Gift Ideas for Hard to Buy People

Gift Ideas for Hard to Buy People

Whether it’s a birthday party, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, or the Christmas season, here are some gift ideas for those who are hard to buy for. Let’s face it; giving gifts can be a lot of fun! However, I find myself that it’s only fun when you give a gift you know they’ll enjoy and appreciate. So what do you get when you’re bone dry for ideas? I’ve got a quick list for adults and kids that will get your ideas flowing. Say goodbye to hard-to-buy people!

Adult Gift Ideas

Practical

When it comes to adults I think of practicality. What would be helpful in their everyday life? You can only give so many dish towels or scarves. Let’s think about time. Time is precious and irreplaceable. What can I give that will save people time?

First and foremost, you can give grocery shopping; especially during COVID and Flu season. It’s true; people can grocery shop for you. This is an incredible service especially for people who don’t like grocery shopping or for loved ones who can’t get to the store for other reasons.

My preferred service is Shipt. Not only am I a Shipt shopper…because I do love grocery shopping…but I know the quality Shipt delivers. These shoppers take it seriously because Shipt takes care of the shoppers. It’s easy to sign up and give it as a gift.

Comfort

Another idea when it comes to gifts for adults is I think comfort. What tends to hurt the most on people? Their back and feet. A great gift for those backaches is a LapLander. This product is a great companion for any trip in the car. Whether they’re commuting to work or headed out on a cross-country road trip, the LapLander brings support to the lumbar and can be used in other ways while traveling.

laplander uses
LapLander Useshttps://simplifyfirefly.com/laplander/
click to shop

As for their feet, get them a pair of Crocs. Crocs have come a long way. From fashionable styles to the mainstay look, Crocs are light on the feet and comfortable for your soles. They come in a variety of colors!

Make it personal

What about personalizing a gift? This is so awesome for those hard to buy people. At GiftsForYouNow.com you can find anything to personalize. This online store is so cool! From grilling tools to home décor, get their name or your children’s names on something you know they’ll cherish. You must check it out: GiftsForYouNow.com

click to order!

Chocolate!

When all else fails, chocolate to the rescue! Chocolate is an awesome gift for any chocolate lover. But! It has to be good chocolate. I have tried many-o chocolates in my life, from Drug Store chocolates or fancy organic chocolates, nothing beats See’s Candies. See’s Candies is by far the best. These are handcrafted and have been producing chocolate since 1921! They certainly know what they are doing. What is even more awesome is that their chocolates are gluten-free! If you have a person in your home or family that needs to be gluten-free and loves chocolates, head over to See’s. Period.

What about the kids?

Birthdays and Christmas, maybe even Easter are big gift holidays. Usually, kids can be pretty easy to shop for. But what about the kids you don’t know all that well, like your sister’s grandkids or your cousins? Sure you can get them a gift card, but to them, a gift card isn’t a shopping spree, it’s a piece of plastic. It’s plastic. Um, plastic. Kids like to open something that is colorful or unexpected.

Click to Shop!

Lego

Lego is pretty much a hole in one when it comes to gifts for both boys and girls, especially if they’re around the ages of 5 -10, or even older! The colorful bricks and creative builds are sure to spark their interest. Not only that, but it helps keep them busy and use their brains. For the record, it’s LEGO, not LEGOS. I’ve been corrected one too many times. Heck, you can even get them a subscription to LEGO MAGAZINE! We got this for my son and he absolutely loved it!

Disney!

The Disney shop is pure fun and joy. A classic Mickey anything is a precious gift. Gifts from the Disney shop bring Disney alive. Whether they have been to one of the parks or have watched a few Disney movies, almost everyone can relate to Disney. In fact, when I was a kid I had a Mickey Mouse collection. This was back in the late 70’s and early 80’s. And I still have it! Even though my collecting stopped when I went into Junior High, anything Mickey made me smile…I had a pretty good Mickey voice too! “Hello! My name is Mickey Mouse!”

Race Track

Race track. Yep. A car race track with controls is AWESOME! Again, any gender loves these things, trust me. You know what? Adults would probably like this as well! When my son got a race track I think I played with it more than he did, and he played all the time! The folks over at Scalextric know their tracks.

Educational

Little Passports. This is a fairly new concept for me. Because of a lot of homeschooling that is happening now a day, this gift is a gift that keeps giving. You gotta check them out. Their products start out for ages 3 and go to ages 9+. It’s actually a monthly subscription. You pick the subject and length of the subscription, then they ship your gift to your gift receiver every month depending on the length of subscription you picked. In the box, they’ll get all sorts of fun things that will help teach them about that particular subject. It’s really a great idea for grandkids or your own kids. I wish I had something like this when I grew up! Who doesn’t like to get a package in the mail? Little Passports is the way to go.

This is USA Edition Ages 7-12
This is Little Explorers Ages 3-5

Wrapping it up

That wraps up gift ideas for those who are hard to buy for. Get it? WRAPS! I crack myself up. My hope is that you’ll enjoy giving gifts now that you have some fresh ideas or refreshed suggestions. All in all, it is the thought that counts. But let’s put some surprise in that next gift-giving opportunity.

By CT Copyright © 2020 Simplify Firefly. All Rights Reserved.

Teaching Generations How to Work Hard – 4 Tips

Teaching Generations How to Work Hard – 4 Tips

There have been recent conversations in our home about what it means to ‘work hard’. Different generations have different definitions, I get that, but I think we can all agree that hard work takes four things: integrity, sweat, humility, and sacrifice

When I put an image to ‘working hard’ I picture the Brawny Man in the red flannel shirt with sleeves rolled up. Or I picture Pa from Little House on the Prairie; again he had his sleeves rolled up. Why do I associate rolled sleeves as hard work? It seems I’m not the only one. According to the Cambridge Dictionary to roll-up-your-sleeves signifies a person is ready to work.

Are your kids missing out?

When I was a teen I was taught to work first, then play. I also was taught that having a job was important and that you had to work for what you wanted. There has been a lot of chatter about Millennials (people born between 1982 – 2004) not knowing how to work hard. This disturbs me. For one, I’ve met many millennials that have two jobs and living on their own. They’re hard workers, they’re happier, and they’re confident.

