My Realization About Babysitters

My Realization About Babysitters

Why we never hired a babysitter

As a stay-at-home mom of 6 years, I made it my job to find ways to guide our family in the frugal lifestyle. Because you know, if you’re not making an income (alongside your spouse), the best you can do is save it and stretch it.

 

In 6 years time we haven’t gone on any fancy family vacations, we hardly dine out, and we even get picky with our monthly bills and groceries. I don’t get my hair or nails done. Not even a hired babysitter.

It was a challenge living on one income, but we made it work. We had everything we needed.

rawpixel-579263-unsplash
Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

So, what happened when my husband took a job that paid less? Well, I promised I’d do whatever it took to make the difference up, if not more. So, I applied to a weekend job near home. Because of my husband (Steven)’s job and military obligations, I’m not able to work much (when it comes to making sure one of us is home with the kids).

When I took this part-time job, I realized that it was actually freeing as a (mostly) stay-at-home mom. I began to have a purpose outside of home and more importantly, I started getting more adult socialization. And on top of that, it’s comforting to have a little extra income.

Then, this weekend happened. I was scheduled to work when my husband was on orders. And the grandparents were all busy with their weekend plans, living their own lives as they should. And I had never hired a babysitter before. I panicked.

How do you even find a babysitter?

I can’t even afford the babysitters on care.com and I wasn’t about to ask just anyone. So my in-laws suggested a friend to help me search. She asked around at Youth Group at our church and soon enough, someone was interested.

Leading up to work, I had been slightly nervous, wondering:

  • How will our new babysitter and my boys feel about each other?
  • Will it be weird to leave them with someone I don’t know much about?
  • Will the boys behave?
  • Will they be busy and have fun?
  • Will I get an emergency call at work?
  • And will she enjoy it enough to come back?

Then, this nice girl shows up at our house and I introduced myself and the kids to her. I show her around, show her the list of phone numbers, rules, and things to keep busy.

And I was certain there would be one kid clinging to me as I ran out of the door. Our youngest had just woken up and wanted me to hold him. Weirdly enough, without a cue, he ran over to her, hands upward, to be picked up. Such a good feeling!

I called Steven on my quick little drive to tell him that I officially left the house! It was exciting! It was freeing!

rawpixel-236139-unsplash
Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

When I came home I discovered that the kids were busy THE ENTIRE TIME! They had so much fun with the new babysitter that they were begging me to have her over again! They also went to bed easy that night and slept in later than usual the next morning.

My husband and I got thinking we should’ve had a babysitter all along, because now we can:

  • Go on dates when grandparents can’t babysit
  • Have someone watch the kids so I can run errands (if Steven’s on orders)
  • Make appointments at the bank, car dealerships, and other financial institutions
  • Go Christmas shopping alone
  • Both potentially work the same day

The biggest realization of hiring a babysitter is WOW! WHAT A DIFFERENCE! For our whole family! I’ve been living under a rock for 6 years!

Babysitters are a blessing to families because while they care for our kids, they have energy to play with our kids that we sometimes don’t, and they make great role-models.

jenn-evelyn-ann-112980-unsplash.jpg
Photo by Jenn Evelyn-Ann on Unsplash

Regardless of your situation, it’s definitely worth finding someone to hire at least every once in a while! Just think of what you could do with the extra help! Back in my babysitting days, I was hired for regular date nights, a day for mom to tend the garden, and once a week so the parents could take dance lessons.

On our Facebook page, Mommas Group, one topic Moms struggle with is babysitters. After some research, care.com is useful, but not all moms feel comfortable using the site. Not to mention, the cost calculator. Moms in our region don’t typically pay $15 or $20 an hour for care.

To join this conversation, please comment below how you found your babysitter, your region, and what you pay. If you don’t have a babysitter yet, what are your questions and concerns?

80+ Fun Summer Activities for the Family

80+ Fun Summer Activities for the Family

 

 

80+
Cover Photo of Bag by Brooke Lark on Unsplash  Greenhouse Photo by Samuel Zeller on Unsplash Beach Photo by Syd Sujuaan on Unsplash Popcicle Photo by Jennifer Pallian on Unsplash

 

Happy May 1st! It’s almost time for summer! Who’s ready?

