Tips for Finding a Daycare Provider

Selecting a daycare provider is one of the hardest things a parent will ever do, regardless of the reason for why you are doing it. Some of us have to work for financial reasons (like me) or because we know our mental health would never hold up to staying home (like me) or just because we enjoy working (like me).

Tips for Finding a Daycare Provider

Whatever your reason, here are some tips for selecting a daycare provider:


  1.  Know what you want… All daycare providers are different. Some are strict, some are relaxed, some have a learning focused environment, some of them focus on play. It is important to have an idea of what type of environment you want for your children before you start your research. One of the reasons I fell in love with my first daycare was because when I did a tour the infant room teacher was sitting on the floor with babies crawling all over her while she loved and hugged on them. That’s what I wanted for my baby.


  1.  Know where they are… I did a Google search for daycare centers for the town where I live and where I work. I looked at all of the neighborhoods to see what centers would be convenient for me and ruled out areas that I knew would not work. (Let’s be real. All towns have at least one bad neighborhood.) This allowed me to cut down my list of potential centers.


  1.  Know the law… In Texas all of the regulations are posted on the internet. Go to your state licensing agency and read the rules and regulations before you schedule a tour at potential centers. That way when you walk in you will be able to spot if they are doing anything blatantly against the rules, like not having enough people assigned per age group.


  1.  Know where they stand… Texas also posts all reviews online so that you can find the deficiencies for all of the schools that interest you. Do be aware that the auditors that go into these locations are super, super picky and will write up tiny things and make them sound really bad. So while this can be good information, read it with a judgmental eye.


  1.  Know what your friends know… Ask everyone you know every question you can think of. No question is too large or small. You can learn more by asking people you trust than you ever will through any other method.


  1.  Know when it is time to move… One center may not always fit your needs. In the beginning I loved the center we where we were. As my daughter got older her needs changed, and also management changed. I was not happy with things for awhile. It took me a long time to make a decision about moving my children. Some of the workers there were like family. They rocked my babies to sleep, potty trained them, taught them their ABC’s… But still. There comes a time when you have to listen to your heart. When that time comes you need to be sure to follow your intuition.


Do you have any tips for finding a daycare provider?

Jennifer Williams is a full-time working  mom of two kids. You can find her at her blog and Facebook.

Quick Tip Tuesday: Keep Track of Library Books!

Deborah Gilboa of is full of great parenting advice, and she has today’s Quick Tip Tuesday: how to keep track of library books.

Quick Tip Tuesday: Keep Track of Library Books!


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Quick Tip Tuesday- work intervals using a timer

Quick Tip Tuesday is just what it sounds like…a super quick way to make your life easier, more manageable, more organized, more SOMETHING. Simple, yet effective. Ingenious even. If you love it, pin and share it!

Read more Quick Tip Tuesday tips!

Five Tips for Keeping the House Clean

One of my girlfriends recently announced she’s pregnant. With another baby in the house, she’ll be chasing two sweeties around. She called out to me via Facebook, “How do you keep up with two babies all day long!?” I replied with a reminder that in the summer, I have three kids that I chase around (since the oldest is home from school) plus the two dogs, the old cat, and my adorable husband (who is also home for the summer as a high school teacher).

Things get really busy and really messy very quickly in this house. If I don’t follow some of my own suggestions, I literally feel like my head is going to explode. So, to keep that mess from happening, I follow these five basic tips for keeping the house clean.


1. Keep a basket in each room – I learned this from a friend when my oldest was born. We keep a basket to catch toys in each of the main rooms of our house. Eventually, we go back through these baskets to put things in their actual specified locations, but the baskets help to have somewhere for things to live when we’re cleaning quickly.

2. Rotate the toys in and out of usage – With multiple kids, we end up with way too many toys (thanks, Grandma). We have begun to remove some of these toys from view by using a large plastic bucket. They stay away from the kids for a few weeks (or months if we forget) and then come back out and are – voila! – like brand new toys! This keeps the sheer volume of fake plastic eggs at bay.

3. Do a load of laundry every day – If you’ve never heard of the FlyLady, seek her out. She has phenomenal suggestions for how to keep your house clean. One that I try to follow is to do a load of laundry every day. This plan has worked well for our family of five in keeping the piles in our hampers lower than they used to be. She also says that even if you don’t have a full load to do because you have caught up (Yay, you!), find something to clean. There’s bound to be a bedspread or tablecloth that could use a spin in the washer.

