their savings goals, I’m able to choose how I want to pay them. None of my children has a bank account just yet, but when one of them does, I can connect the app directly to her account to transfer the funds electronically. The other cool thing is that I can put extra money in the account as a reward or make an IOU deduction (a frequent occurrence in this house, since my kiddos often forget to carry a wallet or purse).

Reminders and Notifications

When the children were younger and we had less of them, I had a pretty standard cleaning schedule. I had a section of the house I would complete each day of the week, and for a while there, I was getting the kids to help me out.

As time went on and life got busier, however, I couldn’t remember what I was supposed to do when. My brain was just too full of other information.

Homey solved this problem for me.

The app sends warning notifications to any phone connected to your account. My children don’t yet have phones so the notifications came to me. I found this helpful, though, because a third party provided the reminder. It wasn’t necessarily me nagging them – it was the app on my phone. 

Homey reminding us of our midday clean-up Chore Customization

The final thing I love about Homey is actually pretty simple – the app lets me detail specifically what must be done to complete a chore. I can include a photo of what I want the finished job to look like, as well as include a verbal description of what needs to be done. This is probably my favorite feature, as it alleviates the frustration of unmet expectations. I can set out what’s required from the outset and the kids know exactly what to do. 

Homey has made a huge difference in the life of this quirky, creative family. 

Even my kids have noticed a change. My seven year old remarked that the house is generally much cleaner without frustration or arguments:

“I don’t usually like people telling me what to do, but Homey’s really nice about it. And the best part, Mom, is that you don’t have to yell!” 

Indeed.

Interested in giving Homey a spin? Snag a free account, or try Premium (4.99/mo; 49.99 annually) risk-free with their seven-day free trial!

Enjoy this post? Read on, and sign up for my gifted/2E parenting or homeschooling newsletter

How to Raise a Gifted Child without Losing Your Ever-Loving Mind

Why Gifted Kids aren’t Motivated, Plus 5 Ways to Help Them Cope

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While we officially receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit at confirmation, we can always help cultivate them in our kids. Here’s how to encourage the gifts of the Holy Spirit in your children.

My seven year old is sharp.  And sneaky. She’s also darling and an absolute blast.  But oh, the sneakiness.

Her older sister is eleven, and since we homeschool pretty much everything from math to sacramental preparation, the younger got to listen in three years ago as I prepared our oldest for First Communion (this kiddo has since received First Holy Communion as well).  Four and a half at the time, the seven-year-old was especially interested to learn that until the age of reason, children are incapable of sin.

I could see the wheels turning behind those large, hazel eyes.  I imagine her thought process went something like this:

You can’t sin until you are seven.  Sin means doing bad things. I’m not seven.  I’m four, so this means that….

“Mommy?”  Saucer eyes.  Innocent face.  “I can’t sin. I can’t do bad things. I’m only four.”

This child makes me wonder if the age of reason should be negotiable. Because yes, she was right.  She was incapable of sin.

But this is what happened next:

Used her sister’s acrylic paints to give dolls a manicure: “I’m only four! I didn’t know it would be wrong!”

Told me she’d brushed her teeth when I knew she hadn’t: “Age of reason! Only five!”

Promised she hadn’t stolen fists full of chocolate chips from the pantry. Suspicious smears on her cheeks indicated otherwise: “How long until I’m Gray’s age? ‘Cause then I could really get in trouble….”

It’s maddening but highly amusing. It also warms my Catholic mama’s heart.  I see the Holy Spirit within her, perfecting His creation as she grows.

The Gifts of the Holy Spirit for Kids

We are bestowed with the gifts of the Holy Spirit at confirmation and tend to think of them in adult terms. But they apply to our children, too, even if they haven’t reached the age of reason. The key to developing these gifts in little ones is to facilitate their awareness in an age-appropriate way.

Wisdom

What it is: Pope Francis explains the gift of wisdom best: “it is the grace of being able to see everything with the eyes of God.”  Rather than seeing the world and the decisions we make through the lens of our own brokenness, we look at them in the way of our Loving Father.  

How we encourage it: To cultivate wisdom in children, we must teach them about the heart of God. Talk to your children about why and how God loves us. Explain that there are natural laws written on our hearts, then point out examples in your daily routine. Ask the Holy Spirit for the grace to model wisdom at home and your children will follow suit.

Knowledge

What it is: Wisdom gives us a window to the heart of God; knowledge gives us a glimpse of His mind by allowing us to understand our relationship to Him as creator and provider.

How we encourage it: To help our children develop this gift, we need only encourage a reliance on God through daily study and prayer. Make lists or draw pictures of God’s blessings. Post them and review each night as you offer simple prayers of thanksgiving as a family. The repeated devotion will spotlight the ways in which God has cared for your family, developing an understanding of His relationship with you and your children.

Understanding

What it is: Have you ever read a passage from scripture or the catechism and been confused by what it said? Understanding makes plain the teachings of Christ and his Church.

How We Encourage it: For our children, understanding means exploring the whys and hows of the faith, helping them see the purpose behind the truth. To do this, try a matching game: connect each commandment to its corresponding natural law, then talk about why they go together. Also, when the inevitable “Why do I have to clean my room/take out the trash/play with my little brother” question arises, avoid the temptation to bark “because I said so!” Explain that it is an act of service instead.

Piety

What it is: Piety is reverence, or the ability to act with humility in God’s presence.

How we encourage it: Our faith is full of signs and symbols that direct us toward that reverence.  Consider a home altar with a prayer book, a crucifix, and a few pretty flowers. Take your children to visit Jesus in adoration; many parishes have holy hours set aside just for families. Encourage the simple act of genuflecting before entering the pew and when approaching the Blessed Sacrament. Modeling even the simplest acts of reverence will develop a sense of piety.