Have you started planning your big summer vacation? Or will you be spending your warm-weathered days at home?

Over the years two of our favorite things to do to prepare for summer are; plot out our vegetable garden and make a summer bucket list. The bucket list has gone from a variety of museums, zoos, and entertainment to a more simplistic version. We realize that out of the 12 weeks or so, more realistically we probably have 1 or 2 days each month to go out of town (for an all day event).

Plus not to mention, it’s hard to take smaller kids to more formal locations. Especially if you’re dealing with potty training and nap time or anything like that. So I split up my ideas into categories from ideal to more realistic.

So for our kids ages (almost 3) to 6, this is what we came up with so far:

  • T-ball (registered our oldest)
  • Swim lessons (for the older two)
  • Fishing
  • Drive-in movie
  • Camping
  • Visit the local ice-cream shop
  • Visit the local farmers market
  • Visit the beach (at our Lake)
  • Have a cookout with family
  • Go to the Fair
  • Visit the Deer Park
luke-brugger-30428-unsplash.jpg
Photo by Luke Brugger on Unsplash

 

Here are more ideas that your family can consider adding to your own list:

Attractions/Events:

  • Major/Minor League Baseball game
  • Zoo/Petting Zoo
  • Safari Tour
  • Aquarium
  • Legoland
  • Science center/museum
  • Old Car museum
  • Train museum
  • Take a scenic train ride
  • Visit a historical village
  • Watch glass blowing
  • Children’s museum (art/literature…)
  • Sky Zone/ Indoor Playground
  • Water Park
  • Amusement Park
  • Put-put
  • Go Karts
  • Batting Cages
  • Get an arcade pass
  • Bowling/ Glowbowling
  • Take cooking classes
  • See a movie
  • See a play/Disney on Ice
  • See an air show
  • Art Festival/ Craft Show
  • Air Balloon Festival
  • Music Festival
  • Rent a boat/book a boat tour

jayakumar-ananthan-35135-unsplash
Photo by Jayakumar Ananthan on Unsplash

 

Create your own Fun:

  • Rent a cabin
  • Ride on a bike Trail
  • Hike in the woods
  • Explore natural formations near you
  • Explore waterfalls near you
  • See a butterfly house
  • Have a picnic at the park
  • Strawberry Picking
  • Visit your local nature center
  • See a botanical garden/arboretum
  • Free kid’s classes at your local county parks
  • Story hour at your library
  • Kid’s art classes at your craft store
  • Geocaching/scavenger hunt
  • Go for a scenic drive/road trip
  • Make/Try international food
  • Check out all of the top rated parks near you
  • Visit a splash pad

samuel-zeller-168234-unsplash
Photo by Samuel Zeller on Unsplash

Fun in your own backyard:

  • Bury treasure in your sandbox
  • Make a fairy garden
  • Grow some pretty flowers
  • Build a fort
  • Make your own natural playground
  • Collect bugs
  • Make mud pies
  • Have a squirt gun fight
  • Get a pool (we like the 10′ Intex Easy Set Above Ground Pool)
  • Get a Slip ‘n Slide or sprinkler
  • Build a bird house/bird feeder
  • Rock painting
  • Make natural wind chimes
  • Have a tea party
  • Have a lemonade stand
  • Make your own popsicles
  • Make your own ice cream
  • Fly kites
  • Play a sport together (baseball/soccer/volleyball)
  • Have a race/make an obstacle course
  • See who can blow the biggest bubbles
  • Draw your family portrait with sidewalk chalk
  • Decorate a name (room) plaque with acrylic paint
  • Make window clings/stained glass pictures
  • Backyard camping
  • Have a bonfire & make smores
  • Have movie night outside with a projector
jennifer-pallian-306919-unsplash
Photo by Jennifer Pallian on Unsplash

I really wanted to create sub-lists for those of you who are able to and willing to enjoy a booked day, casual day, and a day where you don’t even have to leave home or get into the summer vacation budget.