Working hard gives me pleasure. I feel good about myself and I love the feeling of accomplishing something. At the end of the day, I can say with a smile on my face, “I put in a hard day’s work!” But are some Millennials missing out on this natural high?

In a study by Vanderbilt scientists, they discovered that people who were willing to work hard had higher dopamine levels than those who were not keen on the idea. Remember dopamine is a neurotransmitter that makes us feel happy and good. In other words…a University of Connecticut researcher, John Salamone states, “Low levels of dopamine make people…less likely to work for things. So this work-hard-bit has to do with your brain.

Teach how to work hard

Here are four tips to weave into the lesson of how to work hard:

  1. Make realistic attainable goals.
    • This is a small example; my young son was shooting hoops. He wants to be a great basketball player, so I said he couldn’t come in for dinner until he made 5 shots in a row from where he was standing. I gave him a realistic goal, one that challenged him, and one that would give him great pleasure. So what happened when he made his goal? He jumped up and down and cheered! Need a little help in making goals? Check out my free printable in Freebies.
  2. Focus on your dreams. What drives you?
    • If you want it bad enough, you’ll naturally work hard to get it. How bad do you want “it”? That diploma, that promotion, that certification, that house, that small business, that weight loss?
  3. Exercise and eat healthy foods.
    • This one has to be one of the easiest ways to get motivated to work hard. If you feel good, you’ll be more confident, make better decisions, be more alert, and be more creative…and probably make more money. Here’s a post I wrote on weight-loss and how to get started.
  4. Integrity.
    • By simply having strong moral principles, being honest, knowing what is right from wrong, and following through with commitments will help you. It’s hard work to have integrity, but when you do the right thing you again trigger the dopamine.

Let’s hold each other accountable to use our gifts, abilities, and morals to work hard, to make a difference, to be driven, and to be part of the big picture. Oh yeah, and don’t forget to roll-up your sleeves.

By CT Copyright © 2017 More Than Existence All Rights Reserved.

3 Ways to Help My Child Lose Weight…with a Smile

3 Ways to Help My Child Lose Weight…with a Smile

The words ‘smile’ and ‘weight loss’ typically don’t go hand in hand when we are trying to lose weight. Let’s face it, diet, self-care, and wellness can be a challenge, no, it is a challenge. Then when you realize you need to help your child lose weight…oh brother. It’s okay, I get it. Why not make it fun? Seriously, this IS possible! I’ve got three ways to get your bodies (and minds) to feel and look better!

Weight Facts

Child obesity affects 1 in 5 children in the US. This means that children who are overweight now will likely be overweight when they are adults. This excess weight can not only increase the risk for them getting type 2 diabetes, cancer, and heart disease, but their mental health and self-esteem may be altered. Also, being overweight can get to be very expensive! Not just in food and clothes, but with medical bills. We all want our children to live a life full of opportunity and blessing. To give your child a head start in life start with them knowing how to take care of themselves. This is so super important, because without their health, what do they have?

The problem with child weight loss

One of the biggest issues with weight loss is that children don’t understand health all that well. They are either going to watch you or other influences to get their knowledge. Since you are their biggest influence, you can help them make the right choices and for them to have fun while doing it.

When to start?

There is no better time than right now to get started on helping your child lose weight. “But I was going to wait until New Years’?” WHY? This is what gets us in trouble, procrastination. If you wait, you’re just going to make it harder on everyone. Go about this with a gradual approach. Help your kids make the right choices with their time and dinner plates now.

3 Fun & Simple Ways to Help Your Child Lose Weight

1. Let them see you.

One way to make diet, self-care, and wellness fun is for your kids to see you doing it with a smile on your face, in fact, this is probably the most effective way to teach your kiddos that taking care of yourself is actually a good thing. If they see you doing it, they’re likely going to start doing it too! Remember kids see and hear EVERYTHING!

2. Do it with them.

Another way to help your child lose weight and make it fun is for you to do it with them. Come on, during the COVID pandemic there had been a lot of couch sitting. As we know, when it comes to the couch, the snacks come too; which eventually leads to a fully loaded butt or gut for that matter. Make a family promise to each other that together we can be healthier and slimmer! Then brainstorm together how you’re going to make this happen. This is also great because you’ll have each other to hold accountable. This approach can not only teach your kids about exercise and cooking but about love for themselves.

3. Make it a game.

Why not make it a game? I have a free download for you! Making anything a game for a child is way more fun than being Mr. Serious. I personally enjoy the game of Bingo. Just anticipating seeing the full line of tiddlywinks in a complete row is motivating! With my new game, Bingo Bites you win not by chance, but by choice! There are three versions: Bingo Bites Junior, Bingo Bites for 4 – 8-year-olds, and Bingo Bites for 9 -13-year-olds. These games focus on choices which, all-in-all, make a difference in their weight loss.

Bingo Bites Junior

Bingo Bites Junior comes with three cards: one card for diet, one for self-care, and one for wellness. Each card has colorful pictures and, of course, a free space! These are to be used on a daily basis until your kid gets into a habit of making the right choices in eating, grooming, and giving themselves some love. Honestly, any age can benefit from Bingo Bites Junior.

Bingo Bites 9 - 13
Bingo Bites

Bingo Bites for 4 – 8 is more complex than Bingo Bites Junior. This is one big card that covers a lot of ground! Instead of choosing what card to do, use this card to cover all territory. Bingo Bites covers all the food groups, water, exercise, manners, outside time, and reading. If you’re looking for a little help to motivate your kids, use a bingo marker they like; for instance, candy, coins, or tiddlywinks with a prize (like a soda or playing time on Xbox). BINGO!

The Bingo Bites for 9 -14 is the same except for the quantity of food and manners.

To download Bingo Bites Junior or Bingo Bites for specific ages simply go here! Remember, your first step in getting your family healthy is to take the first step. Download today! Did I mention is was FREE?! Yep. It’s free!

Does a Body Good Printable

One last thing! I know rewards are super important for a child. Typically we reward with food. I get it, I do it too! All I’m saying is to change it up once in a while. By changing up the prize from a donut to a game of Connect 4 with mom or more gaming time, it helps the child appreciate each prize a little bit more. Plus they’ll understand that a donut isn’t an everyday food.