Right judgment

What it is: Also called counsel, right judgment is the gift that helps us discern good from evil. This can be difficult, despite the fact that a child’s world is typically more black and white than that of an adult.  That which is immediately appealing to children may not always be of God. For instance, “borrowing” the neighbor’s soccer ball may seem like the right choice at the time. But the course of action is incorrect, and our children must know the appropriate way to handle such a situation.

How we encourage it: Try reading about the moral and theological virtues, then practice decision-making skills with role play or a game like Chutes and Ladders. The more opportunity they have to practice right judgment, the better their ability to put it into action.

Fortitude

What it is: This is the courage to stand up for what we believe in, a task that has become more frequent and complicated of late.  

How we encourage it: Look for opportunities to praise the good behavior children model for their friends. At home, endeavor to set an example of charitable admonition when faced with difficult situations. Even if you’re not always successful, at least they see you try.

Fear of the Lord

What it is:  Fear of the Lord is the ability to recognize his awesomeness, to see that all of creation is beautifully and wonderfully made.

How we encourage it: Fostering this is as easy as reveling in the natural world. Lay out under the stars at night. Study snowflakes under a magnifying glass. Press flowers in a heavy book. Look at the children’s baby pictures. More often than not, your children will be the first to point out the magnificence of God’s creation.

For all my daughter’s sneakiness, her perception of the precepts of our faith is encouraging.

It means that for all the times we’ve messed up (and trust me, there are plenty), the Holy Spirit is at work through us and through our children.

I thank God every day for the gift of his Paraclete. He makes the days before and after the age of reason that much more reasonable.

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Motherhood may be hard, but God has given us a powerful advocate. When we learn to open our hearts to the gifts of the Holy Spirit, we not only become closer to the Father – we become stronger, more confident moms. 

I was confirmed in the Catholic Church at thirteen. My sponsor had been in a car accident a week or so prior, so my father stood in as a proxy.  He placed his hand on my shoulder during the rite of confirmation, its heft a testament of an earthly and heavenly father’s love.

By the time we got to the Liturgy of the Eucharist, I had pretty much checked out.  My knees were hurting from kneeling, sweat was beading under my perfectly coiffed, poofy bangs, and I was mildly dizzy from the incense-heavy air.  Only the Bishop’s intonations broke the silence.  I leaned back onto the pew, put my head in my hands, and wondered how much longer it would be until the reception.  

And then there was a noise to my left.  

My back straightened.  My face reddened.  Glancing surreptitiously out of the corner of my eye, I confirmed my fears: it was my dad.   

His eyes were closed, his hands were open, and he appeared to be praying, loudly, in a foreign language.

I wanted to die.  What fresh hell was this, that my father would draw such attention to himself during the most sacred part of the mass?

I was mortified.  Dumbfounded.  What if the other kids noticed?

What if the Bishop noticed?!?

I elbowed my dad.  Shushed him.  Grabbed him by the arm.  “Dad!  What are you doing?!?” I whispered.  

He didn’t look at me, nor did he acknowledge my desperate pummeling.  He just went silent, looked as normal as ever, and proceeded on with the rest of the mass.

The Gifts of the Holy Spirit

I lit into him in the car on the way home.  He had no explanation of the language he was speaking.  It was a gift from the Holy Spirit, he said, brought about by its presence during my confirmation mass.  

Dad was quick to point out it was not a gift he had asked for. He also warned me that unlike the established gifts of the Holy Spirit that we receive in confirmation, the gift of tongues is an extraordinary grace that one must carefully, prayerfully discern as being truly of God.

It had only happened to him once before, and it never happened to him again. He rarely spoke of it and guarded the experience as a treasured secret.

While I had been initially embarrassed by my father’s encounter with the Holy Spirit, it opened my eyes to the incredible power of the Paraclete, the Counselor whom God has given us as our guide.

Most of us will never be granted the gift of tongues, but we are all given the gifts of the Spirit: wisdom, understanding, knowledge, right judgment, fortitude, piety, and fear of the Lord.

In my eleven years of mothering, I have come to understand the application of these gifts to my vocation.  

And so I share them with you, the Gifts of the Spirit for Moms: Wisdom

What it is

Wisdom helps us rightfully discern those choices which lead us closer to Christ.  Pope Francis defines wisdom as the ability to see everything through God’s eyes.  

What it means

Rather than making choices for our children out of envy, anger, retaliation or despair, we make decisions out of a spirit of love and gratitude. It allows us as mothers to unite ourselves with Christ while providing the same opportunity for our children.  

Understanding

What it is

This is the gift that not only allows us to comprehend the teachings of the church, but also to develop tolerance, empathy, and compassion for others as well.

What it means

We use our gift of understanding to help our little ones learn to respect differences, to treat others with kindness, and to offer aid to those in need.

Right Judgment

What it is

Right judgment is the gift of prudence. It is the ability to look at a situation and determine what ought to be done.

What it means

For mothers, it helps us face the myriad decisions we must make with regard to our children’s ’ upbringing: should I homeschool?  Are these friends good influences?  What approach should I take for this disciplinary issue? The Holy Spirit’s guidance allows us to make the right decisions for our children.

Fortitude

What it is

In its truest sense, fortitude is the courage to stand firm in the teachings of the church.  

What it means

For mothers, fortitude becomes the courage to stand firm in our vocation.  Our culture of death seeks to vilify motherhood and diminish womanhood.  With fortitude, we are able to evangelize the truths of the faith through our daily lives.  