Be sure to ask around on Facebook for friends’ recommendations. You can even stop in at your AAA or visitors bureau for more trip ideas.

Now that I probably encouraged you to make your list too big, which ones stick out to you the most? Which of your family favorites would you add to the list?

10 Tips to Encourage Kids to Eat Healthy

10 Tips to Encourage Kids to Eat Healthy

Are you looking for tips on getting your kids to eat healthier?

This question has been going around lately.

The truth is, we started our healthy routine right away. We incorporated habits we learned growing up and applied them to our family. And that’s what’s made it fairly easy for us. However, sometimes your kids learn to be picky from other kids. And sometimes they are just downright stubborn! That can be so frustrating!

A lot of factors go in to living a healthy lifestyle including good influence and routine. I’m not a health and nutrition professional, I just know that these factors have helped our family to make good choices!

farmto table

 

10 Healthy Eating Tips For Kids:

1) Avoid filing your house with junk food! This has been a huge lifesaver for us! We hardly ever buy cookies, ice cream, chips, candy, or pop. Part of it is so I don’t have the temptation and part of it is because it doesn’t usually fit in a frugal budget.

DSC_0416

2) Let your kids pick whatever they want from the produce aisle! You might be surprised at what they pick. When my kids feel like this is a special treat, they tend to choose lots of colorful fruits and veggies. Our middle told me that he loves broccoli. I find it so funny when he chomps a big piece of raw broccoli.

DSC_0383
YUM! BROCCOLI!

3) Keep plenty of healthy options easily accessible. Keep carrot sticks, celery sticks, and cucumbers available in Tupperware, along with a dip. Have smaller apples or washed grapes and berries available in a fruit bowl on the table. I even pass out little containers of peanuts or almonds to the kids.

DSC_0379
I just learned another momma does a lunch like this with her kiddos too! Such a fun, easy time-saver!

4) Don’t eat out too often. Dining at your favorite restaurant is a luxury, and with that, should be enjoyed like a treat. The menu will usually contain a lot of additives like fat, oil, butter, salt, and sugar. When you cook at home, you are able to cook with less additives. You can even steam cook your food to reduce the extras!

neha-deshmukh-9599-unsplash
Photo by Neha Deshmukh on Unsplash

5) Be a good example! Feed them things that you will eat also. Have spinach salad and show them all of the yummy toppings and dressings they can try from. Show your kids that you enjoy nutrition!

DSC_0375.JPG
Have you tried frozen grapes? You should!

6) Grow your own produce! Every mid-May our family goes to the local farmers market and pick out potatoes, green bean seeds, tomato plants, and a few other random things to grow. Once these start producing, the kids pick them off the plants and eat them right out of the garden. I mean, what’s better than a warm, juicy sun-ripened tomato right off the plant?

elaine-casap-86020-unsplash
Photo by Elaine Casap on Unsplash

 

7) Teach your kids how to cook. It’s hard to let little kids do too much in the kitchen, but little helpers are great for standing up on a chair and stirring. As they get older, they are great at measuring. And when they get a little older, they are great a cutting soft foods with a butter knife. And as they get a little older yet, they start to learn how to use a microwave. Then the stove.

kelly-sikkema-212376-unsplash
Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

8) Eat at routine meal times. This promotes our bodies to work properly and helps our bodies to stay energized. Not eating at the same time can affect your blood pressure and BMI. Here’s an article about it!

travis-yewell-381664-unsplash
Photo by Travis Yewell on Unsplash

9) Have meals together at the dinner table. Eating meals together as a family is first a great way to bond and also encourages us to be mindful of what we are putting into our bodies. For example, I tend to eat more unhealthy snacks/ convenient food late at night when watching T.V.  Do you do that too? (And your table doesn’t have to look this pretty to eat together!)

rawpixel-com-247358-unsplash.jpg
Photo by rawpixel.com on Unsplash

10) Explore new foods and flavors! Maybe your family will find a new favorite! Is there a new fruit, veggie, or herb in the produce section? Did you try those raw and cooked (of the ones you can try both ways)? Would a certain sauce make it taste better?

linh-pham-162464-unsplash
Photo by Linh Pham on Unsplash

So there are my 10 tips to help you get your kids to eat healthier! I hope through this, you maybe found something that works for you!

