Chronically sick? Choose the right water filter.

Chronically sick? Choose the right water filter.

As a kid, I never thought about a water filter. Yet after being diagnosed with autoimmune diseases, I wouldn’t drink any water without one. How do I choose the right water filter? In this post, you’ll learn about drinking water and my journey of not submitting to bottled water. Plus you’ll understand what option is best for you and your family whether you live in the city or rural area.

Water has a lot to do with your health, in fact, water is life! If you’re not getting healthy clean water, you might be setting yourself up for autoimmune disease and other chronic health issues. If there is one physical gift that keeps on giving, it would be clean drinking water. It sounds kind of boring; after all, water is thought to be a commodity. However, pure clean water is not necessarily everywhere. Whether you live in the city, the countryside, or overseas, clean nutritious water is hard to come by. In our recent move from city water to well water, the drinking water became my #1 priority and it completely stressed me out. This situation is literally and physically taking a “challenge and creating light from it”…Simplify Firefly.

Water and your health, does it really matter?

Did you know that drinking water can affect your health? I’m not just talking about water-born bacteria like E. coli or Giardia; there are many other factors that affect water that can weaken our bones, disrupt our digestive systems, and even hurt our heart health. If you think about it there aren’t many choices for healthy, balanced water; treated water is full of chemicals, bottled water can leach estrogens or containments, distilled water can rob you of essential minerals, and well water can have harmful levels of iron, arsenic, and lead to name a few. Talk about stress! This was where I was when we moved.

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Water and my story

Water and I go way back. I now take it seriously and there are many reasons why I do. In college, drinking a lot of water helped me (tremendously) lose weight. Secondly, during my pregnancies, I got severely dehydrated due to HG which led me to get an IV multiple times. Thirdly, water is all I drink.

I grew up on city water, unfiltered. I drank it straight from the tap. In college, I drank it from the tap or drinking fountain. It wasn’t until 2007 when we decided to get a water filter. Before that time, I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder in my liver, which then cascaded into other issues. Could it be that most diseases come from our water?

Now a day, my digestive system is a sensitive one, so I need to be careful what I put into my body or my body will flare up. Not to mention, dehydration comes on pretty quickly, and water is the only element that keeps me stable. I highly recommend you get your water tested. You can call your township or city and ask them how to do it. There are kits online, but I’d go the local route.

So what are we to drink?

As you know, our bodies can’t survive more than three days without water. Sure you can drink coffee, soda, juice, energy drinks, and such, but those can be toxic to your system and cause all sorts of other health problems. And yes, water detoxifies your body, gives you energy, helps you feel good (better mood), and so much more! But what are we to drink?

Many would answer this question with bottled water. Bottled water first came out in 1767 and has gotten increasingly popular ever since! With recent worldly events, bottled water has been life-saving. I drink bottled water occasionally and am extremely grateful to have it on hand. But not all bottled water is the same. At the store you’ll see many options of bottled water, if you’re a serious water drinker it can be overwhelming. Let’s look at the pros and cons of bottled water.

PROS:

  • It’s convenient
  • Works in a pinch
  • There are many options to suite your needs

CONS:

  • Can be expensive
  • Different pH levels
  • Chemicals and estrogens leaking into water from the plastic
  • Not 100% sure what the water source is
  • Could contain added ingredients
  • Hurts the environment if you don’t recycle

IBD Triggers

Water filter options besides bottled water

Some would argue that filtered water by a home water filter is the way to go. Yet, others are strictly from the tap. This is all personal preference, but the one that gives me confidence in what I’m drinking is from a home filtration system. What does this mean?

A home filtration system can mean a few things. It can mean refrigerator water, water filter pitcher, RO system, under the sink water filter, or a countertop water filter. Let’s briefly take a deeper look into some of these options.

Refrigerator filter

Some people thoroughly enjoy their refrigerator water filters. The water is instantly cold and easy to access. Just remember to change the filter.  

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Water filter pitcher

Another route is the filtered water pitcher. The water pitchers are popular and do a great job. If you don’t drink a lot of water every day I’d suggest the water pitcher. You can put it in the frig or keep it on the counter. This option is better than buying plastic jugs of water.