Knowledge

What it is

There are several definitions of knowledge, but I think the Baltimore Catechism says it best: “a gift of the Holy Ghost which enables us to see God reflected in all creatures and to praise Him in them, but yet to see the nothingness of creatures in themselves so that we will desire God alone.”  

What it means

Knowledge allows us to see the goodness of God in creation and its utter dependence on Him.  Isn’t that just how see our children?  Yes, they draw on the walls, fight with their siblings and empty out entire containers of cornstarch onto the kitchen floor (or maybe that’s just my kids), but they are still good and wonderful in the eyes of God.  They depend on Him, and us, for their growth and salvation.

Piety

What it is

Piety is our childlike relationship with God. It is the love which is expressed so beautifully in the Our Father, where we trust in Him as completely as a child places trust in her parents.

What it means

Being a mother is hard – so hard, in fact, that sometimes it is all we can do to keep moving forward.  This is where piety steps in, as we surrender to our heavenly Father for support in our daily struggles.

Fear of the Lord

What it is

Worded in a way that often leads to misunderstanding, fear of the Lord is amazement at the awesomeness of our creator. It is the gift that allows us to see that we are fearfully, wonderfully made and that our children are made this way, too.  

What it means

Fear of the Lord helps us love our children even when they keep us up at night, driving us to distraction with anxiety.  God is almighty and bigger than our worries.  

The Holy Spirit is pure, divine love, our gift from a loving Father whose will for us is good and holy.  

My father understood that, and I understand it now, too.  May the Holy Spirit open our hearts to His graces and enkindle in us the fire of His love.  

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Raising a gifted toddler isn’t a matter of evaluation or enrichment. Your pint-sized poppy will grow and learn just fine without flashcards when you follow her lead and support it.

This post contains affiliate links. Please see my disclosure policy for details. 

2.5

We were on the way to pick up her sister, and the questions were coming nonstop:

“What is fire?”

“How do you make it?”

“Does fire burn rocks?”

“What about plastic?”

I could see her in the rearview mirror, intense concentration on that baby face. We passed a school bus on the left; her eyes gazed out the window.

“Mama,” she declared, with an air of absolute finality. “Fire is NOT a school bus.”

You are correct, kiddo. It most definitely is not.

3

7:45 PM, and she was missing.

Panic.

“Did you look under the bed?!?”

“What about the bathroom?!?”

“I checked the closet – she’s not there!!!”

I picked up the phone, my finger over the nine key. A momentary glance out of the window:

“Dan!!!! Look!!!”

Our cul-de-sac is shaped like a rectangle, and our home sits on the southeast corner. An ice cream truck jangled on the northwest side, surrounded by children and laughter. There on the sidewalk stood our daughter in her red cherry pajamas, spinning in circles and separate from the crowd.

She had not only heard the ice cream truck and made her way to the commotion; she had mastered the deadbolt on the front door.  

3.5

I’m trying to write but he’s pressing on the keyboard, a wiggly presence in my irritated lap.

“Was dat say, mama? Was dat say?”

“Just a minute, bug, I’m working…”

I remove his hands for a moment, long enough to type out once last sentence: When the child is at home, she’ll often let her guard down…

“Da – child – is – at – hoooooomeeee. It say da child is at home. I go potty, mama,” and he’s off and running, stopping just outside the bathroom to make a puddle on the floor.

Welcome to gifted toddlerhood – an overwhelming place to hang out.

To parent a pint-sized poppy is to reside in the Kingdom of Irrationality, the great bastion of exhilaration, over-thinking, and self-doubt.

For starters, you question yourself all. the. time.

Why can he sight-read off the page I’m writing, but I have to answer the same question 50 times? Am I just crazy? Am I blind because I love him? Am I making this up because he’s mine?

And the meltdowns – they’re unbelievable. She’s so focused she never wants to stop. Am I spoiling her? Could she be on the spectrum? What is going on with my kid?

Then you compare yourself to everyone else.

Sarah’s daughter sleeps – why won’t mine?

Jackson just ate an entire bowl of blueberries. My kiddo wouldn’t go near something like that.  

The neighbor’s toddler plays so well with other kids. Why does my child just stand on the sidelines, making letters out of sticks?

Finally, you seek confirmation and community, and the result is not what you expected.

In an online forum: “Are you sure she’s gifted? What you’re describing doesn’t sound that far from the mean.”

At a mom’s group: “Well, what sort of classes are you taking? We do Toddler STEM Adventures on Monday, Reading Ready on Wednesday, and Music Mania (our favorite) on Thursdays. Tuesdays and Fridays we do enrichment at home.”

At your in-laws: “What do you mean you aren’t working on reading? All of mine were reading fluently by two.”

Friend, I have so been there. Not only have I raised three poppies through toddlerhood, I’ve lived to talk about it – faculties mostly intact.

Chances are you’re feeling a lot of anxiety and uncertainty. You face great pressure to provide your poppy with every opportunity, to say nothing of the propensity for maternal guilt. It’s tempting, I think, to seek out classes and resources designed to help our children learn and grow. But there’s a hidden cost behind those options, especially if we rely on them too much.

The Cost of Structured Learning

When I was eight weeks pregnant with our first child, my husband and I took a minivacation to the countryside. Our B&B owners had a toddler with dimples and blonde ringlets.

He was on the local preschool’s waiting list two weeks after he was born.

While this family did live in a rural area and there weren’t many preschool options from which to choose, this revelation came as I was knee-deep in “holy-cow-I’m-having-a-baby” preparations. I’d been toying with my registry, reading reviews of Baby Einstein flashcards.  

