summer sanity saver: creating big fun while living in small spaces!

we are currently townhouse owners with three small kids, and we are also in the process of home staging/selling, so i’ve got some ideas here on how to keep your littles happy and having fun this summer without a lot of space!  plus, here at klover house, we’re into blowing bubbles…not budgets!


find the freebies.

summer in a small space may mean you’ll be looking to get out a little more than usual.  summer draws us out anyway, but we get especially stir-crazy around here.  but when you are living on a budget, you have to do a little homework in order to get out and not break the bank.  be on the lookout for frugal finds and freebies.

chick-fil-a, for example, is having a cow appreciation day this friday (tomorrow).  dress up like a cow and receive a free meal.  partial cow costume = free entree.  this event is going on all day.  monday, the 15th is lucky tray day 11am to 8pm.  a sticker on your tray earns you a free dessert.  then, tuesday, the 16th, is family night with gymboree.  stay in-the-know by checking out your local chick-fil-a’s website.

max and erma’s is a favorite of our’s.  they also have a great website that details the events happening in your neck of the woods.  kids eat free on tuesday nights; wednesday is a free cookie day and karaoke night.  hubby and i get sandwiches, the kids eat free, and we spend the money on dessert since we saved on dinner.

story times:
check your local libraries for story times, craft days, guest readers, etc.
one of our local malls holds a story time on two different days.  tuesday’s is at pottery barn kids (you receive a stamp and once your child earns five, they get a reward), and every other wednesday, another story time is held by the mall itself.

for more free or almost free summer activities, check out this post from your modern family.

bite the bullet and buy some passes.

my sister- and brother-in-law bought our kids the most awesome christmas gift last year. passes for the zoo, the aviary, and the children’s museum. although, they felt badly on the day not having a tangible gift to offer the kids, we have assured them a gazillion times that this was the best idea ever! we make sure to remind the kids each time we use the passes that we have this fun opportunity thanks to aunt and uncle. it’s the gift that keeps on giving. the passes are good for the entire year, and that is from when you activate them/make your first trip not when they are purchased. we didn’t go to the zoo until the weather warmed up, and so our zoo pass, for example, is good until next spring. not to mention, we also get a discount on other zoos for having this pass. we have gone to each of these places so many times over the last few months. it has more than paid for itself. plus, you can take a bagged lunch along with you and have a really special day that is ultimately free! these passes aren’t cheap, i know, but if you can plan ahead and budget them as a special gift for christmas or a birthday, do it. you will get plenty of use out of them, and your kids will thank you in smiles all day long!

also, the museum here gives you one guest pass that is good for up to four people, so you can plan a family play date as well. it’s perfect for a rainy afternoon! one of the floors in our museum has several awesome activities for little ones (toddlers/pre-schoolers), and there’s a section of couches in the middle where i’ve seen groups of moms sitting and chatting while their children safely play around them.  and the zoo will have special member events, like a visit with the elephants or a family night, etc.  these passes are worth every penny for sure.

seek out local play groups or events.

this is a big one for us. b/c i’m online often, i receive several emails a month from local groups (macaroni kid, patch, galleria). they keep me up-to-date on local events, play group opportunities, and freebies galore. i jot all of these things down in my planner.  it doesn’t mean we’re going to do them for sure, but at least i have the info handy if we have the opportunity.  also, talk to people.  other parents are in your same shoes. i heard about a really great play group held at a local church from my cousin, and then i bumped into a parent of one of my old students, and she was telling me about the same group! parents will gladly share their treasures with you if you ask! b/c this group meets at a church, it takes place rain or shine. it’s a safe environment for my kids to get out and socialize and a chance for me to have a conversation with someone who doesn’t want “milkies” or “binkies.” win-win.  πŸ˜‰

don’t be afraid to plan a free event for your friends and their kiddos too!  i did this earlier in the year.  we had a little valentine’s tea party at my community’s clubhouse.  i got some help from friends with a few crafts.  all of the moms brought something food- or drink-wise.  it was a lot of fun.  one friend mentioned that she appreciated it, b/c her older child was having a valentine’s party at school, and our party gave her little one the same opportunity!

check out this plan for a busy bag swap from mamagab!  i thought this was such a great idea that i will be planning one of these in the very near future myself!

plan frequent play-dates.

i am fortunate in that i have several stay-at-home (full-time and part-time) mommy friends that i can connect with a few times a month. facebook and social networks have really helped us to find out who else out there holds the job description of “personal assistant to…little one and little two” or “taxi driver at the smith household.” connect with these other parents, and make it a point to get together. grab some coffee, meet up before nap time, and have fun! play dates have been so helpful in keeping this mama sane, and the kids need and love them just as much as i do, if not more!