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Reverse Osmosis

If you want 100% pure water, you’ll want to check out the RO System. The Reverse Osmosis System completely takes out all chemicals, bacteria, minerals, and good minerals from the water, so you are only left with H2O. This water tastes amazing! However, RO water has a tendency to be more acidic, like around 5.5 pH to 6.0 pH. This is because it takes out those minerals that balance pH. There are mineral filters that connect to the RO system to help put minerals back into the water, but I’m not sure about their effectiveness…the reviews are not consistent. Not to be a wet blanket, but I’ve heard the pH filters can be fickle from going from one extreme to the other.

More about water pH

And what’s up with water pH? I had no idea the pH level of water was different, but it is! Some water is alkaline and others are acidic. Ideally, you want to be right in the middle of it all. If water is too acidic it can eventually lead to health problems. The same goes true with water that is too alkaline. In our new home, I bought a ph tester and had chemistry class on our kitchen counter. It was actually fun testing eight different glasses of water. What I found was that some bottled water was actually acidic! Yet with the three different types of water filters I had on hand: RO System, under sink Aquasuana, and countertop Berkey; the RO was acidic, Aquasana and Berkey were alkaline. I also tested our water softener water, well water, and other bottled water.

 

More water filter systems

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Under-the-sink filtration system

Yet, another route is to use an under-the-sink filtration system. We used this water filter system when we lived in the city, and we loved it! New filters were sent to us every 6 months, so we didn’t have to remember to get them. It’s super convenient and easy to use. This just gives you a little more peace of mind that your water is safe. We have been using Aquasana since 2007.

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Countertop filtered water

Countertop filtered water is yet another option for filtered drinking water. This water filter is gravity fed using carbon filters. It’s easy to use, looks cool, and can even filter pond water ready for you to drink! This water filter is a rock star, it filters all the bad stuff out but keeps the essential minerals our bodies need like calcium, magnesium, potassium. The ph level is where it should be, the 7.0 range. If you drink a lot of water every day and don’t like cold water, I would highly recommend the Berkey Water Filter System. You just have to remember to fill it.

So what one do I use on well water?

I asked this exact question when I moved into our country home and there wasn’t an easy answer. People around us all did different things. Bottled water was one, refrigerator water another (but I don’t like cold water), and water pitcher. It took me hours to figure out what one would be best for me. As I said before, water is the top beverage I consume each day. So if I’m drinking water with a lot of chemicals in it, then my body is getting a lot of chemicals. And with the health issues I have, my liver doesn’t need to work any harder than it needs to.

In our home, we have a water softener, and I frankly do not like drinking softened water. It’s a water-weight thing if you know what I mean. Soft water makes me bloated and I’m not a fan of excess sodium adding up in the body. So after many trials of different kinds of water filter systems, with softened water, without softened water, not to mention the different types of bottled water I tried, we finalized on a direct line from the well (non-softened water) to our drinking spigot on our kitchen sink; the drinking spigot goes through an under the sink water filter system, and then we filter it again with the Berkey. It’s a little complicated, I agree, but our well water is getting filtered twice yet leaving in those essential minerals our bodies need. I am a very happy camper and am at peace with our drinking water. And I feel great!

Water filter conclusion

Water makes a 100% difference in your health, hormones, mind, and inflammation. Do what is best for you, your body, and your mental wellbeing. Take your water seriously! My recommendations include:

#1 Get your water tested for containments, metals, and bacteria.
#2 Understand the pH level of your drinking water.
#3 Invest in a drinking water filter for you and your family.

For city water, I’ve found Aquasana under-the-sink unit or a Berkey to do the trick.

If you have well water, a combo of Aquasana under-the-sink and a Berkey works well.

Out camping? I recommend a Berkey.

In the dorm room…campus water isn’t the best…it’s a Berkey or a water filter pitcher.

All in all, the Berkey is the way to go.

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Cheers!

By CT Copyright © 2021 Simplify Firefly. All Rights Reserved.

Martin Luther King Jr. in Child’s Eyes

Martin Luther King Jr. in Child’s Eyes

Every year we recognize Martin Luther King Jr.’s Birthday. Banks close. The Post Office closes. Public schools close. If you haven’t heard of Martin Luther King Jr. or haven’t understood his stand, he was the most visible spokesperson in the Civil Rights Movement from 1955 until his assassination in 1968. Dr. King believed in non-violence, he was determined, he knew his purpose, and he acted on it. He paved the way for peace.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day

My 7-year-old son HAS school on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. His school honors Dr. King by teaching the students about him…what better way to celebrate this day. His teachers explain what Dr. King was fighting for. The students experience his “I Have a Dream” speech. When my son was six years old he came home from school excited yet a little confused.