4. Play the night time clean up game – Call it whatever you want, but get the kids involved. Today, I bought a large green basket for our living room (the old basket had seen its final days), and the kids were excited to fill it up with all of the items that had been removed since nap time. If you can make the cleaning fun, you’ll find that the kids may actually want to do it. I also find that they love a little friendly competition with a timer.

5. Run the dishwasher before you go to bed – My husband wants to install a second dishwasher. I keep telling him it’s unnecessary. So, we started running the dishwasher every night before we went to bed. This lets us go to bed with a clean kitchen and wake up to fresh clean dishes. Then, we can clean the dishwasher out and start filling again (since it never ends and these kids always want food).

What suggestions do you have for keeping the mess to a minimum?

Five FREE Summer Activities

Ah summer.

The kids are home and all of a sudden work output decreases because there are children under foot and in the cupboards and needing all the things. So what do you do with these kids that doesn’t cost you an arm, leg, and the neighbor’s dog?  Well, since I am on a tight no budget around here, I have developed a list of the five FREE things we do to tire out entertain the kiddos during the dog days of summer.




1. The Park

We are super fortunate to live in an area that has an almost endless number of parks. My boys are 5 and 2 and most of the parks around here are just big enough that they don’t get bored, but small enough that I can see everything from one bench. So I get to park myself in the shade while the boys play. The boys like the park because it’s a change of scenery from our backyard. There is tons to explore. We usually go in the morning around 10am, and we tend to have the park mostly to ourselves. When we leave just before lunch, it’s starting to load up with kids.

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2. Playdates

Playdates are the ultimate way to shift the responsibility of Entertainment Coordinator from yourself onto other kids. Plus it’s a nice way to have adult conversation with someone. The range of playdates we have varies. We have impromptu ones with neighborhood moms/kids, we have planned ones with cousins, and we have evening ones as a family with another family.  The kids LOVE playing with other kids and it’s MUCH needed time with another adult for me.

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3. The Library

We are big fans of reading around here, but the library is more than that. Our library has lots of events for kids. Plus we live near two different libraries (one has two branches near us, so really three buildings). We have something called the Zee Bus too that is an old school bus tripped out to be a mobile library. It has regular stops at parks in the area. For instance this week Curious George was at one of our library branches. Free fun AND books!



4. Local Events

We are fortunate to live in an area that has lots of free things to do. Every Monday night there is a Feel the Zeel night (we live in Zeeland, Michigan) that has balloons, water fun, and lots more that is family friendly. Thursday nights our neighboring town has a street performer series that is free. There is also a concert series in one of our local parks. It might take a little research, but many towns and cities have free family events.

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5. Your Own Backyard

Sometimes the backyard is the most fun thing. While I like to get the kids out of the house and out trying new things, some days our own yard can provide hours of fun. It’s not like our backyard is anything special either. We have a small clubhouse thing, a water table, and a sandbox, but on special days when my boys actually play nice together, they can pretend and imagine for hours out there.  Those are my favorite days because they mean a little peace and quiet for me to either work or read a book.

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Did I miss anything? Any free activities that you would add to this list?

Four Tips For Surviving the Summer Schedule

For nine months of the year, my daily routine is pretty set. Since I teach high school, I would say it’s even more structured than most people since a bell drives my deadlines and tells me when I can npee each hour. But in the summer, I am suddenly thrown into the unstructured world of the Stay (and Work) at Home Mom.

While I don’t have grading and lesson plans during the summer, I still have writing deadlines, social media work, and various school-related items that need to be done. Lots of people like to say, “You must have so much more time now that school is out!”

Actually, I have less.  I don’t have in between classes, an hour-long planning period, a 30-minute duty-free lunch, or after school work time anymore. There are small kids with me all of the time–there is one hanging on my arm right at this second, actually–but I have a few things that makes working from home a little less anxiety-ridden.

Keep it Structured

My kids thrive on knowing what is coming next. We have the days of the week posted on our slider door and each Sunday, Eddie (five) and I use post-it notes to put up what we can look forward to on each day.


Surviving the Summer Schedule


Each day is also structured. I get up at 7am before the kids and usually have anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour before one of them gets up. I use this time to check/respond to emails, drink my first cup of coffee, and review the To Do list for the day.