I was also a high school teacher growing jaded with parental pressure in my classroom. All of it – the waiting lists, the resources, the expert voices, and testimonials – seemed an introduction not to motherhood, but to an educational agenda: 

  1. Gifted kids are manufactured
  2. Consistent, targeted, direct instruction is the best way for young children to learn

Neither one of these theories is true.

Giftedness is a neurological construct, the way a child’s brain is wired from birth.

Yes, neural pathways are decidedly plastic, but no amount of practice or drill will change the latent potential of the brain. To push the educational benefits of direct instruction on young children isn’t just over overkill, it’s harmful to both typical and atypical kids. 

Why?

Each child who comes into this world has a unique, unrepeatable purpose. As parents, it is our job to facilitate that – not by force, but by genuine love and support. Children have a magnificent way of communicating their needs and their interests. Our attention to this is what makes the difference, not reliance on flashcards or classes. 

In two decades of teaching, I’ve met too many desperate teens, heading off to a degree plan or college not of their choosing but of the perfect plan for mom and dad. 

That pattern doesn’t happen overnight.

Your Gifted Toddler Just Needs You

You have a child, not a specimen. This child has been given directly to you. Flashcards, classes, testing, and enrichment experiences don’t matter. What does?

Your love, your presence, your receptivity: your willingness to follow her lead.

Mama, trust your instincts

Evaluating a toddler can be tricky and traumatic, and really, you don’t need proof. Besides – what does it matter what other people think about your child? You know her best, and you can offer intuitive support.

Spend time playing with your child

Truthfully, it is the best way for a child to learn. In Einstein Never Used Flashcards, Temple University psychology professor Kathy Hirsh-Pasek puts it well:

“Children with loving parents who enjoy them, play with them, and offer guidance and suggestions as they explore their environment will be healthy, emotionally well-adjusted, and psychologically advanced.”

Play is a child’s first language. It’s how he negotiates his world. Play leads to advancements in literacy, mathematics, and the sciences, to say nothing of social and emotional skills. Relying on flashcards instead of play takes learning out of context. Our children end up in a sterile box.  

Follow her lead, especially down rabbit holes

Let your child’s interests dictate what you do. Embrace the rabbit hole philosophy, the practice of exploring every facet of a subject or an interest. Doing so from the beginning will help cultivate a love of learning and encourage his creativity.

Finally, enjoy the ride

When it comes to your gifted toddler’s development, you don’t have to tick boxes off a chart. His development will be all over the place, and that’s totally normal. He’ll need you to support his burgeoning abilities, whether they are advanced, on target, or a little slow.

Like every child, a gifted toddler is his own little person.

Raising him won’t get any easier, any less weird, or any more rational. But there is great beauty in that fact because he is precisely the little human he was created to be.

He doesn’t need training or pressure or practice or flashcards.

He just needs you and your love. 

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This post is part of the GHF Blog Hop for May: Parenting and Teaching Your Gifted Toddler

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Mama, you really do need time for yourself. Your quiet time matters not just for your own sanity, but for the peace of your family as well. 

This post contains affiliate links. Please see my disclosure policy for details. This post also contains reviews of Mom’s Quiet Time Journal and Ponder. I was provided with copies of these publications free of charge. All opinions are my own. 

7 AM mass is my favorite.

No music.

No large crowd of people.

No overwhelming fear that a tow-headed hobbit of a child might bolt from the pew and streak toward the altar like a greased pig, intent on tasting “da wiiiiiineeeee!!!!!”

Yes, I have to stumble out of bed at 6:15 on a Sunday morning. But the stillness – that burgeoning light streaming through brilliant stained glass windows?

It’s worth it. And of course, Jesus is there.

What a change from the decades of my unfettered youth when silence was a thing to be feared. I had to have the TV, a radio – some kind of background noise to soothe me.

20 years and three children later, silence is what I crave.

Why Quiet Time Matters for Moms 

So much of a mother’s life exists in what looks like chaos. We are consistently bombarded by other people’s needs. While our hearts grow three sizes with every new addition, our living spaces shrink in direct correlation.

We begin to resent the room we have lost.

It happens slowly at first, and no one notices – least of all ourselves. We don’t realize we’re depressed, frustrated, angry, or lonely until we’re trapped in a vicious cycle: we lose our cool, feel guilty, and start the process all over again.

Quiet time for mom sets the tone for the family

My mother shared this with me early on. It’s a more sophisticated version of the old adage, “If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” It’s true – we are the source and center of our homes.

Quiet time for mom helps the children cultivate peace

Children aren’t as resilient as we think. They need help with patience, perseverance, and emotional regulation. How in the world can we assist them when we don’t have that ourselves?

Quiet time for mom brings God’s voice to the forefront

It’s easy to feel alone and abandoned. We aren’t – God is always calling our names. It’s hard to hear Him, though, in the midst of all the chaos. Quiet time gives us the opportunity to be still and know that not only is He God, He is with us every day.

Clearly, taking time for ourselves in the quiet and the silence is integral to the health of our souls. But how in the world do we get it when we’re surrounded by the people who need us the most? Change your schedule

Get up 15 minutes early, or stay up just 15 minutes late. Reserve that time for reading, prayer, or indulging in a hobby. Stay off social media – that won’t do anything to soothe your soul.

Use screen time judiciously

30 minutes of screen time won’t hurt your children. Put on something educational and take a half hour to decompress.

Trade mother’s helper duties with a friend or neighbor

You watch her kids for a while, then she watches yours. The kids get to play – you get a breather.