For moms who are looking for ways to realistically lose weight before bikini season, here are some tips that worked for me!

Do you have any healthy eating tips to share?

 

 

How To Take [Frame-Worthy] Pictures

How To Take [Frame-Worthy] Pictures

Wouldn’t it be nice to take really beautiful pictures that you are proud to frame (because of the people in them and the quality)?

 

 

MommaBirdBlog1
I’m proud of my T-ball kid crushing that ball like he’s a pro. And I’m proud of the image quality and fine details that help me relive this.

If you loved, How to Take Good Photos of Kids, you’re going to love this! That’s specifically written for moms and dads wanting to learn the basics of taking quality pictures of the kids. Today, we will continue on with the photography tips as promised!

What do you use to capture most of your pictures; cell phone or actual camera? What is your goal of snapping each photo; is it meant to message a friend or share on social media? Or do you actually plan to print those?

An average DSLR camera takes at least 3x better quality pictures than that of an average cell phone camera. So with that said: know your goal of each photo. You certainly want to photograph in higher quality if you want to print and even frame it!

So, here are some simple pointers for you to try your own mini sessions or candid shots at home:

 

Prep Equipment:

Before you are ready to shoot, you need to have all of your equipment ready:

  • DSLR camera (set on “Fine” if printing, can also try RAW settings)
  • Fully charged batteries (backups are always good)
  • Preferred lens (I like a 55-200 mm lens for portraits)
  • High speed memory card (with plenty of space available)

I like to use a 64 GB high speed card. This just means that your camera will process the image faster, which is important when shooting in high quality or RAW.

Then I keep my photos on it until I have backed them in other places or printed them. Then that should be it for equipment. It’s best to shoot outside if you have minimal equipment. Then you don’t have to worry about (indoor photography) adjusting shadows, highlights, and coloring.

 

Background:

Then choose your background. Something less busy or neutral will look nice. A clean, unfocused background. Your subject needs to be in focus and stand out.

10 years ago I was a little league photographer. Our go-to was having the kids stand about 10 feet out from a (pine) tree line. The kids would stand in the shade of the tree also, to soften the sunlight.

 

MommaBirdBlog2
The background here isn’t busy. It’s blurry and neutral, which helps my subject stand out better.

Angle:

The angle will do a couple things; change your perception of how large or small the subject is, help you to see into the face and eyes of your subject, change the background, and also gives your image more focus. This is because your subject is going in the same direction toward you, instead of  running across your screen.

If you change the angle of a photo, you change the whole perception.

 

 

Take multiple shots:

Even professional photographers have to take extra shots. If I want to print pictures, I’m careful to take at least 1 or 2 extras. But if I’m dealing with running kids, or wiggly kids, I take at least 20. I hardly ever ask them to sit still.

It takes patience to photograph kids. Mini sessions may require a little bit of instruction. Like “I want you to sit here and hold this prop.”

It is your job to have that background (natural outdoors or a cute set-up you made) ready to go before putting your subject in place. Also know the perception you’re going for ahead of time.

Ideally, you want to eliminate kids becoming too impatient. So, after everything is set, you should be able to place your subject and snap a few. Switch them to standing up or holding different props. You know that attention span of theirs won’t last long.

Plan for 20-30 minutes of camera time depending on their age. If your kids are hungry or tired, you may just want to stop.

The best part about candid shots are it should be free and easy. They play while you look for new angles. There is no instruction. These are the most sentimental to me anyways.

MommaBirdBlog6
This day I let the kids play while I took at least 100 shots. I was really enjoying this vintage look! This would look great on my wall!

So remember:

  • Picture Purpose
  • Prep equipment
  • Clean Background
  • Angles/Perspectives
  • Extra shots

 

The real reason for the picture is key. Memory preservation. Don’t try to perfect the way the kids are standing and things. Just make sure you get shots of them having fun, smiling, and just being themselves. Trust me, you won’t care in future years if you have the perfect image as much as you will care about seeing their playful young selves.