* go to each other’s houses (take turns bringing coffee or a baked treat, etc.)
* meet at local parks
* visit the children’s museum or other fun place together
* plan a lunch date at chick-fil-a or have a picnic
* stroll around the malls or outlets and hit up build-a-bear or let the kids explore the disney store for like an hour πŸ™‚
* go to free local story times or events together

play a sport or take a class.

our little ones are three and under, but i found a program that allows even our two-year-old to play soccer.  it’s an added expense, but after being cooped up all day, it’s an expense that’s worth it to our family.  they look forward to it every week.  i can’t say they actually participate faithfully, but they do look forward to it!  (or maybe it was the new tennis shoes and ice cream cones afterwards that sealed the deal…)


keep the indoors a fun place to be!

here are some fun things to do while indoors:

  • indoor picnics / tea parties
  • baking / cooking together
  • creating something other than food in the kitchen (make your own play dough, salt dough ornaments, etc.)
  • dance parties (we love the songs, “dance” by jesus culture and “deep cries out” by bethel church.   “deep cries out” is an awesome song for following directions in movement.  we are working on learning our right and left using this fun song!  plus, they’re worship songs.  it melts my heart when i hear my kids singing to the Lord randomly throughout the day.
  • spa day!  give your kids mani/pedi’s 
  • write letters / call some relatives (they would love to hear from the sweeties, and your kiddos are learning about correspondence!)
  • use the outdoor stuff indoors!  friends of our’s have a very small slide in their living room against a wall of windows!  my kids love it when they go over they just slide their little hearts out.  it’s such a great idea and works so well in a small space!  if you need the extra room, keep it somewhere else and just pull it out when it’s yucky out, or use it as a reward for great behavior, using the potty, etc.
  • have a youtube mini marathon.  we did this yesterday for about 30 minutes.  i pull up elmo and silly symphonies and the kids are in awe!  there’s just something about the “brush your teeth” song that draws my kids in like nothing else!  i got some things done in the kitchen while they sat at the table watching short videos.  rather than putting in a 30 min show, i think this works better for their short attention spans.  plus, they’re singing along.  it’s fun!
  • we also love an indoor butterfly catching game that i made up using tissue paper “butterflies” and pink butterfly nets from the dollar store.
  • for MORE great indoor ideas, visit this post from beauty through imperfection.

get outside anyway!

don’t have a swing set, sliding board, swimming pool, big yard?  no biggie!  our yard is only a small square behind our townhouse.  try these things:

  • hook up the sprinkler or hose
  • get a water or sand table
  • sidewalk chalk
  • bubbles / bubble machines 
  • have a picnic / outdoor tea party
  • go to the park / playground
  • take a bike ride / go on a nature walk
  • have a special “pool day.”  our community has a pool, but if your’s doesn’t, don’t be afraid to ask a friend or family member if you can schedule a pool day, or check out your local pools.  
  • fly a kite at home or an empty ball / soccer field (our neighbors are super sweet, so they don’t seem to mind when we occasionally go running through the backyards with our kite!)
  • for MORE great outdoor ideas, check out this post from beauty in the mess.

create a bath stash, and use it!

my kids LOVE bath time. like 99% of the time anyway. but, as you know, b/c you might be in the same boat, bath time happens at one of two times:

1) after dinner / before bed. this is the norm, and there’s little time for play. mom wants to get them to bed. dad wants to get them to bed. no one really wants to sit on the potty and watch their kiddos play in the bubbles for an hour when it’s already 7pm. not over here, anyway.
2) after they have earned a bath (i.e. getting into something dirty, pooping/peeing in their pants, dripping a popsicle all over themselves, “playing” with their food when you turned away for two nanoseconds to take/make a phone call).