At dinner, our son started the conversation like this, “Guess what?”

“What?” we respond.

“Did you know… that some people had to go to different schools? They couldn’t ride the same bus or use the same bathroom because they were tan? That’s so weird.”

We respond, “Yeah, we know. Thankfully, it’s not like that anymore.”

I pause and ask. “Did you guys talk about Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous speech today?”

“Yeah.”

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Our neighborhood

For you to understand the next question I asked my son, you need to know that we live in a diverse neighborhood. Our neighbors come from all over the world; we exchange smiles, conversation, baked goods, a cry on a shoulder, and a helping hand. We look after each other and even pray for each other. Our next-door neighbors and our neighbors across the street are African-American.

“Honey?” I ask. “Do you know anyone who is “tan” which is also called “African-American” in our neighborhood?”

Our son says, “No.”

My husband and I look at each other and smile. I wink at him.

“It doesn’t matter what people look like, does it?” I ask.

Our son says, “No, that’s silly.”

“That’s what Dr. King was trying to tell the world,” I explain.

“Yep. He did a good job,” he says, then continues to eat his apple sauce.

If only we could be more like kids

What I took from this small yet huge conversation was that our son has lived seven years on this earth and hasn’t seen skin color. Children have this awesome power to look beyond the surface and see the heart. They are more concerned about how people make them feel, rather than what they look like.

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

In hindsight

After this conversation, I was simply in awe of my son’s observations. And I hope and pray his views will continue as they are. Just remember, no matter how we were raised, it’s never too late to start looking at the world with a child’s eyes. You have the ability to make your own opinions and not be molded from what other influences told you. Do more than exist, love all people the way you would like to be loved.

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 than 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…

Camping Activity Kit!: Help your kids fall in love with the outdoors!

Camping kit for kids

Looking for something to keep your little campers busy for a while? Download these 8 pages full of camping fun. In this camping activity printable you’ll get:

★ Camping quick facts, a word search, tic-tac-toe, 16 campground adventure ideas, a crossword, coloring opportunities, a tree that needs leaves, a maze, campfire questions that will entertain all ages! Plus an answer guide, but who needs that?

Click HERE for more details and to purchase from my Etsy Shop.

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.

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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.  

How to be Smart and How to Teach Your Child

How to be Smart and How to Teach Your Child

Some people are born smart, others learn how to be smart. Being smart isn’t an amazing test score, that just says you can take a test. Being smart is how to navigate through this world with the intent of making it a better place. We are remined with stories of people who become selfmade millionaires with only a high school diplemma. How to be smart has nothing to do with your GPA. But it does have to do with skill and navigation, not to mention aligning your passion with your work. So how do we learn this and how do we teach our young children?

How to be smart

A skill every child and adult can develop is how to learn to be aware of their surroundings. We are naturally born with is instinct; however, if you really want to succeed in life, you must learn how to pay attention. With phones, electronics, and puberty, learning how to pay attention is hard for a kid. It’s also frustrating for a parent!

This life lesson of being aware of our surroundings can enhance our ability to succeed in communication, life skills, and survival in many different situations. I’ll teach you how to help your child and yourself become more aware of using your eyes and ears and how sight and sound play an important part in how to be smart.

A fun way to get started

CTFishon

“Shh…walk softly on the dock, we don’t want to scare the fish,” my dad instructed. It was a summer morning. The lake was like glass, not a movement of the wind. Today, at seven years old, I was going to learn how to fish. And the most important fish skill of all: awareness. Some fishermen would argue with me and say patience or the type of bait is more important, but truly it comes down to paying attention. For instance; how do you know what bait to use? How do you know where to fish? Because you are aware of how the fish responds.

We got into our boat, started the motor, and trolled to our fishing spot. My dad whispered instructions on how to bait the hook. He showed me how to adjust the bobber, and he demonstrated how to be quiet watching for signs of a hungry fish.

I wasn’t just learning how to fish; I was learning how to become more aware of my surroundings.

how to fish

What exactly does it mean to “be aware”?

Wikipedia explains it like this: Awareness is the ability to directly know and perceive, to feel, or to be conscious of events, objects, thoughts, emotions, or sensory patterns.