By CT Copyright © 2020 Simplify Firefly. All Rights Reserved.

Tree Facts, Terms, & Fun: Plus 4 Tips

Tree Facts, Terms, & Fun: Plus 4 Tips

With global warming on the rise, there IS something we can do about it. Plant more trees! Trees gobble up all those bad emissions, they actually filter the air. They also help clean our water, and provide so much for us, humans, to survive and thrive. One of my favorite things to do in giving back is to plant a tree and take care of it.

A nation that destroys its soils destroys itself. Forests are the lungs of our land, purifying the air and giving fresh strength to our people.

Franklin D. Roosevelt

tree
This is Bruce the Blue Spruce, a tree from my little ‘farm’.

My childhood was surrounded by trees. That’s probably why I love them so much. They were my friends when I didn’t have anyone to play with, they were my listener when no one else would listen, and they were my entertainment when I didn’t want to watch TV.

No, I’m not a major tree hugger. But I do my part. In fact, on my vision board, I have a ‘tree farm’. About five years ago I started my own little tree farm in our backyard. I bought pots, dirt, and saplings of Blue Spruce, Douglas Fir, White Pine, Sugar Maples, and Burr Oak. There has been so much joy in watching are caring for my tree-babies. In the Spring I would sell them for a discount. And I’m happy to say they are all now in their forever homes. Note: we live on less than an acre, so if you have any kind of space, you can do this too!

A few tree facts & benefits

Click to go to Amazon

Trees have many benefits, they reduce air pollution, enrich habitats, bring beauty to the eye, shelter us, provide food, provide material, and comfort us in many ways. The book, The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben, is a must-have! Did you know trees communicate with others through their root system? That they ‘scream’ when they need water? Even if you don’t have an interest in trees, you will after you read this book!

There are about 3 to 6 billion trees cut down globally per year. That’s a lot of trees! No wonder our atmosphere is so polluted. Mahatma Gandhi has a valid point, “What we are doing to the forests of the world is but a mirror reflection of what we are doing to ourselves and to one another.”  Again, if you asked me what would reverse global warming, let alone our own well-being, I’d say to plant trees! This is such a simple task with huge rewards. And it’s incredibly EASY!

Tree terminology: Get to know the lingo

When talking about trees there are a few words you might want to familiarize yourself with. Here are the most common terms you’ll run into; ‘thank you, to the State of Maine’ for this reference.

  • Conifer: Cone bearing trees; the “evergreens”. I get this messed up with Deciduous all the time!
  • Crown [of the tree]: Branches, twigs, buds, leaves, flowers, and fruit. This is the big part on top.
  • Deciduous [leaves]: All leaves drop in the autumn; not evergreen. Think of ‘dead’, as in dead leaves, to remember this one.
  • Fruit: The seed-bearing part of a tree
  • Habitat: The place where a plant usually grows, for example, dry, wet, rocky.
  • Hardwood: Term used to describe all broadleaved trees. These tree species are deciduous, retaining their leaves only one growing season.
  • Inner bark: Conducts usable food from the leaves to the cambium (tree cells) to nourish it or to storage areas in the wood.
  • Leaf: Stalk and blade of hardwoods: needles and scales of conifers.
  • Leaflets: Smaller leaf units or leaflets which together form a compound leaf.
  • Outer bark: The area of the tree trunk composed of dead cells. It insulates and protects inner tissues from disease infections and drying.
  • Photosynthesis: This is the process that occurs in the leaves. From energy produced by sunlight, the leaves combine carbon dioxide from the air and water from the soil to produce carbohydrates. Oxygen is released in the process. Carbohydrates plus fats and proteins are the plant foods necessary for growth and respiration of the tree.
  • Roots: Root hairs absorb water and mineral salts from the soil. Larger roots anchor the tree and store nitrogen and carbohydrates.
  • Softwood: Term used to describe all needle-leaved trees. These species are typically evergreen, retaining their leaves through two or more growing seasons.
  • Trunk: The main body of the tree.
Source: maine.gov/dacf/mfs/projects/fall_foliage/kids/glossary.html

woods

4 Tips with Planting Trees

1. Give it significance

Plant a tree to represent an important time in your life. You’ll take better care of it knowing there is symbolism behind it. In fact, I’ve been known to give my trees a fun name, like Bruce the Spruce, my son named a Maple, Kevin. We have a lot of fun with it!

2. Plant properly

When planting a tree in the ground, make sure to dig a wide hole and only as deep as the pot. Carefully remove the tree from the pot and spread out the roots. Cover with dirt and then a 2-inch layer of mulch. Water the tree every day for two weeks. And wrap the trunk in the cold winter months to protect it from sunscald and rodents. Do this until it’s big enough to thrive on its own, probably when the trunk is at a 4-5 inch diameter. You can download my tree activity printable for all the instructions. Go here to get it.

3. Get a tree

click for Amazon

Don’t know where to get a tree? Try a local nursery and opt for native trees, trees that thrive in their environment. For instance, White Spruce is a native tree to Michigan, but Blue Spruce is native to Colorado. Your local conservation office should have trees to buy. You can also get a tree on Amazon! Seriously, you can get a Sugar Maple and many other types of trees.

4. Check out Arbor Day Foundation

Go to the Arbor Day Foundation for more facts and information about trees. If you need to purchase some trees, they can handle that too. Or you can make a small donation and they’ll send you free trees as a thank you. They have loads of information in caring for your tree. Don’t have a place to plant? No problem. The Arbor Day Foundation is happy to accept donations, they will then plant trees where desperately needed.

Trees are the best monuments that a man can erect to his own memory. They speak his praises without flattery, and they are blessings to children yet unborn.

Lord Orrery, 1749

Let’s make the world a better place for ourselves and for future generations. Make Earth Day every day in some way or form. Don’t forget to get your tree printable for your kids! It’s super fun and educational. Get it here on Etsy.