that said, use a rainy day or a day in which you just need an indoor break (maybe you need to read your bible, or finish a blog post, or just sit down for a minute), grab something from your bath stash (a little collection of bath/water appropriate items) – bathtub crayons/markers/paints, a new toy or bubble bath, pool noodle blocks, bath tub letters/numbers, bubble wands, a fishing toy/game, whatever! i’ve even seen parents giving their kids popsicles in the bath tub – genius! use this as a learning opportunity or just a time for the kids to splash and play. no one’s screaming while you wash behind ears. there’s no rushing them out and into pjs. it’s just a time for enjoyment. sit on a stool or the potty and just enjoy watching your kids play in the water while you take a breather. i have to say this though – PLEASE DON’T LEAVE THEM UNATTENDED.  EVER. ok, i know you knew that, but i just had to throw it in there just in case! and don’t fall asleep sitting there either! πŸ˜‰ maybe this would be a good wind-down activity just before naps. and if you don’t do anything else that would get them dirty later, you just may be able to skip the dreaded 7pm bath!


1 – do your homework

familiarize yourself with your community.  get the info you need in order to plan a fun summer for your kids.  if you know what’s out there, you can better plan your week, while keeping your budget and priorities in check.

thanks to facebook and pinterest, info and ideas are just a keystroke away.  take an hour or two a week – maybe on a quiet night, after the kids are in bed or during a nap time – and do your weekly schedule and meal planning.  i say meals too, b/c your errands and daily plans are directly linked to what you’ll end up eating for the week, so get it all organized at once.

our week looks something like this lately:
sunday – church, lunch, naps (so anything goes after nap time)
monday – usually our stay-in-and-recuperate-from-the-weekend-day.  we veg out, and i try to straighten up the house and catch up on chores, etc.
tuesday – am story time event and pm soccer practice
wednesday, thursday, and friday – errands, play dates, trips to the park, pool days (our townhouse community has a pool), etc.

having this basic framework allows me to fill in the gaps fairly easily and plan ahead meal-wise too.

2 – pretend you’re a teacher

this ties in with the above.  basically, sit down and do your “lesson plan” for the coming day(s).  check out pinterest too for ideas.  luckily, i have some amazing friends that talk about what they’re doing with their kids on facebook frequently, so they’re always inspiring me and giving me great ideas for my own kids!

think about what you have around the house.  do you have ingredients to make cookies one day?  can you have a craft day?  if you need something from the dollar store or michael’s, think about those things now, and plan ahead.  this will make your life a lot easier.

also, stock up on things when you catch them on sale.  while i’m at michael’s or target, i keep an eye out for clearance items that my kids will love, and i build up a little box of fun things.  sticker books, little activity bags, craft bags, etc.  aldi’s will also have seasonal baking projects for super cheap.  i think i saw a monsters inc. cupcake kit there this week.

3 – make a flexible plan

in their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps. (Proverbs 16:9)

make a plan, but remember, things happen, the kids need extra rest, a friend will call the night before for a play date, you suddenly run out of milk and have to make a store run, a realtor calls at 9am for a 12pm showing (this was my life for the past three months)…it all happens!

hope you found some helpful tips here!  remember to check out the other great posts in this summer series!  thanks for stopping by!

don’t forget to enter the giveaway here!  

our winner will be chosen this coming sunday, july 14th!

who am i called to be? the study of a proverbs 31 woman

i will be studying the p-31 woman and applying her virtues to my own life the best that i can. i’d love for you to join me on this journey and offer insight as we figure out who we are in Christ as p-31 women together. simply check this post from time to time. as i delve into verses individually, this original post will start to transform into a hub of links to other posts and resources. i’m looking forward to this. hope you are too.

Proverbs 31:10-31 The Wife of Noble Character

10 A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies.

11 Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value.

12 She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.

13 She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands.

14 She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar.

15 She gets up while it is still night; she provides food for her family and portions for her female servants.

16 She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.

17 She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks.

18 She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night.

19 In her hand she holds the distaff and grasps the spindle with her fingers.

20 She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy.

21 When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet.

22 She makes coverings for her bed; she is clothed in fine linen and purple.

23 Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.

24 She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies the merchants with sashes.

25 She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.

26 She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue.

27 She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.

28 Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her:

29 β€œMany women do noble things, but you surpass them all.”

30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.

31 Honor her for all that her hands have done, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.

greener pastures

sometimes i forget that the grass isn’t so green on the other side.

today is one of those days again.

last night as i thought about the rainy day ahead, i made the plan to get us up, dressed, and out by 10AM for a panera blueberry bagel breakfast (coffee for mama) and pbk story time. this little adventure would put us back at home for lunch and naps, and i would have been successful at doing at least one out-of-the-house activity with my bored-to-the-brim kiddos. (sounds great in theory, right?)

but despite my efforts for a lovely start to a lovely plan, my kids went crazy in isla’s room yet again this morning, while i took a desperately quick shower. this time they slathered the crib, the play table, another book, and THE CARPET with neon blue shampoo and lime green body wash. i couldn’t believe it. it was like, “really? is this what we’re going to do again today? destroy the house, my plans, and my joy?”