As the world drives to go faster, it’s hard to take it all in, but knowing what to look for can make you a heck of a lot smarter than others around you. The trap we get ourselves into is that we get so focused on our to-do lists, phones, and work that we forget to stop and look around to see what’s happening in our relationships, our children, and our overall path in life. And we wonder why nothing is changing.

There were two major events that helped me understand how important it was to be aware of my surroundings. One was fishing. The other was when I endured a rare sickness.

How being sick helped me

How to be smart doesn’t always come naturally; it is a skill that can be learned. When I was pregnant with my son I happened to have a rare pregnancy disease that robbed me of energy, joy, and time. My body suffered, so much so, the tiniest movements made me vomit. For months on end, I was nauseous, weak, and dumbfounded that this was happening to me. Not only that, but my body was snatched of nutrients and vitamins that my body was actually eating itself. Have you ever heard of muscle wasting? That’s when your body eats itself because you’re not getting enough nutrition from food…in which food wasn’t staying down. It was extremely difficult for others to understand what I was going through, especially if they had been pregnant before without having issues. Just remember every body is not the same.

However, this is how my sickness helped me. While going through this torturing sickness I noticed the love and compassion of others. Never had I paid attention to it before because I wasn’t the receiver of it. My awareness of how powerful a card was, how impactful a visit was, how humbling a listening ear was, and how a small smile from a stranger made me feel gave me joy, it gave me hope, and it taught me what really matters in this world.

Not only that, but I also became more aware of the power and reality of spiritual presence. My faith grew stronger every day I suffered; I became more aware of His grace and protection. But I had to seek Him to get it. If I hadn’t endured this suffering my eyes would have missed these little gems of light in our broken world.

How to be smart with your eyes and ears

Open your eyes

You probably were thinking you’d get a list of sudoku puzzles or crosswords puzzles to make you smarter, yes those games will exercise your brain, but they don’t teach you how to love or sense that others around you are dying for a “hello”. With that said, open your eyes and learn how to look for things.

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The simple exercise helps us to pay attention to even the smallest details. Do you know those “Hidden Picture” games in kid magazines? Or the Where’s Waldo books? These games are great exercises for enhancing our skills of paying attention. I would qualify myself as a Master Finder, not only in these games but in finding things around the house and in the store. Having the challenge to find something gets me going. This may sound silly and childish, but these games work at helping you become smarter.

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Lately, my tween son is in that phase of asking me where everything is. My answer varies from, “It’s your responsibility to keep track of your own stuff” to “If you can’t find it, you can’t have it.” When in fact the item he is looking for is literally right in front of his face. I’m not trying to be mean by not helping him find it, I’m trying to teach him the skill of looking, to be aware. He obviously needs to brush up on this skill.

How to be smart at finding things

Tip #1: when finding certain objects whether it be inside or outside is to look for a piece of the object, not just the whole thing. Rarely is the entire object going to be visible? Look for a part of it. This technique works for fishing and hunting too.

Tip #2: envision yourself finding it. What reaction will you have? Will you pause and whisper to yourself that you found it or will you yell in excitement? Visualize yourself finding the object.

Tip #3: Lastly, but firstly, pray to God in helping you find whatever it is that you’re looking for. He knows exactly where it is, why not ask him to help you find it. Most importantly, listen for his ques and hints of where to look.

Seriously these tips work. And it not only applies to finding objects, but it helps you to know how to look for things or pick up on cues of others. It’s all in the details.

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Use your ears

Like using your eyes, use your ears too. Ears come in handy when it’s dark or when you’re lost in the woods. I know this is obvious and basic, but life is fast and there are some things we just plain forget to tell our children. Have you heard the lesson about listening for the road when you’re lost in the woods? How about listening for a car coming when you’re riding your bike on the road?

When talking with others, listening is key in becoming smarter. In fact, if you shut your mouth and let the other person talk, you’re already smart. People who talk a lot generally have lower self-esteem. Just know that gives you an understanding and a direction in how to navigate the conversation. While you’re listening to others talk, ask them questions, be curious, they obviously need something, and having you listen to them is just what they might need. This, folks, is smart. Help your friend get out what they need to and help them come to their own conclusion in solving their problem.