Copyright © 2021 More Than Existence All Rights Reserved.
7 Firefly Facts & How to Care for Fireflies

7 Firefly Facts & How to Care for Fireflies

What’s fun about Fireflies? Well…everything! Here are some cool facts and information about fireflies. Plus I include ways to attract the firefly and how to safely catch them. Enjoy and be gentle! Be sure to download my free Firefly Fun Sheet!

firefly facts

Firefly Fact #1

There isn’t just one kind of firefly. There are more like 2000 species of fireflies in the world! That’s a lot of light.

Fact #2

Speaking of natural light, the firefly light is the most efficient light in the WORLD! Yep. Bug light is the best light in the world…natural light. The sun doesn’t count. Let’s face it, what other bug or animal produces its own light?

Actually, there are some other bioluminescent species that exist on this planet, however, most of them live deep in the ocean.

firefly flowers

Fact #3

What else is cool about firefly glow? Not all light from the firefly is the same color. The glow can be yellow, green, orange, or blue! How cool is that? Way cool.

Fact #4

Their handy blink and frequency of the blink are how fireflies communicate with each other. I kind of like to think of them using Morris Code. They also use their light as a mating signal. Oo, la la!

firefly fun sheet
Click for instant download!

Fact #5

Fireflies do not taste good. If I were you I’d cancel that side of firefly and stick with your kale. Fireflies are actually poisonous to some animals if they eat them. When the firefly is attacked they release a little blood. Ew. But the blood contains a chemical that creates a bigger taste and emits poison! It’s how they protect themselves.

Fact #6

Okay, this one is super important. Firefly numbers are reducing in the world. Some of this is due to climate change, but another reason is because of their habitats. The healthy living environments are being destroyed; not to mention, they are also being ‘harvested’ for their luciferase (their glow substance). Luciferase is used for scientific research for forensic tests and food safety. They do have a way to make this stuff synthetically, but people still kill these amazing bugs (beetles) for the natural stuff…

What can we do to save the fireflies?

We can make a firefly habitat!

Fireflies love to eat snails, worms, and slugs. Where there are snails, worms, and slugs, you’ll likely find fireflies. A garden is a perfect place for fireflies to enjoy life. Firefly larvae enjoy a good pile of wet leaves. It is suggested to make a compost pile of leaves and to keep the leaves moist throughout the year. The leaves will attract the slugs, and the baby fireflies will eat them as they grow. In the Spring, put some of the leaves in your garden as compost. Do this every year and watch your firefly population grow!

Fact #7

Fireflies also enjoy these plants: Passionflower, Morning Glory, Goldenrod, Asters, and River Fern. They also like trees! Good choices are Sycamore, Cottonwood, Elm, Bur Oak, Dogwood, and Trumpet Creeper.

firefly jar

How do we safely catch them?

We can catch them carefully. When they land you or when you gently catch them, simply put them in a glass jar with many holes punched through the top for oxygen. Place a damp paper towel in the jar to prevent them from drying out. Put a slice of apple in there for them to munch on. Please only keep the fireflies for 1 day. They only live for two-three months, let them be free and enjoy life.

Buy on Amazon

Want the glow to last longer?

If you want the fun glow and blinking to last longer, first let the fireflies go, then buy fairy lights and put them in a jar. I personally love these lights. The solar-powered ones are pretty cool, I keep them up all year round. Super awesome for wedding table decorations!

That does it on firefly facts! Hope you learned something new. Thanks for visiting! Be sure to check out my store and other blog posts to help you simplify and shine your light!

References: FireFly.org and EcoWatch.  

The Ultimate Scavenger Hunt (kids 8-13 yrs. old)

The Ultimate Scavenger Hunt (kids 8-13 yrs. old)

Scavenger hunt to the rescue. Do your kids have a lot of time on their hands? Are they feeling dumpy and bored? I have a fun low-cost solution for you! My scavenger hunt takes at least three hours to complete. Can you hear the angels sing? LOL! This adventure keeps the kids busy and creates a smile on their faces.

Scavenger Hunt
Download it today! Click the picture or head to Freebies.

Not your typical scavenger hunt!

This hunt is like no other. First off, it’s not just a list of things to find. It involves reading, drawing, exercise, strategy, skill, teamwork, creativity, and cognitive thinking.  Seriously the kids loved it. They were outside and having fun. And strangely they got along! As a parent, it was gratifying to watch how much joy was happening in the kids. A memory for sure!

Another fun difference from other scavenger hunts is that it tells a little story. The story starts out with Larry who is lost and needs to find his way home. He has to go through the first three challenges to unlock his map, materials, and list. Then the rest of the challenges help him find his way home. He gets hungry on the way, wants to find presents to bring home, and needs to spend the night. And the most exciting part of all is that he needs to create a flying vessel to get home!

does a body good

Who is Larry?

Larry is actually one of my son’s stuffed animals. I just grabbed a small one that would be suitable for flight. You can use an egg…this would be interesting…or a water balloon for that matter, or a cardboard cutout. Essentially, Larry can be anything you want. However, with the stuffed animal, I found it made the hunt more personal-able and “real”. They really had fun with it.

Who is this scavenger hunt for?

This challenge is for 8 – 13-year-olds. Younger kids can be helpers; some of the challenges I found to be difficult for kids younger than 8 years old. But that is up to you. You could make some adjustments to cater to younger kids. This is also fun for families.

Scavenger Hunt Challenge
Download it today! Head to Freebies.

Materials and Set-up

As for materials, use items you already have in-house. No need to run to the store. This is what can make the scavenger hunt more challenging…after all it is a scavenger hunt! For instance, for Larry’s flying vessel I just found some yarn, balloons, a plastic cup, a piece of fabric, foil, and threw in some other things from my junk drawer. Who knows what kids will come up with!

All you need to do is draw a map and set-up the course. This usually takes about 30-minutes. I personally had a lot of fun doing this. It brought me back to my childhood fun. To make it more interesting, I allowed a phone to be present for the kids to shoot video and for taking pictures. They enjoyed this part especially making the trick shot video. I simply downloaded an app called Clips. My son actually had to show me how to work it, in other words, it’s easy to figure out.

Scavenger hunt example

Here’s a video summary of this scavenger hunt we did the other day:

Larry is waiting for you!