Breakfast is by 9am, and by 10am we are out the door for our daily “adventure”.  Lunch is around noon and Charlie’s (two) nap is by 2pm until about 4pm This is “quiet time” in our house. I usually work and Eddie does a project, plays outside by himself, or watches a movie.  After nap we all usually play outside (weather permitting) until my husband gets home by 5pm.

Go Somewhere

Each day we have an “adventure”. This can be anything from playing outside by our own house to going to the zoo. This week our adventures included getting groceries, having a playdate, having Granny come over (I had an appointment), going with me to the chiropractor, and checking out books at the library.  Our adventure always takes place in the morning so that we are home for lunch/nap/quiet time.

This “adventure” is meant to get the kids out of the house and moving. It is time that we get to spend together without being “plugged in” to anything.


Surviving the Summer Schedule


Our adventures are planned based on what we need to get done during the week and what I think will be fun for the kids. Errands are not usually the most fun, but if I can pair them with a play area (like at the mall) or a trip to a park, things can be more successful.

Get Rid of the Kids

Ok, I am sort of kidding on this one, but I do send my kids to daycare one day a week. If I didn’t have that, I would probably hire a mommy’s helper at least one day a week to play with the kids while I work. That one “relief” day means I can run errands, make phone calls, and write without interruption from 7am until I pick them up at 4pm.

Have Realistic Expectations

The hardest thing for me is to not over-book myself on any given day with deadlines.

During the school year, my computer is on at work all day. I can check my emails (and other social media) during passing time or on my planning period. Having my computer constantly open at home is not realistic. It is distracting to me, and therefore taking time away from my kids.

I’ve learned that once breakfast is over, so is any chance of getting work done until nap/quiet time. After quiet/nap time, my next time would be after they are in bed for the night. Sometimes I get extra work time (like if they want to do a movie morning and they are occupied with that), but I never count on it.

Is this similar to your work at home schedule? What helps keep you productive while the kids are around?

Katie Sluiter is a full-time high school teacher, mom of two boys, and writer at

Father’s Day Recipe: Steak with Blue Cheese Sauce

Hello fellow work-at-home moms! Would you like an idea for dinner that takes ten minutes to make and will have your husband thinking you are a rock star? Introducing . . . steak with blue cheese sauce!


You’ll need a thick steak for each of you. Like this.

Steak with blue cheese sauce from A Lady in France


This recipe is just for two people, and I tend to make this for a romantic dinner, rather than to serve it as a family meal. You’ll also need some oregano, salt and pepper, as well as sour cream and blue cheese.

Alright, getting on to what to do! Heat up a lightly-oiled skillet until it just starts to smoke. It’s important that the pan is hot.

Put the steaks on, and sprinkle the salt, pepper and herbs.

Steak with blue cheese sauce from A Lady in France

Steaks usually taste better rare, but if you have an aversion to it, you can cook your steak longer. For this steak, rare would be 2-3 minutes on one side and 1-2 minutes on the other. Once you turn the steaks over, add salt to the other side as well.

While the steak is cooking, put 2 tablespoons of blue cheese and 2 tablespoons of sour cream in a bowl. Microwave it for 45 seconds to a minute. After that, your sauce is ready!

Steak with blue cheese sauce from A Lady in France

Spoon your sauce over your steak, and serve it hot.

Steak with blue cheese sauce from A Lady in France


See how the juice from the steak blends with the sauce? You can mop that up with bread if you really want to be in culinary paradise.

Steak with blue cheese sauce from A Lady in France

Really, truly, you cannot go wrong with this. Unless you’re a vegetarian.

You can serve the steak with green beans, or oven French fries, or bread, followed by a green salad. If you are a wine drinker, you serve this with red wine, room temperature.

You’ll love the no-fuss approach.

Steak with blue cheese sauce from A Lady in France

And your husband will love you.


Jennie Goutet is the author of A Lady in France, a memoir of grief, faith and hope. And she blogs at about faith and French stuff – including food.  Jennie is a work-at-home mother of three, who feels like she can never seem to get anything done.


Summer Birthday Party Ideas

Summer birthday parties are a blast, but sometimes it’s hard to think of new, fun ideas that kids and adults will all enjoy. The beauty of summer birthdays is that there are so many different things to do and themes to try (how many Frozen birthday parties can a kid go to, anyway?). Here’s a round up of some of the best summer birthday party ideas:

1. A water party

When it’s hot out and you want to save money but you don’t want everyone in your house, take it outside and get them wet!