“Listen with curiosity. Speak with honesty. Act with integrity. The greatest problem with communication is we don’t listen to understand. We listen to reply. When we listen with curiosity, we don’t listen with the intent to reply. We listen for what’s behind the words.”

― Roy T. Bennett

Tips with listening

Tip #1: If you’re in a strange place, unplug the earbuds. Pay attention to the sounds around you.

Tip #2: If you’re having a conversation with someone, listen to what they’re trying to tell you. There is more behind the words they say. Like when I was enduring the sickness. People understood that what I was really telling them was that I felt alone and needed comfort. Be aware of what they’re really trying to say, then act on it.

Tip #3: As in fishing or hunting, use your ears for clues of where they are. Is there a splash in the water? Are there leaves rustling or twigs snapping?

In conclusion

Be aware of the peace that is offered daily by nature, the kindness that is freely given by others, and the small blessings that are awarded without reason. This, my friends, is how to be smart. I encourage you to stop and look around; for I know you’ll be amazed by what you see and find and to build this skill as much as possible, for it will help you in more ways than one.

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

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 hard to buy for people. 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

Comfort

When it comes to gifts for travelers, especially for the RV or camping trips. The LapLander is a sure win. What tends to hurt the most on people? Their back. What is the biggest pain when traveling in the car? Eating in the car. This product is a great companion for any trip. Whether commuting to work or heading out on a cross-country road trip, the LapLander brings support to the lumbar and various other ways!

laplander uses
LapLander Uses
https://simplifyfirefly.com/laplander/
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For sore feet, a pair of Crocs works. 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.

Gift ideas for really hard-to-buy people

If there is really nothing you can think of I resort to a combination of a fun snack like beef jerky or fancy mixed nuts along with Lottery Scratch-Off tickets. Yep. I know some folks have mixed feelings about the lottery tickets, but I’m just telling you what I’ve done before. And, actually, one of the tickets I gave to someone for a gift won $85 bucks! This is great for Father’s Day.

Hold up! That’s not all. Something that is practical yet personal is a nice pen or two. People use pens every day, why not give them a really nice one?

More gift ideas for hard to buy people include magazines or a subscription to monthly wine, flower arrangements, or cigars.

Why not print out an amazing quote or verse and put it in a nice frame for their office, dorm room, or home? You can get some amazing ideas and downloads at my Etsy Shop.

Proverbs 31:25

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!

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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 hard to buy people. 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.

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.
click for details
  • 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.
click for details

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?

teen planner

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.

The Best Christmas Gift for Kids.

The Best Christmas Gift for Kids.

The proven no-fail Christmas gift for kids

Making Christmas special is what most parents aim for with their kids. What I’m about to share is something I wished I had learned years ago with my son. It’s the proven, no-fail Christmas gift that is sure to make every Christmas special.

Presents!

Christmas is a time of giving and receiving. We all know this. And the stores love this! I’ve been sucked into Black Friday, store sales, and crowds; anxiety took residency and what was supposed to be fun turned into frustration. In fact, this year I thought I’d avoid crowds and shop online. It was convenient to shop while eating pancakes, but I soon realized I fell prey to the timed sales and limited deals.

My body temperature increased as the minutes slipped away and my mind swirled not being able to make a decision. Before I knew it I was sweating through my comfy pajamas! What the heck was happening to me? My husband even said, “They got ya!” He got that right. The shopping hoopla had its grip on me. The kick-in-the-pants is that it the time spent got me NOWHERE. In fact, I had taken that whole morning with my face in the computer missing out on hanging with my son and walking our dog. And you know what? I ended up returning half the stuff when they arrived on my doorstep.

Feel the Love.

Don’t me get wrong, gifts are fun to give. Gifting is, in fact, some people’s love language. On a side note, in case you didn’t know, there are five defined love languages and each is unique on its own. If you don’t know your love language or the language of your family members, I highly recommend Gary Chapman’s book, “The Five Love Languages.” Click on the picture below for more details.

The Best Christmas Gift, what is it?

Picking out the ‘perfect’ toy for your child, something that is unexpected and so exciting is where the magic happens…at least in the moment of buying, wrapping, hiding, and then opening. But then what?

Let me put it this way, in five years is your child going to remember that toy she played with? Is she going to even remember who gave it to her? In some cases, she might. But in most cases, she won’t. The real magic isn’t a tangible item, it’s something more valuable.  

family christmas gift

An Ultimate Christmas Story

Let me tell you a story I heard years ago that I wished I absorbed better. Here’s my second chance. I hope you enjoy it.