Find (and use) a prayer or Scripture journal

We all have the best of intentions when it comes to prayer time, but having an outside guide to keep us on the straight and narrow helps a great deal. I have two journals I love:

Mom’s Quiet Time Journal by Sara Panning

As a homeschooling mom of three girls, Sara gets what it means to live out the vocation of Christian motherhood. She knows what it’s like to live this beautiful, sacrificial vocation day in and day out. Sara’s Quiet Time journal is a balm for a weary mother’s soul – a place to gather your thoughts, focus on prayer, and rest your worries on the Lord.

Sara has carefully curated a number of uplifting verses from Scripture and placed them alongside pages for quiet coloring.

There are gratitude pages

journaling sections

and more, like pages to record your reading list, favorite Scripture quotes, goal setting pages, and mind maps for brainstorming.

Sara has literally though of everything a Christian mother needs and compiled it in a lovely, soft-cover binding. Flipping through it is like sitting down with an old friend over a cup of tea. I step away from it feeling rested and restored.

Ponder (Take Up and Read)

I first became acquainted with Take Up and Read and Lectio Divina through Above All, Take Up and Read’s Lenten devotional. Veteran Catholic writer Elizabeth Foss and colleagues have presented the Benedictine practice of Scripture reading, meditation, and prayer for a new generation of Catholic mothers, interspersing Scriptural passages and meditation questions with thoughtful essays on virtue and Catholic motherhood. Take Up and Read released Ponder this spring, a scriptural companion to the mysteries of the Rosary. It’s a beautiful way to meditate on the birth, life, passion, and resurrection of Our Lord.

Quiet time for mothers may seem like a magical unicorn, but I assure you it is anything but. Let God find you in the quiet places by creating an opportunity for Him to do so.

You need it – and your family will thank you for it.

Enjoy this post? Read on, and sign up for my Catholic motherhood newsletter:

Self-Care is Not Selfish

Supermom, It’s Okay to Say No

Your Good Enough is Perfect: Why It’s Okay to Be an Imperfect Catholic Mom

The post Mom, Your Quiet Time Matters: 4 Simple Ways to Find Peace in the Chaos appeared first on Not So Formulaic.

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Do your kids love picture books? History? Geography? Are you a homeschool parent searching for the right curriculum or a parent of a poppy looking for enrichment? Well, look no further, because Beautiful Feet Books has you covered. Around the World with Picture Books is the perfect way to explore history and geography through quality literature.

This post was sponsored by Beautiful Feet Books. I received a complimentary portion of Around the World with Picture Books Part 1 and was compensated for my time. All opinions are my own. Please see my disclosure policy for details. 

I was looking at Russia – downtown Moscow, specifically.

Apparently 10:30 AM EST is the height of rush hour there: red lines crisscrossed the city in what looked like a great deal of Russian frustration.

“Why am I looking at Moscow?” I muttered, not really expecting a response.

A willowy voice replied on her way out of the kitchen: “Oh, that was me,” she sang, coming back to earth for a moment. “I was checking the traffic last night.”

Over the next few weeks, I detected a pattern. There was a new location each time I opened my phone.

Dubai.

The Amazon.

Papua New Guinea.

The Cook Islands.

If she could point a GPS satellite at it she would go there, courtesy of stolen moments on her mother’s iPhone.

Three years later her fascination has expanded to her siblings, though each has his or her own unique spin. The seven-year-old’s interests are decidedly more political (“Mom, when are we learning about Cuba? I want to know what kind of government they have, and why we have an embargo against them.”); the three-year-old’s wrapped up in the existence of animals everywhere.

I must admit I find all this rather challenging – I’m neither a history nor geography buff. But since my kids seem to like it and I’m in charge of their education, I’m consistently on the lookout for resources that will serve two purposes:

Feeding my children’s appetite for global information in a format they love and I can trust.

I’ve had both those needs met courtesy of Beautiful Feet Books.

Beautiful Feet Books: a Literature-Based Approach to History

Since 1984, Beautiful Feet Books has been a leading provider of history through literature curricula for both the homeschool and private school communities. Founders Russell and Rea Berg have spent decades curating high-quality books from the Golden Age of Children’s Literature, seeking to support both parents and schools with literature-focused history curricula that bring education to life. Beautiful Feet’s current selections cover thousands of years of human history, from Ancient times to the modern world.

Because of my children’s interest in world geography, I chose one of Beautiful Feet’s Literature Packs: Around the World Through Picture Books.  

Around the World Through Picture Books is a globetrotter’s dream. Designed to immerse parents and children in the sights, sounds, tastes, and customs of the world’s cultures, this literature-driven geography curriculum places you right in the middle of some of the most beautiful places in the world.

Part One includes a study of nine countries and two continents:
  • China
  • Thailand
  • Japan
  • India
  • Morocco
  • Egypt
  • Kenya
  • Ghana
  • Tanzania
  • Australia
  • Antartica

(Part Two [available summer 2018] will feature Europe and South America).

When you order Around the World With Picture Books, you receive a total of 17 books.

Beautiful Feet founder Rea Berg has curated and developed lessons for some seriously beautiful picture books, as richly illustrated and authored as they are representative of the culture they depict:

 Hush! A Thai Lullaby (Thailand)

In lilting verse, this Caldecott Honor book tells the story of a diligent mama, her animal neighbors, and a not-so-sleepy baby.

The Story of Little Babaji (India)

The Story of Little Bajabi is an Indian fable, one that tells the origin of the much-revered cooking oil, ghee.

The Emperor’s Egg (Antartica)

Did you know Papa Penguins stay home and watch the babies while the Mama Penguins go hunt for food? The Emperor’s Egg explores the life cycle and habitat of the Emperor Penguin, Antartica’s resident bird.

Mirror (Australia and Morocco)

Aptly titled, Mirror lays out life in Australia and life in Morocco on facing pages using only images – no words.