Ready to have some fun and watch your kiddos have a blast? To download and print Larry’s Scavenger Hunt Challenge head over to Freebies. OH! One last thing, it’s actually a lot of fun as a family to do too! Not to mention at a campground when on vacation. Enjoy!

By CT Copyright © 2020 Simplify Firefly. All Rights Reserved.

Mom? I’m bored. One thing every parent should do.

Mom? I’m bored. One thing every parent should do.

dad and son walking to hunt

Thirty-some years ago when we were bored we went to Mom. We didn’t have iPad’s or cell phones, heck; we didn’t even have TV remotes or garage door openers. Back then we didn’t think twice about walking home from school or playing outside after dark. We were so free and fearless. As technology progressed and the news increased, our cheese moved whether we wanted it or not, and fear shackled our ankles.

Whether it be electronic devices or overall safety there are many studies on how staying inside is affecting our kids’ health, their learning, social skills, and a simple appreciation of the outdoors. As parents we dreaded three words: Mom, I’m bored.

The “I’m bored” conversation I had with my son:

“Mom, I’m bored,” my son said.

“It’s okay to be bored,” I said.

“But Mom! What am I going to do?” he replies.

“Why don’t you go outside and play,” I suggest.

“Na, there’s nothing to do outside,” he ends. “Mom, what can I do?”

That very first conversation about being bored was a heart-sinker. And sometimes as adults, we don’t quite understand it. After all, we were their age at some point, and I’m sure we were bored too.

When I was his age I was outside ALL the time, and mostly by myself. So when I heard MY son say there’s nothing to do outside, I realized something had to change. But more so, I realized I had to change. I had to encourage him and not let up, and maybe I had to even show him how to play outside and use our imagination.

Why the outdoors is so important for our future

For some reason, I thought kids were born with an attraction for the outdoors, but not all are. According to the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA), back in 2014, they did a report about youth outdoor participation (6-24 years old). What they found were two major deterrents: lack of interest and lack of time. This tells me that now a day, playing outside is a thing of the past.

My answer to my son ‘Why don’t you go outside and play’ was an easy answer. I should have said, “Let’s go outside and play”. But what if you have work to do? Then you schedule a date. Respond with something like this, “Mom has to finish this project, so let’s plan on going outside together at 4:00. Okay?”

Young Child looking through Magnifying Glass

I recently read that the Michigan DNR is going to help schools who have forest land make the best of their natural resources by putting together outdoor education programs. It says, “[Educators] say taking students outdoors to learn and apply math, social studies, art, science, language arts, and physical education…is more engaging and meaningful.”

The OIA states from their study, “Reconnecting youth with the outdoors has become critical to the health of future generations and the health of our natural landscapes.” The future of our natural resources will someday fall into the hands of our children.

What am I going to do about this?

For starters, I told myself if I wanted him outdoors I had to show him. So I changed my answer to, “Let’s go outside to play”. This put a kink in my day, but this was important to me. I wanted him to develop a relationship with nature. That way he’d always have someplace to play and not be alone. My thinking was if I can get him started, then he’ll figure it out. And it’s been working!

What did I do?

Depending on where you live and what resources you have you may have to get creative yourself. Things that I did with my son included:

  • Going for a walk and talking with him how important nature is to our survival.
  • We played “I Spy”.
  • I helped build a small fort out of snow and in the Spring we used sticks and cattails.
  • I made a scavenger hunt.
  • His favorite was the obstacle courses.
  • We did yard work together.
  • We explored the park and played “I Spy” and looked for treasures.
  • As he got older I taught him how to make fire with a flint and dryer lint. I also taught him about matches and lighters. Please know I had tight rules to not do this without an adult.
  • We cooked hot dogs and marshmallows by the campfire.
  • We looked at bugs…not my favorite.
  • And we hooked up hammocks and looked at the clouds for fun shapes.

What changed my son’s mind

Over the next few months, we went camping in a campground with our little tent as a family to get our son more connected with nature. We did the whole bit. Tent, sleeping bags, camp food, and a fire. The campground had a lot of amenities like showers, playgrounds, wi-fi, and organized kid activities. All was a great experience, but it didn’t hit in his heart. All that changed was sleeping in a sleeping bag for him.

It wasn’t until this past summer when he went on a canoe fishing trip in northern Minnesota that all my hard work paid off. This was as rustic as it gets. No cell service (no wi-fi), no cozy bathrooms or showers, no playgrounds, no organized kid programs, and no car! Just a canoe, backpack, some food staples, playing cards, and fishing poles. My husband and a few other relatives and friends embarked on this trip.

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The result? Bored?

When my son got back I thought for sure I was going to hear an earful of how awful it was. I was mentally prepared to hear how much he missed his iPad, friends, and…how bored he was. Yet, to my surprise, I heard the complete opposite. He loved every minute of it, except the mosquitos. The guys told stories, played cards, and my son read a whole book in a day! He caught fish, he ate fish, and according to my husband, he didn’t complain about a thing! Ever since that trip he has been saying he wants to go back. In fact, I asked him what his favorite trip was last summer…we went to a lot of places in our camper…and he said the fishing trip in northern Minnesota.

Our kids still may be bored every once in a while, but at least we can say with confidence to go outside! It’s the fun stuff we show them outdoors that our kids will remember. Most importantly they’ll always remember who brought them to it.

“Must we always teach our children with books? …. Let them look at the waters and the trees and flowers on Earth. Then they will begin to think, and to think is the beginning of a real education.”-  David Polis

Copyright © 2016 More Than Existence All Rights Reserved.

3 Ways to Help our Kids Not Be Stuck in a Mold

3 Ways to Help our Kids Not Be Stuck in a Mold

What saddens my heart is seeing people, especially children being stuck in a mold. Not actual mold, that’s gross. I’m talking about being molded into someone they’re not. Taking the shape of others is easy. We’re easily accepted. But are we being true to ourselves? Are you in a mold? Are you ‘molding’ someone else right now? Learn how to break away from all that and how to teach your children to be free.

countryside sunset

This is one of my all-time favorite quotes because it encourages us to be unique individuals.