It was in the early evening of December 20th. A father and his young son were planning a trip to the city. They had a checklist of all the things they wanted to see and do; the big Christmas tree, the street decorations, ice staking at the city center, Christmas cookies at Carla’s Bakery, hot chocolate at the “Reindeer Barn”, and most of all the toy store where the son got to pick out his present. 

The dad was excited to show his son all the sites and to buy him the perfect present at the store. And the son, well, he just couldn’t wait to get to the toy store. He’d say, “Dad let’s do the store first!” The father would reply, “No. We don’t want to carry the gift around all night.” Yet the son persisted throughout the day leading up to the downtown venture. “Dad, I can carry it. I promise I’ll be careful.” We all know the real answer to that, not happening fella. The dad was starting to get a little annoyed that his son only wanted to go to the store, but he reminded himself that he was just a being a kid.

Uh-Oh! Or Not So?

After brushing a fresh blanket of snow off the car, they hopped in their seats and performed their ‘system checks’. “Hat?” the father asked, “Check” replied the son. “Gloves?” “Check”. “Phone?” “Check”. “Wallet?” “Check”. All systems were a go. The key went into the ignition, the dad’s grip got stronger, and turned key upward. Nothing happened. He tried again, but this time he pushed on the gas just to see. Complete quietness. Not even a click. The dad took in a big breath, looked at the son, exhaled and said, “Looks like we need a new plan.”

The son thought the trip was off, no toy store, no nothing. His eyes started to sting and his throat got tight. They headed back inside the house, the son sat on the couch and flipped channels. After about five minutes the dad looked at his son and said, “Grab your boots, we’re not going to let a broken-down car stop us!” They put on their hats, gloves, and coats and started to walk down the sidewalk. The son asked, “Are we going to walk there? It’s so far!” His dad said, “Nope, we’re going to ride the city bus. We’re just walking to the bus stop.”

The best Christmas gift

When the father and son got on the bus, they sat in the middle side by side. The bus driver announced they were headed to the heart of the city, and off they went. During the ride, the son and father played “I spy”, they talked about the silly dog sitting in the seat across the aisle, they looked at Christmas lights on buildings and homes they passed, they played a game of “Would You Rather”, and lots of giggles where shared.  

They made it to the city and saw the beautiful tree. Lights alone the sidewalk sparkled. They ate Christmas cookies and drank hot chocolate. Everything on the list was being checked off. The last stop before heading home was the infamous toy store. The son walked through the doors and his eyes got wide. They spent at least an hour in the store before the son carefully picked out his present. The father with a full heart bought him the gift and they walked back to the bus stop.  

Simplify Firefly Etsy

On the bus ride home the son asked, “Would you rather ride Rudolph or be Rudolph? Would you rather drink one cup of hot chocolate every day for a year or eat 10 candy canes in an hour?” When they arrived at their final stop, they wished the bus driver a Merry Christmas and started to walk home. As the son and father held hands, the dad asks his son, “What were your top three favorite things of the whole night?” The son replied, “Playing ‘Would You Rather’, laughing, and the best of the best was riding the bus with my dad.”

Christmas Love.

This melts my heart. The son didn’t mention the toy; he didn’t mention cookies or hot chocolate. His son said that it was the time his dad spent with him that was the most special.  The dad didn’t see that coming. My friends, ‘time’ is the real magic. It’s a gift that will last a lot longer than a plastic toy or video game for that matter.  

Merry Christmas. May you enjoy many “bus ride” moments this Holiday season.

By Christy Copyright © 2019 Simplify Firefly All Rights Reserved. 

10 Free Things to do on Thanksgiving Weekend

10 Free Things to do on Thanksgiving Weekend

Thanksgiving activities can be more than shopping, tree trimming, football, and food! There are loads of Thanksgiving activities can we do…for FREE! Let’s dive into 10 free activities you can do with your family. I personally love #6. Make this Thanksgiving memorial and fun!

1. Tell Jokes

Jokes can be pretty corny…get it…corny on Thanksgiving! See what I mean? Nothing gets the Thanksgiving table rolling or moaning other than a joke or two. Jokes for kids are great because they’ll probably understand it and join in on the laughs. Need some jokes? Download my Lunchbox Note Jokes! You can cut these up and put them in a hat, then pass them around the table.