(thankfully, my sister-in-law is letting me borrow the carpet cleaning vacuum, and i found out, from my mom and dear google, that a little vinegar/warm water solution over the spots should do the trick. luckily, i only have three carpet spots to deal with – the rest was plastered on a hard surface of some kind, which brings our total of expensive-books-thrown-away-b/c-of-your-mess to three, and it’s only tuesday. :/ )

we barely made it to “story time” on time. they were reading “madeline” (one of the girls’ absolute favorites – we have the entire thing memorized, complete with french accents), yet my children did not want to listen. they were the only children ignoring story time. bagels came afterwards, b/c of our mad dash to pbk; ava nearly fell in a fountain; she forget her sippy cup in a store (didn’t realize until we were on our way home); lunch was pb sandwiches and strawberries (2nd time this week); isla clogged the toilet, and ava nearly overflowed it by trying to flush 16 times afterwards; nap time didn’t begin until 3:30PM (bad news for bedtime); finally, the thunder rolled in, so guess who’s not napping – ava.

being a mom is hard. most of the time it’s messy. it’s thankless. it’s frustrating. it’s sweaty. it’s smelly. it’s rewards aren’t material.

on days like last thursday, yesterday, and today (on so many days), it can really be difficult to remember what’s important, to keep my cool, and to not wish i were somewhere else all together.

i’m thankful that i’m not alone, and neither are you. i think that’s why i appreciate blogs so much. there are so many parents out there sharing their experiences – sometimes with humor or sarcasm, sometimes with sadness or desperation, and sometimes with wisdom and grace.

this post i read just now definitely falls under the latter. thank you, whitney for your wisdom and grace, and thank you for the gentle reminder. i needed one today.

find the post here:
beauty in the mess: taking captive our thoughts


“i love you”

earlier this morning while i was unloading the dishwasher, my little one, isla rae brought me her bowl of half-eaten dry cereal (they love the target version of cinnamon toast crunch – just like their daddy), and asked for more. i stopped unloading, refilled her bowl, and as i handed it back to her, i said, “i love you, isla.” she, in her little way that does sooo well, (if you knew her, you’d know exactly what i’m talking about), nodded her little head, mumbling in her high-pitched little voice, “um hmm,” and walked away.

i went back to my chores thinking about how i want my kids to grow up knowing that everything i do for them is out of love. nothing, and i mean nothing, is done out of obligation. when you truly love someone, you do everything out of your love for them. even the hard things. when i feed them, it’s not b/c i know it’s my duty as a parent to keep them healthy, b/c authorities would come knocking on my door if i didn’t, it’s b/c i desire nothing but total health and satisfaction for them. i change their diapers and wipe their bums out of my love for them and desire to take care of their every need. i know you’re probably thinking, “duh” to those statements, but it’s been my habit for as long as i can remember to tell them i love them at the most random moments. not just when they’re showing me affection, or when we are parting at nana’s, or as i tuck them in at night. i tell them i love them when they’re making a mess, when they’re asking for more food, when they’re sitting on the potty, while they’re watching a tv show, when i’m giving them a bath…anytime.

i recall ava dancing around just yesterday in the kitchen in her pink princess dress, and three times in a row, as she paused, i said, “ava, look at mommy’s eyes.” she would, and i said each time, “i love you, ava.” by the third time, she thought it was so funny and she gave me a look that a 16 year old would give their mom, even though she’s only three, and it was great. i love that interaction with my girls, and i love knowing that they are growing up with the understanding that i love them at all times. my love will never be conditional. never based on circumstances, moods, behaviors, surroundings… my love is always, at all times, forever.

you know who loves us like that? i bet you do, but if you don’t – God. God loves me like that. He loves you like that. as an adult, i have had a really hard time grasping that. taking something so true and amazing and getting it from your head to your heart when you have been thinking for so long that love is mostly conditional, earned, easily taken away…it can be hard embracing the truth about God’s love. being a wife has done a great deal in regards to teaching me about grace, forgiveness, selflessness, making healthy choices that will encourage and not tear down, etc., but being a mother has done wonders in the area of teaching me about love.