A mold

squash mold

A few years ago I was given a winter squash mold. These molds are used to shape a squash while they grow. The mold is a clear plastic shape, kind of like a mask. When the squash is young, the mold goes over the top of it. When the squash grows it will shape itself to the mold. Interesting, eh? After the mold is filled the squash is taken out of the mold and put on display.  The squash mold gift I received was in the shape of a scary face. Gosh, I’d be scared too if that mold was to shape every squash in my garden.

When I thought about this mold, I really didn’t like the idea of it because the mold wouldn’t allow the squash to have any unique character, or for that matter look like a squash. I enjoy seeing God’s creation take on the shape and color of what God intended his creation to be.

Our own identity

Finding my own identity being the baby of five children was really difficult. I have three older sisters and an older brother. I really enjoyed my childhood with all my siblings. But as I got older I noticed something I was doing and I didn’t like it. I was getting scared.

Being the last of the litter has some advantages and some disadvantages. One advantage is learning the lessons your siblings learned and not getting in trouble as they did. One disadvantage is copying your siblings. I watched all my older siblings go through life before I got there. And because I knew no different, I copied their identity. It was like I was at a store, I took a little identity from one sibling and took a little more from the others.

Copying was easy to do, but by the time I was a senior in high school I didn’t like myself because I wasn’t myself. I was trying to be like my older siblings and my friends. I was stuck in a mold or as Ralph Waldo Emerson would say, I was on their path and not my own.

How am I going to fix this?

does a body good

Don’t get me wrong, my family taught me good morals, responsibility, and about Jesus; but I didn’t know who I was or who I wanted to become. This was my fault. I did this, not my siblings, nor my parents. It was me. How am I going to fix this?

As a kid, I would play by myself when I got the chance. I looked so forward to that time because I could play how I wanted to play! As a teenager it was tough. Our bodies go through so many changes and we get so worried if we’ll be accepted or not. The teenage years can be a real struggle for identity seekers, hence the copying I did. The problem with me is that I couldn’t get away from influencers. I still tried to spend some time alone, particularly on a run or walk through the woods with my cat, but it wasn’t enough.

After graduating high school I knew I had to change. I had to find ME! One thing I did was go on a ‘solo adventure’ from time to time. This is essentially “me time”. It’s a time where I spend time alone without any influences from people I know. It sounds weird, but it’s super healthy and critical in checking-in with yourself about who you are. Even as a parent. “Me time” gives me sanity and refreshes my spirit so I can be a great mom.

Be aware of molds

There are a lot of molds out there. Molds from friends and siblings to name a few. When you have developed a habit of scheduling a regular “me time”, you become more aware of your identity and the influences around you. It becomes easier to be yourself around others because you have more confidence in being who you are.

When you know yourself, you’ll recognize instances where people try to mold you and you can put a stop to it right away. I’m not talking about being rude and yelling “Heck no!” Unless you say it in a funny way. I’m talking about recognizing when people are wanting you to do something you don’t want to do. If you can at least see that that is happening, then you have won. It’s then your decision to decide whether you want to engage or not. Just know who you are. Don’t let someone mold you into someone you’re not. You’re a strong person who has confidence in herself!

That’s the other thing about ‘solo time’. It creates confidence in ourselves. When I intentionally go on a ‘solo’ trip its for me to spend time with me. To learn more about my own opinions, passions, and desires. As much as I love my family and friends, it’s important to take myself on a date so-to-speak every once in a while and check-in with myself. When we know more about ourselves we naturally gain more confidence in who we are.

Parents

For us parents, it’s easy to put our child into a mold. Yes, it’s our responsibility to teach them right from wrong. We are to help them learn how to live an independent life and contribute to society. Parents teach us about how to eat and take care of ourselves. We are the biggest influence on our kids, but we must let our children do what they love. If they are interested in dance, let them dance. Please don’t tell them they can’t dance because ‘we’re not dancers’. Let them explore different things so they can learn about who they are, what they like, and what they don’t have any interest in doing. If you want a happy kid, let them learn about themselves.

3 ideas to encourage your kids to be themselves

1. Make them play by themselves.

Make them play by themselves. Separate the siblings and give each kid their own ‘solo time’. Whether you send them to their room or outside. Give them some space to do their own thing in their own way.

2. Put a stop to the comparing

Siblings have a way of comparing and competing. I suggest taking a walk and having a 1:1 conversation with each kid. It’s like a mini-date with mom or dad. Talk with them about how unique and different they are, how it’s important to be true to yourself and to be your own person. Tell them a story about you and your identity journey. Please do this with each child at separate times, not with all the kids together.

3. Give them a coloring book?

Give them a coloring book. I know it sounds funny, but coloring or drawing gives kids and adults the freedom to choose what colors to pick or what to draw. There are no rules which is what you want with coloring, not even to stay in-between the lines. Here are some fun options whether you’re a kid or an adult. Adult coloring book. Kids Coloring Book Awesome Animals, I am Confident, Brace & Beautiful coloring book for girls.

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Final thoughts

One of the things I love about ‘solo time’ is that it’s a time where I can wear my ‘relaxed face’ and not have people ask me if I’m okay because I look mad. Ha ha ha! You know what I’m talking about don’t you?

‘Solo’ time gives me the freedom to relax and uncover more discoveries about myself that would have otherwise be drowned out by noise. Know what I mean? I’m not saying to become an introvert, not at all! Just remember to carve out some time for you to not have to react to others. Time to only think about yourself and for you to love-on yourself the way you like to. This is especially important for parents and spouses.

By CT Copyright © 2016 More Than Existence, All Rights Reserved.

4 Simple Stress Strategies for You & Your Kids

4 Simple Stress Strategies for You & Your Kids

When we look at our children we can easily think they don’t have any stress. We might say, “What possibly could they be stressed out about?” Kids have stress, just like us. It might look different, but they do, and knowing how to relieve it can be confusing for them, even for us adults. No wonder stress is the #1 cause of illness and ailments.

Who is Stress?