2. Write out the things you’re thankful for

Take the time to write out all the things you are thankful for over this year. I know this sounds boring, but it will really help improve your mood and the room. For example, this year our family did a lot of camping. In years past, we would not have done that if it wasn’t for the pandemic, so I am very thankful for all the camping we did this Summer and Fall.  At your meal with your family, go around the table and read some things off the list.

3. What’s your favorite thing about Thanksgiving weekend?

Ask your family members what they like best about the Thanksgiving weekend, is it eating turkey and napping? Christmas shopping? Watching football? Playing football? Decorating for Christmas? So on and so forth. THEN, make those things happen for them in a safe (germ conscience) way; for instance, shop online together instead of going to the store (this one might not be free). Remember everyone enjoys Thanksgiving a little differently, it’s not all about you.

4. Do a little history lesson

Reflect on the first Thanksgiving. Get back to your roots and read about how Thanksgiving came to be. Research together online and have everyone find some fun facts. The History.com site is a good place to start (minus the ads). For kids, check out Kids.NationalGeographic.com. For some Thanksgiving fun facts, Goodhousekeeping.com has a great list of 25 facts. It would be fun to talk about these during dinner or dessert!

5. Movie time!

Pop some popcorn and turn on the movies! Thanksgiving weekend is a great time to kick back and have family movie time. Write down some of your favorite flicks on scraps of paper, put them all in a hat, and have someone pull one out.

6. Bring on the games

Play charades using the Thanksgiving theme. Or bust out the board games. Depending on the age of your kids, embark on The Ultimate Scavenger Hunt Challenge this is perfect for tweens! I have a post where you can download the scavenger hunt challenge. It’s super fun for the entire family!

Scavenger Hunt

7. Turkey Trot

Do your own Turkey Trot. Lace up the running shoes and head outside. Make a common goal, like let’s go three miles. Make your gobble call and get running! Or walk. If you have little kids, simply go for a walk and play I Spy.

8. Bonfire!

Build a bonfire! In fact, the Thanksgiving fun facts would be fun to talk about around the fire.

9. Declutter. Thanksgiving Activities?

On the Saturday after Thanksgiving, while you’re digging out the Christmas decorations, declutter some closets to make room for gifts! This is a wonderful time to declutter and drop donations off at the local donation center. Here’s a post to help you out on how to simplify your stuff! You can find it here.

10. Crafts anyone?

Feeling crafty? Here is a super fun Thanksgiving activity for little ones. There are 40 ideas over at CountryLiving.com that you may want to check out.

I know that some of these free ideas are obvious, however, we all need a little remembering of what we can do. Let’s make the best of this Thanksgiving by doing what we can! What’s even better is that you saved a lot of money and miles on the car.

Simplify Firefly Etsy

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

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 your tweens 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? This adventure keeps the kids busy and the tweens having fun!

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!

Outdoor Activity Kit

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. Yes, an activity for tweens too! Younger kids can be helpers on some of the challenges that are too hard, obviously, that is up to you. You could make adjustments to cater to younger kids. This is a definite fun tween activity when they’re bored.

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.

Simplify Firefly Etsy

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.

9 Gift Ideas to Warm the Body & Soul

9 Gift Ideas to Warm the Body & Soul

Need some amazing gift ideas? This winter is predicted to be a chilly one, let’s keep our bodies and souls nice and toasty. Gifts that make us feel good are a home-run these days. Sure, candles and blankets are flooding the stores; as well as fuzzy socks and scarfs. Try something different this year, choose a gift people will really use and love. Here are nine great gift ideas that will make a lasting impression on them.

9 gift ideas to warm the body and soul

Gift ideas #1: Leg Warmers

Leg warmers were a big hit in the ’80s largely due to the movie Fame and Flashdance; not to mention aerobics. They may have been a fashion statement, but leg warmers are actually very functional and practical if I say so myself! In the 90’s I wore leg warmers to the gym all the time. During that time I was in college and had to walk everywhere, needless to say, I wore shorts. The leg warmers were super easy to slip on and off over my shoes. Today with the leggings craze, I use my leg warmers to walk the dog in the morning. I simply slide them over my leggings on cold days and I’m good to go! Leg warmers are a great gift for people who live in the city and walk to work, for college students walking to the gym, and for the dog owner on cold days. You can get a pair on Amazon and pick your color!