Now you just need to combine this with the 5 photography tips that I gave you last! If you haven’t read that article yet, here it is. How to Take Good Pictures (of Kids)

 

Now, do you have enough frames for all of the amazing photos you’ll be taking of your family?

 

 

 

hat is your planned budget_ What kind of money are you looking for_ (1).jpg

Free Printable Valentine’s Cards for Kids (Boy and Girl Sets)

Free Printable Valentine’s Cards for Kids (Boy and Girl Sets)

Valentine’s Day is exactly one week away! Does your child have Valentine’s cards to pass out in class yet?

These cards were created from Canva.com. One set is made for girls and one is for boys.

These may be for you if you:

  • Love freebies!
  • Don’t have time to run out to get cards
  • Want to make a goody bag or treat and it needs a cute tag

 

pinkVday     brunch

 

Step 1: Click on the PDF link at the bottom

Step 2: Print on stock paper if possible

Step 3: Cut along the dotted line or X’s

Step 4: Have your child sign “To” & “From”

 

Simple Right?

Here are the PDF links:

Girl’s Valentine’s Cards

Boy’s Valentine’s Cards

 

If you feel like creating your own free cards, check out Canva! These were so much fun to make!

Surviving Without Cable!

Surviving Without Cable!

We survived a week without cable, so far! Would your family survive too?

jens-kreuter-85328
Photo Credit: Upslash User Jens Kreuter

The main reason for cancelling- cable costs recently doubled (while we were actually getting bored of TV anyways). I didn’t realize how little we intentionally watched it!

So I thought to share this with those of you attempting to live the frugal lifestyle. And show you how very possible it is to live without cable!

Here’s a reference to how much we actually watched TV before VS alternatives now. Hopefully this helps you decide if you want to make the switch also.

Before

  • No TV before school
  • News for me at 8-8:30
  • 8:40-9:00 DVR of Bubble Guppies 
  • Forget the TV was still on
  • 1/2 episode of kids cartoons before lunch
  • No TV during quiet time/nap
  • 3:00 (after school) oldest watches YouTube
  • 4:00 Bubble Guppies
  • 4:20 Dance party music
  • 6:00 Turn movie on
  • Over the weekend, DVR all possible movies we’d watch, and watch 1-2
  • Wait till either The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones are playing
  • If I turn TV on after kids’ bedtime, it’s noise while I read/type

After

  • No TV before school
  • 9:00 Bubble Guppies or Thomas the Train on Amazon Prime
  • 9:30 Dance party music
  • 11:00 Dino Dan on Amazon Prime
  • 3:00 (after school) oldest watches YouTube
  • 4:00 Dance party music
  • 6:00 Turn movie on

 

The main difference is that we are intentional about what we watch. It’s not just background noise for us any more. We always love to have dance party music on anyways, so that’s a fun way for us to get off the couch and interact with each other. Some fun music is good for everyone’s mood too.

Shortly, it’ll be warming up outside, and by then our family will be outside 90% of the day. By then, we may only resort to rainy days spent watching movies (that we forgot we own) and discovering other cable alternatives.

It’s not to say that we won’t ever go back to cable. My husband wants access to football games and I already miss watching the news. But in my mind, we can always sign back up whenever we’re ready again.

I figure, this is how I grew up- watching very little TV. Now, our time can be more intentional and with each other. And not to mention Chip & Joanna Gaines don’t even have a TV in their house, according to Country Living! If they can do it, so can we!

 

For now, the choice was easy-

$94/month for background noise, or,

$99/year of Amazon Prime 

 

Is cutting the cable a change you need to make?

Would your family survive?

 

 

 

 

 

*Momma Bird Blog is not affiliated with Amazon Prime. Just happy customers here!

How to Take Good Pictures (of Kids)

How to Take Good Pictures (of Kids)

Want to start taking more professional quality pictures of the kids? Here are 5 basic techniques!