The Day of Ahmed’s Secret (Egypt)

Ahmed has a wonderful secret to share with his parents. Can he manage to keep it hidden while he works?

Wangari Maathai: The Woman Who Planted a Million Trees (Kenya)

Vibrant illustrations help tell the tale of Wangari Maathai, the Kenyan woman whose conservation efforts earned her the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011.

Emmanuelle’s Dream (Ghana)

Emmanuel’s may have been born with only one leg, but he wasn’t going to let that dictate his story.

In addition to the picture books above, Around the World also includes Maps, a fantastic, illustrated Atlas from Candlewick, the Around the World with Picture Books Part 1 Lesson Plan Guide, and an attractive lined Tsubame notebook. These titles (plus seven more picture books I did not receive) make for an engaging cultural experience suitable for grades K to 3.

Maps

Written and illustrated by Aleksandra Mizielinska and Daniel Mizielinski, Maps provides an incredibly in-depth look at the varying countries and regions of our world. The detailed illustrations not only reveal major cities, landforms, and local flora and fauna, but information about the regions’ cultures and cuisines as well. Each regional study begins with a close look at the map’s illustrations, and my children were entranced every time.

My girls exploring India Around the World Through Picture Books Part I Lesson Plan

Berg provides detailed, guided lessons for each regional study, using Maps and the picture books as a starting point. Children are invited to delve into nature study, folklore, fables, art, and music through Berg’s resource-rich lessons and guided text. As an exciting extra touch, Berg ends each regional study with a recipe straight from that region. Since my children prefer to be more adventurous with their imaginary travels than their cuisine, we enjoyed making bannocks: a pancake-biscuit hybrid often prepared on Antarctic expeditions.

Making our bannocks, and covering them with Nutella. Because of course. A stack of freshly baked bannocks hanging out with our Emperor Penguin pair. Tsubame Notebook

The lesson guide for Around the World with Picture Books includes an entire section of line art for each region. Children can cut out the pages, color or paint the images, and paste them into their Tsubame Notebook as a record of what they have learned.

Painting the line art in the back of the lesson plan book Around the World with Picture Books has a number of benefits for me as a homeschool mom to exceptional kids. Around the World with Picture Books is Age Spanning

I have three children, all four years apart in age. This can make homeschooling a challenge. With Beautiful Feet Books, I was able to find an element of each lesson perfect for each of my children.

  • My three year old gained an awareness of other places. He knows now that there are people and countries other than the home he knows.
  • My seven year old developed a global picture. She is now able to identify how the world’s cultures and climates change according to their positioning on the globe.
  • My eleven year old experienced an opportunity for deep introspection. Already an avid reader and collector of information about the world’s places, people, and animals, Around the World with Picture Books allowed her to see firsthand the lives of people in other places. She developed a deeper appreciation for her own circumstances, as well as the struggles and the joys of people around the world.
Around the World with Picture Books is Literature Driven

My kids love to read, and picture books are no exception. In fact, as we progressed through the lessons as a family, it was not uncommon to discover my oldest sitting with her siblings around her as she read to them from that week’s picture book. They were able to connect the images to the language and the language to the people and places, asking questions, making inferences, and growing their critical thinking skills.

Reading Mirror, a side-by-side comparison of Morocco and Australia Around the World with Picture Books is Rich with Quality Resources

Berg’s research is exhaustive and impeccable. The inclusion of suggested books for further reading, internet videos for viewing, poetry connections, recipes, art, and music make this study a comprehensive learning opportunity for incredibly curious kids.

Watching a recommended video on camels after reading The Day of Ahmed’s Secret What else did I love about Beautiful Feet’s Around the World Through Picture Books?

Simply put, the incredible attention to detail. Berg’s approach is so thorough, so thoughtful, that no detail is spared. Notes in the lesson plan guide provide individual guidance for parents, especially if the subject matter might be a little on the sensitive side:

Berg’s note to parents about the suitability of an internet resource.

Beautiful Feet Books even printed the artwork on heavyweight watercolor paper, the perfect medium for..

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Does the thought of picking up a pen or pencil fill your child with dread? Try writing as a family during this year’s screen-free week with these laid-back writing activities for kids. 
At 12, I was going to be a novelist. 

I had notebooks filled to the brim with stories – fanfiction, though they didn’t call it that at the time. But since you’re reading this blog, you know how that turned out. Writing is still an important part of my life. I just don’t write fiction anymore.

My children, though? That’s another matter entirely. While my eldest can’t stand to write academic assignments, she’ll spend hours scribbling stories in notebooks like her mother. Her sister’s burgeoning grasp of the reading and writing doesn’t stop her, either – I’ll find pages scrawled with phonetic approximations of words; the introduction, perhaps, to a story.

Because I believe writing is such an important part of a child’s growth, and because I don’t want it to be something my children dread, I turned to a friend of mine, Jeanie Egolf. She’s the author and illustrator of the Molly McBride series, and a former physician to boot.

Tell me a little about your background. How did you come to write and illustrate the Molly McBride series?
I always wanted to be an artist. I began private art lessons when I was 8 years old and won a blue ribbon at the county fair with my first drawing! And I always loved creative writing as well. I used to “produce” a family newspaper for my mom and dad. In high school, I was editor of the school newspaper as well as the art director. But parents and my guidance counselor strongly discouraged me from art as a career, probably fearing the old “starving artist” stereotype. Despite my high school art teacher driving me to visit both Columbus College of Art and Design AND the Art Academy of Cincinnati, I ended up pre-med at Tulane. Fast forward 30 years – I sold my Internal Med practice in 2009 to stay home with my kids and homeschool. I became acquainted with the Children of Mary [the sisters in the Molly McBride series) about that time.
Describe your work/life Balance. How do you attend to your vocation as wife and mother while pursuing your passion at the same time?
I get my writing and illustration work done early in the morning and late at night: middle of the day is homeschooling and taking kids to their sports and activities, as well as house and garden work. Occasionally, I try to squeeze in some writing, promo work, networking, design, etc. here and there if school work and chores are all finished.
What’s your philosophy on screen time? Does it have potential benefits? Or is it something you try to avoid altogether?