Think of it this way, whenever we have something important to us get compromised or threatened, ‘Stress’ comes to visit. Let me refer to stress as a person for a second, Mr. Stress. When things don’t go according to our plan, Mr. Stress welcomes himself into our home. When there are projects and deadlines to be met Mr. Stress sees an opportunity to break-in and steal. Hear me out, projects and deadlines aren’t bad, they’re actually super good, what is bad are the distractions that keep us from achieving those goals. And it’s the distractions, when not managed well, that act as precursors to our foe, Mr. Stress. Mr. Stress can cause memory issues, sore throats, and digestive tracts havoc to name a few. That’s only a few headaches he causes. What happens at this moment is that Mr. Stress wakes up a hormone in our body called cortisol. Cortisol is the ‘bad stress hormone’. So what do we do?

Awareness is critical

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Nobody can bring you peace but yourself.” The very first step to ignoring Mr. Stress is to be aware of his triggers. This year I was on a quest to destroy my cortisol-feeders. Awareness helps us recognize the cord before it is struck. With awareness, we will then know what circumstance to avoid or to mentally prepare for. On a personal level, I needed to kick Mr. Stress out, so my plan was to simply pay attention to the little things, because the little things add up, and then do something about them.

does a body good

4 discoveries that fed my killjoy

  • The step-counters. At first, I found it curious. But then it became an obsession. I had to reach my 10,000 steps or it wasn’t a good day. This equaled a DISTRACTION for me. My fix? I took it off and just made a mental note of how much I walked.
  • Social Media. “I’ll just check it”, then 45 minutes later I’m like “What just happened?” Another DISTRACTION. My fix?  I set a timer or don’t check it at all.
  • My purse. Wow, this was really stressing me out. My purse was awkward on my shoulder. It was too slippery…yes, slippery. Too HEAVY! Not organized. Weird zipper. I had no idea how much of a DISTRACTION my purse was. My fix? I changed my purse.
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  • Paper Clutter. I enjoy a clean countertop. What took up the most real estate on my counter was paper. Junk mail, receipts, sticky notes, magazines, old homework, sale ads, and newspapers were piling up. This was not only a DISTRACTION but a stress bomb. My fix? I got a recycle bin and an organization station.
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Tasks are done, stress is gone, or is it?

When the big “tasks” are complete, cortisol levels go back to normal. Everything is fine, right? Not necessarily. Think of a wave approaching the shore. When a wave breaks how does it hit the beach? It crashes. Sand and shells stir and water splashes. It takes time for the water to settle and be calm. Like an ocean, the wave of cortisol might be gone, but our bodies take a lot longer to recover. How do we fix this?

4 strategies to combat the ‘crash’

  • Set a daily routine. Routines help reduce anxiety, we sleep better, and we are more productive. Let your kids write down what they would like their routine to look like. You can compromise with them to give them a little responsibility and to show trust.
  • Make a ‘daily to-do list’ that includes errands and simple things like laundry and walking the dog. This is another great habit to teach your kids. It helps them see what they need to do, and then feeling the gratification of crossing it off as ‘done!’.
  • Get outside every day for at least 20 minutes. This is harder for us parents, but it teaches our kids that nature is their friend. As a parent, force yourself to get outside, even better you’re your kids. Show them how important it is to connect with nature.
  • Cut out (as much as possible) disturbing TV shows and movies, even the news. We know bad stuff is out there, but we don’t need to be reminded of it day and night. News especially freaks kids out. A friend of mine loves the news, she had it on all day. She also has two kids, who were around the news. As time went on, the kids are afraid to go outside and play. For our kiddos and TV shows? Be wise with what they watch. Their brains aren’t developed to determine what is real or fake. Even if you say, it’s fake, seeing is believing. So unless you can show them how they make movies, keep to the ‘G’ or ‘PG’ ratings, and turn the news off!

Taking charge of your life needs awareness, self-discipline. What is one thing you can change today to help fight stress and its crash?

Here’s another post about stress you may find helpful: 5 Stress Fighters That Most People Forget About

By CT Copyright © 2017 More Than Existence All Rights Reserved.

5 Valuable Ways to Manage Mental Wellness in Kids & Us

5 Valuable Ways to Manage Mental Wellness in Kids & Us

5 valuable ways to manage mental wellness in kids

My mental wellness plan started early in my years. I learned at a young age how to develop a relationship with nature. It’s not until later in life I realized how important that relationship was going to be. I’m sure you’re thinking ‘relationship with nature? That sounds weird, but what we’re addressing here is mental health and how to manage it. And nature was my #1 go-to, I also have four other incredible ways to tame the lion within ourselves and kiddos.

The beach

My toes were planted in wet sand. My arms stretched out as wind combed through my pigtails. “Let’s give them a show,” I said. I cleared my throat, threw up my hands, and orchestrated the waves as they crashed and rippled onto the beach. My mind was free, I had no stress, I played and used my creativity; I was happy. It was just me and the beach. No toys. No electronics. In fact, no one else was by me. It was a simple setting, yet a powerful one for my mental wellbeing.

The brain

National Geographic wrote, “Nature provides us essentials like clean water, food, medicines, even recreational retreats… it also helps regulate our weather and climate. But these systems are extremely fragile…we know that once they are gone, there are no replacements.” We didn’t need National Geographic to tell us this. However, isn’t that statement similar to our mental health? Our brains need clean water, good food, and recreational escapes to help normalize our well-being. If we don’t get these things, our minds, too, are fragile and will break.

Mental health issues shouldn’t be shrugged under the rug. We all have them! Sorry to break that news to you, but we do have our own mental poo; whether it’s addictions (large or small), obsessive-compulsive disorders, learning disabilities, anxiety, anger, hypochondria, social challenges, depression, PTSD, or what have you; we all have a touch of something, even your kids do too. Perfectionism doesn’t exist in this world. Now, don’t you feel better you’re not alone?

What can we do about it?

You’d think that we can either fix it or we can try to ignore it. But neither way works very well. What we need to do is manage it. Fixing it 100% doesn’t exist, it’s bound to surface again someday, and ignoring it is going to lead to other problems. Who needs more problems? Yet managing it helps us understand our triggers and how to handle them.

does a body good

My mental issue

My body has caused me a lot of grief in my life, from autoimmune hepatitis, hyperemesis gravidarum, bulging disc, miscarriage, colitis, torn ligaments, and nerve damage to name a few. These all have put a mental toll on me. It’s one thing if these ailments are short-lived, but they weren’t and are not. They go on and on. Anyone hear me out there? Some people just go with the flow, and boy, I admire those people. I honestly don’t know how they do it, hence, my mental issue. I’m just mad that my body can’t figure out balance and I eat well and exercise. However, what I do know is that I’m driven to figure it out; that’s why you’ll see posts about health stuff every so often at Simplify Firefly. And maybe, it’s not my body that has the issue, but it’s my mind or spiritual health. Read this post about spiritual warfare…so good!