You came to the right place because I have experience. 10 years ago I became a photographer for a company that specializes in little league team and individual shots. At that point, I didn’t know much about the capabilities of a DSLR camera (Digital Single Lens Reflex)! Since then, I have learned so many other dynamics of professional photography!

You have potential too! You have this incredible opportunity to capture your family’s “behind the scenes”.

These blips of the ordinary day create the most sentiment. The first steps, slobbering babies, sleeping angels, tiny bare feet, that glowing soft skin of theirs, sparkling eyes, fuzzy blankies, cracker-crumb faces, their smallness, that special look they give only you….

You can create beautiful photos of your family. Don’t be overwhelmed though. You don’t need 10 years experience to start taking great photos of the family now! I will walk you through some simple tips to get you started. And we will fill-in-the-blanks another day!

5 ways to get a professional quality:

#1 Use natural light

Think softer light! Use natural light by shooting outside, or near a well-lit window. As far as the best day and time… pick an overcast day. If it’s clear and sunny, choose morning or late afternoon. Even shooting in full shade on a sunny day will provide that soft light.

ChrisFballCSC_06442

The first photo was shot on a summer day outside in full shade. The second was shot indoors with two well-lit windows. There aren’t any overly white highlights or overly strong shadows (except a little whiteness out of the window). You want to see soft skin and true coloring with this soft light.

#2 Stabilize the camera

Get those blurry photos? It’s because you aren’t holding still long enough. A photo that requires a slower shutter speed has a higher chance of becoming blurry. Lack of enough light will cause the shutter to release slower in order to capture more light. To fix this, stabilize the camera on a tripod, platform, against a wall, on a bench, or other fixtures. If you are don’t have something to stabilize on, get a good stance and exhale as you press the shutter release.

HayesTrain2

On this shot, I set my camera down on the rail that goes around this exhibit. No shake here!

#3 Use the 3 main shots:

joshcloseup

Close ups are great in the fact that you really see all the physical details. And on top of that, close ups capture raw emotion best! Here my son was hanging out on our deck while snacking. Maybe I’m just partial, but this is pretty adorable!

ChrisHeadshot

Three Quarters shot (or head shot) are perfect for individuals or fewer people. When you are planning to print pictures to hand out, these are a good solution. It showcases a little bit of the personality and the outfit.

AaronFullLength

Full Length shots give a perspective on the surroundings and actions. Full length shots are also easier to use for unpredictable or uninstructed kiddos. Sometimes it’s fun to just let my boys play and for me to capture what they are doing on their own.

 

#4 Get on their level

For example, if your munchkins are on the floor, lay on the floor and shoot at the same height across. This helps attract their attention better. You won’t be seeing tops of heads as much. Peek out often from behind the camera too. Kids and babies are drawn to faces more than a lens.

JoshLevel

Being on your kids’ level really helps you see from their perspective and it helps you to see their face (regardless if they aren’t always looking back).

 

 

#5 Focus

Auto focus can be a great tool with wiggly kids. It locks onto your subject and focuses as you are pressing your shutter release button. For older kids who have a greater attention span, try manual focus. Lock the focus onto their eyes and face area. When the image is crystal clear, snap.

AaronLevel

This is one of my absolute favorites! The best part is he was looking at me, with a few attempts. I was able to shoot this with natural light from a well-lit window and get a crystal clear focus.

Get creative with trying different focuses (in manual focus mode):

  • Foreground (what is closest to you)
  • Middle ground (what is between the foreground and background)
  • Background (what is on the horizon or farthest from you)

 

 

If there is one thing I want you to get out of this, it’s that you are capable of taking great photos of your family. Just remember; Natural light, Stabilize, 3 main shots, Get on their level, and Focus.

Lastly, don’t try to do it all on your own. If you are trying to get everyone in a family photo, hire a photographer. They will be able to tell you if your necklace is sideways, or if one of your kids isn’t paying attention. But when you don’t have a photographer and real life is happening, it’s up to you. You’re only a few steps away from ideally capturing those sentimental moments!

 

Read more tips here: How To Take [Frame-Worthy] Pictures.