I am not a huge fan of screen time. We monitor online activity like crazy and limit it to 30 minutes a day. An extra 30 minutes can sometimes be “earned” by doing extra school or housework. In the evenings, we all watch something on TV for about an hour together: usually HGTV or Food Network, animal shows, etc.

When I was practicing, pediatricians believed screen time was one cause of autism, and that parents should NEVER EVER let a child under 2 or 3 see a tv or computer screen at ALL. Additionally, too much screen time is linked to kids having vision problems: sometimes they get mistaken for being dyslexic or having other learning disabilities when actually they can’t see well due to eyes that only see screens all day! My hubby is an ophthalmologist and [for this reason] is very strict about getting the kids’ vision checked. At one point the younger daughter had some trouble with her vision, so he made her stay completely off the computer and it cleared up.

How do you share your passion with your children? What do your children think about what you do?

My kids seem to be budding writers and artists as well. They spend a lot of time making comics and stories. They play on a program called Pixton a lot, which is an online comic maker. It has really gotten my younger daughter to write at last! And I don’t let them publish unless spelling, grammar, punctuation, etc. are correct.

Write as a Family: Laid-back Writing Activities for Kids Because childhood literacy is a passion Jeannie and I both share, I’ve pulled together a list of resources for families who’d like to encourage more writing at home:

Six Fun, Quick Writing Activities You Can Do At Home

Three Ways to Bring Back the Lost Art of the Letter

Use Family Photos to Inspire Family Poetry

David Wiesner’s Wordless Picture Books: A Springboard for Creative Writing

Connecting Sensory Play and Writing Skills for Every Age

Collaborative Writing: A Hilarious Way to Write Together

Give Your Writing Purpose (Includes links to publishers that take student writing)

Five Fun Picture Book Activities for All Ages – Even Grown Ups!

Photograffiti: A Fun Way to Use Language as a Visual Art

The more you and your children write together, the easier it will become. Low-stress, fun-focused writing activities are the best way to encourage more writing at home and in the classroom.

(Want more Molly McBride? You can find Molly (and Jeanie!) on Facebook.)

Looking for more screen-free resources? Read on, and sign up for one of my newsletters:

Screen-Free Resources for Families 

Have a Screen-Free Summer with Life Skills Bingo

Move That Body: Super-Fun Theater Games for Kids

Make Something Beautiful: Creative Crafting with Kids

Grow Something Good: An Introduction to Gardening with Kids

Get Outside and Be Active: Fantastic Fitness Ideas for Kids

The post Write as a Family: Laid-back Writing Activities for Kids (Screen-Free Week 2018) appeared first on Not So Formulaic.

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It’s Screen-Free Week 2018! Why not get outside and be active with your kiddos with these fantastic fitness ideas for kids!

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Screen-Free Week occurs in the spring. The weather’s getting warmer, school is almost out of session, and there are plenty of parents (and children!) wondering what in the world they’ll be doing once the schedule slows to a crawl.

One of the things we’ll be doing is spending a lot more time outside. We love to hike, run, walk, and just soak in the sunshine for hours. It’s restorative for my sensory and anxiety kiddos, plus a great energy booster for mom. Finding activities we can all do together, though, is a challenge.

I turned to my friend Charlotte for help.

Charlotte and her partner Johnna are co-founders of Catholic Women Run, a blog dedicated to helping women stay physically and spiritually fit (find them on Facebook and Instagram), Charlotte is mom to a darling two-year-old girl.

How did you start running? Is it something you’ve done for a long time, or are you new to it?

I am new to it! I’ve always struggled with exercising regularly. As a lot of moms know, it gets even harder to do once you are a parent. But by getting creative with my time and options, I actually exercise more now than I did when I was single. I am still learning and Johnna is the real exercise guru of Catholic Women Run – I provide the perspective of a newbie and mom.

Describe your work/life balance. How do you attend to your vocation as a wife and mother while pursuing your passion at the same time? 

It’s tricky! Fitting exercise into my schedule on top of being a wife/mom and grad student is a work in progress. But one thing I have learned is that it helps to talk and strategize a lot with my husband about how we will fit things in each week. It might sound obvious, but sometimes couples are so busy sorting out bills, childcare, and grocery lists that we forget to ask how we can help each other pursue our individual passions.

What’s your philosophy on screen time? Does it have potential benefits, or is it something you try to avoid altogether?

I struggle with this a lot. I love the idea of keeping my daughter away from screens 100%, but it just doesn’t seem possible right now! She is 2.5 and I don’t think there are any benefits of screen time for her age group. We do track how much she is getting per week to make sure we stay below the recommended 1 hour per day.

How do you share your passion with your children? What do your children think about what you do? 

My daughter is fascinated by my running hobby. She sometimes puts on her headphones, grabs her toy phone, and pretends to run around our apartment. I am starting to run with her in the jogging stroller, but that doesn’t involve her in the exercise routine so directly. That’s why the toddler yoga is so great. She can do these poses along with me and absolutely loves it!