have you ever found yourself holding your infant in your arms and suddenly overwhelmed with the emotion of love? and it hits you like a ton of bricks, “oh my goodness, God loves me this way.” how about when your child throws a terrible fit and you are so frustrated, but your love never diminishes one bit – you could still bend down and smooch their little faces like crazy, and you think, “wow, God loves me when i’m acting ugly too.” i have, and wow, it’s good stuff. the moments can be fleeting, but i will often remind myself of those times when i’m feeling less-than-lovable.

anyway, so i was thinking about all of that this morning, and then came across this picture shared by proverbs 31 ministries, originally posted by being mommy, and i couldn’t help but smile, knowing that other moms are thinking the same things today and loving on their babies without reservation. hope it blesses you too.

mothers of daughters…

so i have a few friends that are mothers of just sons. i have thought from time to time, “it’s a good thing that i have daughters, b/c i don’t think i could handle…be good with…play with…x,y,z.”

let me tell you…being a mother of daughters has not in fact spared me from playing with trucks, cleaning up mud, holding toads, smelling almost constant “toots,” excusing forced burping, screaming “don’t you dare put that booger in your mouth!,” being peed on during diaper changes, handling worms/bugs, and most recently, as in this very afternoon, picking up turds with my bare hands.


folks, girls are just as gross. haha

so mothers of sons…you are not alone! the fruit of our loins may be covered in pink, wearing “cha-chas,” playing in our make-up…

but, under it all…they’re just as capable and willing to get dirty, stink up the joint, and eat you out of house and home.

oh yeah, and they like football.

join the klover house family on facebook, pinterest, and twitter!

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“long term benefit”

how appropriate after what i just shared with you that i check my e-mail to find this awaiting me…

an article from passionate purposeful parenting: “long term benefit”

can i get an AMEN?!

looks like obedience is the word of the day.

happy to be inspired when i’ve a week that started out more than rough.

thanks for your encouragement, openness, advice, and empathy! haha

the mean act…

23 weeks pregnant, trying to get our current home ready to sell, cooking, cleaning, taking care of kiddos…stress is on the rise for all of the obvious reasons, but you know what’s stressing me out more than anything else lately?

the mean act.

why, oh why don’t kids just stay these sweet, innocent, little, pudgy balls of obedience?

they hit the terrible twos, the tempestuous threes…and all of a sudden every other word out of your mouth is, “TIME OUT!” “NOOOOOO!” “STOP!!!!” “I’M GOING TO SPANK YOUR BUM!” “DON”T YOU DARE HIT YOUR SISTER!” “SHHAAAAARRRRRRRE!!!!!!”

i feel as though i may go mad.

i act the other definition of mad like 84% of my day anymore.
boy is it taxing.

having an elementary ed degree has given me lots of great ideas as far as implementing behavior charts, plans, incentives, etc., and of course there’s pinterest these days…but this mama can’t even find time to just get to the dollar store for crying out loud to buy some stickers & poster board.
alas, as a trapped-in-the, er, stay-at-home-mom of two with one on the way, watching two extra kiddos daily, having a hubby who works a stressful, full-time job, allowing church/other activities to occupy nearly every evening/weekend…

i have fallen into the trap of using the mean act…

yelling, threatening, scolding, spanking, giving the look.

more than half of the time, i’m not even really mad or upset, but i know what they’re doing in those moments need to be addressed, and they need to be corrected, redirected…all that good stuff. unfortunately, i’m usually also doing 56 other things at the moment when the craziness strikes. in the midst of busyness and craziness…i often fail to take the time to do things “the right way,” and i put on my mean mask, shoot stern looks, threaten, yell, spank, or tote my three year old off to time out (which is probably the most effective, but used least b/c of being pregnant), and then disappointment sets in, i beat myself up, feel like a lousy mom…all that bad stuff.

so anyway, i’m going to really put my thinking cap on here and get myself out to buy behavior chart supplies even if it means going to the dreaded walmart at 10pm…and i’m going to bring peace back into discipline-land around here.

good-bye mean mask.

any of you in the same boat?

have you tried anything & it worked?!

oh btw…as i have taken 10 minutes to hammer this out…my 18 month old has popped out from behind our sofa chair butt-naked flapping wipes. looks like she tried to change her own diaper.

Lord have mercy on this mom…