Maybe this will help you understand my madness, my dream as a kid was to have optimum health. Weird dream for a kid, but hey, I’m weird. At a young age, I wanted to be super healthy, strong, and run an Iron Man. I’ve been trying to work towards this since 1982 when I was doing Disney Mousercise in my driveway…basically aerobics to Disney tunes, and yes on a Boom box, I had the cassette version. But even at a young age, it was one blow after another, then another. However, I always had hope that I’d learn something new. The Lord gave me that light and helped me through and through. Oh, I love Him so much.

Acceptance

It has taken me years to accept my mental issue, but it’s clear as day to me as I look back on life and I can see how this all came to be. Believe me; my madness wasn’t helping my health at all. It was probably making it worse. A vicious cycle it was and still is if I ignore my mental state.

With that said, this is a journey friend. I still struggle with management today, but I’m determined to understand my root cause, which I know I’m getting closer to. I think that’s why I share so much because maybe someone has gone through the same kind of thing and we can help each other. What do you have to lose?

What to do.

Probably the biggest step in helping ourselves and our children with mental health management is to digest that we have something going on. Upon discovery, many may experience anger at first, but others will feel relief that they finally figured a piece of the puzzle out. Does that make sense? All in all, when we can embrace it and understand it, we’ll have a better chance of managing it and living that amazing life we always envisioned. I may not run an Iron Man, but I’ll know a heck of a lot more about how my body works and why it does what it does.

Anger Management 101

I could end on that, but it’s important to reiterate that a ‘lack of understanding’ usually gets us upset in the first place. Why? Because we don’t understand! That’s why fights happen and judgments lash. We don’t know why people act the way they do, because we don’t live in their shoes. For all we know they could be sick, have a chronic illness, be abused, have social issues, or on drugs. And when we don’t know how to manage those things, a mess of emotions implodes and then explodes on others.

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When we have an anger about something, we usually want to do something about it. I’m not talking about anger towards a person when you want to lash out at them for saying something stupid, that’s a different post. The anger I’m referring to is about how we react to either ourselves or a cause that affects other people. Some call it anger, others call is passion. You can take it a step further and call it uniqueness. There is this great book by Matthew Barnett, “The Cause Within You”. I highly recommend this book to not only inspire your own life but to motivate how to help others. Super good!

Okay, so what do we do now?

I’d have to say the majority of people try to ignore their mental state or try to numb it with something else like drugs, alcohol, shopping, or eating. Another route to managing our mindfulness includes prescription drugs and/or counseling. These are helpful ways if used correctly, but they can be pricy and scary for that matter. And what about the kids? As parents, we can teach our kids how to manage our ‘uniqueness’ in less complicated ways, of course depending on the severity.

*Disclaimer: For the record, I am not a therapist, nor am I trying to be one. These are things I have personally learned and wanted to share them with you. Please consult your physician before trying anything new, especially if you or your child is at risk of hurting themselves.*  

5 valuable and creative ways to help

Here are some creative ways to help you and your family manage our mental uniqueness.

1. Get outside

Remember that relationship with nature I started talking about? The National Academy of Sciences performed a study that shows a simple 90-minute walk in nature {a place with trees} decreases negative thinking about oneself. Taking a walk in an urban area like a city or industrial park has zero effect. This study reveals that there is a “…pathway by which nature experiences may improve mental well-being and suggests that accessible natural areas within urban contexts may be a critical resource for mental health…”

I don’t have 90 minutes to take a walk but I do have 20 minutes. Those 20 minutes are gold to me. My ideal walking area is to be around trees. For you, it might be the beach, the park, field, or mountains.

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The University of Minnesota says there’s “a growing prevalence of depression caused by ‘nature deprivation’,” which is largely due to screen time… Push your kids outside. Show them how to get started with orchestrating the waves, climbing trees, building a fort out of sticks or snow. My favorite is to grab a camera (a camera separate from a phone) and ask for certain pictures to be taken. We had gotten one for our son and he absolutely loved it! He still goes back and looks at his pictures.

If nature goes away; so will our sanity.

2. Head to your hobby

A hobby can do loads for you. It keeps your hands busy and your mind focuses on being creative and being you! Kids love this! I wrote a post on hobbies with a list of different ones to try, check’r out!

3. Do something kind for your body.

Our bodies take most of the brunt from stress. So instead of cursing your body, bless it! As much as my body and mind are not getting along, I’m still kind to it. When you feel good, you are kinder to yourself and others around you. Do you need a run, a yoga session, a massage, a hot bath, a cup of tea on the couch? Do something that makes you feel better that is good and pure. This teaches kids how to pamper themselves when pampering is needed.

4. Eat foods for your brain

Food matters! Your brain needs fats, the good fats. And getting the clean kind in your body helps your body and brain fight off free-radicals…those are the guys that destroy the good stuff. Here is a post about Omega Oils that will help you out. And don’t forget the avocados.

5. Journal

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I know this sounds like old news, but if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Journaling works. When our thoughts are written down on paper, more so than typed, it’s like you’ve given permission to let the hurt get out of you. Write about your journey and what you’re trying to do to help. Put down what is working and what is definitely not working! Put in what you’re grateful for too. Not all journaling needs to be venting, having a flip side to things to healthy. Journaling is a great exercise to help kids express their emotions yet feel like they have some privacy. Plus it’s fun to shop for their very own journal. Another idea is to check out this workbook specifically for anger management. It will you guys understand each other.

For more ideas, this post from Mental Health America is a good one!

Taking little steps here and there are strides for our health both body and especially mind. Show your kids how to do it. You’ll be helping yourself and teaching your family. Win-Win!

By CT Copyright © 2020 Simplify Firefly All Rights Reserved.

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