Charlotte and her daughter do a variation of yoga, one that involves fun animal stretches:

Toddler Yoga Butterfly Pose Star Toddler Yoga Pose Lion Toddler Yoga Pose Downward Dog Toddler Yoga Pose Cobra Toddler Yoga Pose

Charlotte recommends checking out these resources for more stretching ideas.

Looking for more fantastic fitness ideas for kids?
  • Try a modified version of an interval run. Change it up by walking, jumping, skipping – use any movement you like!
  • Create and go on a scavenger hunt, around town or in the woods!
  • Try your hand at geocaching. You never know what you might find.
  • Build a tree house or a fort.
  • Plant a garden.

Fitness with kids doesn’t have to be formal. Just get outside, be active, and enjoy the time you spend unplugged from devices. You’ll be glad you did!

Looking for more Screen-Free Resources? Read on, and sign up for one of my newsletters:

Screen-Free Resources for Families (Life Skills and Activities)

Have a Screen-Free Summer with Life Skills Bingo

Move That Body: Super Fun Theater Games for Kids 

Make Something Beautiful: Creative Crafting for Kids 

Grow Something Good: An Introduction to Gardening with Kids

The post Get Outside and Be Active: Fantastic Fitness Ideas for Kids (Screen-Free Week 2018) appeared first on Not So Formulaic.

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It’s Screen-Free Week 2018, and today I’m sharing how to make something beautiful. Get off those screens and do some creative crafting with your kids!

When I was a kid, I loved crafting. It was a fun, exciting way for me to share my creative side that didn’t involve painting or drawing – the two art modes that eluded me the most.

I dabbled quite a bit in the creative arts: the piano was a constant companion and I scribbled through the pages of several notebooks. But there was something about making a necklace or a bracelet or fashioning a flower out of ribbon that fulfilled me.

I had created something concrete. I felt accomplished, satisfied, and proud.

Flashforward to the birth of my daughter. I assumed that, because she was a girl, she would enjoy the occasional craft project with me.

Nope.

She would draw or paint for hours, but make a bracelet or a necklace? No way, lady. She had zero interest in that.

Still, I want to create an appreciation for handicrafts. It’s excellent for fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, and who knows? Maybe down the road, it might open up an opportunity to make a living. It has for a number of people I know, including my friend Jill from Pink Salt Riot. I was able to catch up with Jill recently and chat about how she turned her hobby not just into a passion, but into a successful business of love and light. 

How did you find your way to Catholic artisanship?  

The hand of God! Really it was the marriage of my talents and dire need. I found myself unable to find satisfying work but with the need to bring in income. My businesses were born!

Describe your work/life balance. How do you attend to your vocation as a wife and mother while pursuing your passion at the same time?

It’s hard for sure. I have strict nap and bedtimes so that I am able to do 90% of my job while the kids are unconscious. We will see how that goes as they get older!

What’s your philosophy on screen time? Does it have potential benefits, or is it something you try to avoid altogether?

We have a one-hour daytime limit for kids, but on sunny days we often forget about the TV altogether. I definitely think the right programs have benefits – LeapFrog taught my 3-year-old to read through phonics!

How do you share your passion with your children? What do your children think about what you do?

We love to make things together! I am definitely counting down the days until they are a bit more ready for more complex crafts!

Make Something Beautiful: Creative Crafting For Kids

While Jill is a successful artisan in her own right, she loves to share her ideas and teach others to do the same. Jill was kind enough to share this beautiful succulent craft with me and the kiddos. They are great fun and pretty easy!

Egg Carton Succulent Supplies
  • Egg carton: the recycled paper kind
  • Scissors
  • Hot glue
  • Green paint

1. Start by cutting apart your egg carton. Cut the lid away from the bottom of the carton. Jill has a variety of succulent tutorials on the Pink Salt Riot blog, and some of them use the top of the egg carton. For this project, though, you’ll only need the bottom.

2. Cut apart each of the individual egg cups. This is what you will use to make this succulent!

3. Once you have separated all the egg cups, begin preparing the individual pieces. Cut each egg cup so you have four triangles from the sides. They will be varying sizes, and that’s a good thing! Repeat with all 12 egg cups.

4. Keep ALL the pieces – this tutorial only uses the center pieces with 4 leaves. Additional tutorials show you how to use the triangles for other crafts.

5. Begin making the succulents. You will need at least 3 of the center pieces of the egg cups, but you can use more for a bigger “bloom.” Keep one whole, cut one in half, and cut all 4 leaves apart on the third one.

6. Begin assembling the succulent. Use the hot glue to glue the four single leaves into the center of the whole egg cup piece, layering the bottoms on top of each other and arranging them so that they fill in the spaces between the leaves of the main piece.

7. Once you’ve added the center leaves, hot glue the two halves to the outside to fill out the bloom. At this point, if you want a bigger bloom you can add as many half cups as you want to the outside to continue to fill it out. Make sure to distribute them evenly so the bloom looks natural.

8. Remember those triangles that you cut out of the egg cups? You’ll need a few right now! Pick out 2-3 of the triangles to finish the center of your succulent.

9. Pinch the bottom of each triangle together to make a tiny petal for the center. Use hot glue to add them to the center.

10. You’re done! Now to repeat for as many succulents as you’d like to make!

Curious to learn more about Jill and Pink Salt Riot? Check out her shop and visit her on Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook.

If you liked this post, be sure to check out these other screen-free resources, and sign up for one of my newsletters:

Screen-Free Resources for Families

Move That Body: Super-Fun Theater Games for Kids

Have a Screen-Free Summer with Life Skills Bingo

The post Make Something Beautiful: Creative Crafting for Kids (Screen-Free Week 2018) appeared first on Not So Formulaic.

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