Gift ideas #2: Heating pads

Heating pads. This sounds like an old person. Hear me out though, heating pads are an awesome way to get the blood flowing to the areas of your body to heal. They don’t just naturally ease sore muscles, but they give you peace of mind. Heating pads are portable, which is great for travel or sitting on the couch. There is nothing more comforting than a warm heating pad against your aches and pains. If you don’t have access to a bathtub or hot shower, a heating pad is the next best thing to warm the bones and bring a sense of calm to your heart.

#3: Hot Chocolate (Dairy-free!)

Hot cocoa – Dairy Free. There is nothing more soothing than sipping on a cup of hot cocoa. It not only warms your insides, but it warms up the childhood memories from coming inside after hours of playing in the snow. When I had to go dairy-free, not to mention gluten-free, I couldn’t have hot chocolate anymore. If I did, I would have repercussions that were not worth it. However, I just discovered that Swiss Miss now makes a dairy-free version! And I gotta say, it’s fantastic. If you have a dairy-free friend, a cup of hot cocoa would be a really awesome gift.

#4: Epson Salts (this is my favorite)

Epson Bath Salts: these are my favorite all year round. Epson salts aren’t just for after a chiropractic or massage appointment, they are for everyday use to release your muscle tightness and rid toxins from your body. They even have Epson salts infused with essential oils, which enhance the bath experience and give your body and mind extra care. My personal favorite is Dr. Teals Chamomile. When I smell the scent of these Epson salts my mind immediately releases and melts into the tub. 

#5: Mini Electrical Fireplace

Small electrical fireplace: This might sound silly, but these small electrical fireplaces are so nice to have around. These days, they are very affordable and portable! They are easy to use and instantly bring warmth to your room both physically and mentally. There is nothing better on a cold winter’s day than having the glow of a fireplace. You don’t need a fancy fireplace to get the same warm fuzzies.  What I love about the electrical is that you can turn on the flames without the heat, because sometimes, you might just want the ambiance without the extra heat.

#6: Essential Oils

Essential Oils: essential oils were the craze in the 20-teens, but they are still beneficial for the mind and body. My essential oils are used every day, mainly for mental goodness, but also for sore muscles. I do have my go-to oils, but there are some no-fail oils to give as gifts, like Tea Tree, Lavender, Peppermint, Lemon, and Frankincense. A little bit goes a long way and gives our senses a treat and healing.

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Gift ideas #7: Instrumental Music

William Augusto: Soaking in His Presence instrumental music. I usually don’t say much about music because everyone has their own taste, but this one is a must. When you just want to escape your reality without having to think about lyrics, this album is a keeper. Soaking in His Presence is beautiful, soft, and welcoming. Love, love, love this! When I want to feel closer to God Almighty, I play this music and pray. This is great when you’re driving and just need a minute to relax and calm your road rage. 😊

#8: LapLander cushion

LapLander: speaking of being in the car. The LapLander is a product that literally everyone could use. It’s a soft cushion with a non-slip strip. It’s designed to place it on your lap so you can put your food on it…without it slipping off. It keeps your food on your lap, not in your lap. The LapLander is very versatile. It can be used to give you more support on your lumbar, a softer cushion to sit on, or even a pillow. It’s a great gift for RVer’s, travelers, campers, tailgaters, commuters, and family road trippers. I personally make this and sell it on Etsy!

laplander

Gift ideas #9: Silk Pillowcase

Silk pillowcase: this has been a game-changer in my sleep…for the better. A silk pillowcase is not only soft and cool, but it’s actually good for your hair! My husband even loves them. I know that a silk pillowcase sounds a little cheesy, but it is the bomb. If you don’t have one yet, I encourage you to get one for yourself!

Wrapping it up!

In wrapping up these great gift ideas, I’m sure you found at least one of them to be a perfect fit for your friend or family member. Who doesn’t want a little warmth to the heart and bones after two years of constant change and uncertainty? Note: these gifts can not only be for Christmas gifts, but for Mother’s Day gifts, Father’s Day, Birthday gift ideas, and even gifts to mend a broken heart. May these gift ideas refresh and bring joy to yourself and those you care about. Surprise someone with one of these thoughtful gifts.

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By CT Copyright © 2021 Simplify Firefly. All Rights Reserved.

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