Four ideas for a fun water-filled summertime birthday party


2. Camping

Whether your party supplies and decor are camping-themed or you have an actual, overnight camp out, stock up on the S’mores and set up a tent (or two!).

3. Watermelon-palooza

Everybody loves the cool, refreshing treat and they’re easy to find in the grocery stores. But you don’t have to cut up a watermelon and stop there! Make these super cute watermelon cupcakes, grab some pink, black, and green party plates, napkins, and cups have fun!

watermelon cupcake for a watermelon-themed summer birthday


4. Ocean Love

That’s Vandy has the cutest ocean-themed party up on her blog, complete with costumes, decor, games, and food! And what goes better with the summer heat, water, and kids besides all things ocean?

the best summer birthday party themes

5. Fiesta!

See Vanessa Craft has a site chock-full of fun tutorials, crafts, and party ideas, including a whole series on fiesta party goodies! What’s great about a fiesta is that you can really mix and match bright, vibrant colors, so it’s easy to find the supplies you need.

the best summer birthday party ideas

6. Rainbow Party

Another easy party to put together is a rainbow party. Food, decorations, and dessert center around the colors of the rainbow. You can even make one of the super popular (especially on Pinterest) rainbow cakes, or just bake up some different colored cupcakes or use white frosting and sprinkles. Easy peasy!

7. Night time Fireworks extravaganza!

If the birthday is close to the fourth of July and city/county laws allow it, have a party at night. Decorate with red, white, and blue, eat berries, grill, and shoot of some fireworks! Bonus: the temperature will be getting lower by the time it gets dark.

8. Fish plus Favorite Snacks: Goldfish Party

See Vanessa Craft also has a super fun Goldfish party tutorial. Combine everybody’s favorite snack and the ever-popular water theme, and you’ve got this adorable summer birthday party idea.

summer birthday party ideas


Whatever you choose as your summer birthday party theme, use it as a jumping off point and head to Pinterest for more fun details!

Quick Tip Tuesday: Grocery Store Delegating

For Quick Tip Tuesday this week, Dani Stone (of is sharing how she gets grocery shopping done faster….with grocery store delegating!

Delegate grocery store tasks to get the shopping done faster!


If you’re in the store with kids that are old enough to leave your sight for a few minutes at a time, give each of them a short list of specific grocery items to go grab. They won’t get bored, and you’re trip will be done much faster. You can even let them write out their own lists ahead of time, going off of your master list, to include them in the process even more.

Quick Tip Tuesday!

Four Fantastic Ideas for a Water-Filled Birthday Party

Those lucky kids with summer birthdays have a lot more options when it comes to party ideas with the warmer weather bringing the opportunity for all sorts of outdoor fun, including a water-tastic event. From water parks and community pools to backyard water balloon fights, these water-filled birthday party ideas will help make the celebration one that the birthday girl or boy will never forget.

Four ideas for a fun water-filled summertime birthday party

Backyard waterworld

If you want to keep the party at home, how about creating a waterpark in your own backyard? You don’t need to have a pool and it’s a great way to keep the kids cool and entertained on a hot summer day. If you already have water toys, bust them out, otherwise you can purchase some new ones on a budget, like a Slip ‘N Slide, a wading pool and even a basic sprinkler. You can plan a “Pirates of the Caribbean” or “Little Mermaid” theme to add to the fun, decorating accordingly.

One of the benefits of a swimming pool party is using it for the games. The kids can play things like water tag using a splash ball to tag other players. Just throw the ball and whoever the ball hits becomes the new “it.” Or, you might have a Rubber Ducky Race with each child pushing a floating rubber duck from one side of the pool to the other using their nose. The first duck to reach the other side is the winner.

If you’d rather put the birthday budget to other use, there are a ton of free outdoor water games you can play with simply a hose and some items you’d find around the house (sponges, buckets, bubble bath, etc.) A lot of families prefer to go the route of building a waterpark in the backyard to keep costs down and make the birthday party location more convenient for the guests.

Waterpark getaway

A birthday getaway is always a fun idea and what better way to celebrate than by taking the guest of honor, the family, and perhaps a friend or two to a waterpark? Of course, taking an entire group would get pricey pretty quick, but if you live in the Midwest, it may be more affordable than you think. Wisconsin Dells is a prime vacation spot with more than 20 waterpark hotels. Better yet, most of the resorts offer discounted seasonal packages. For example, the Atlantis Waterpark Hotel & Suites package includes free passes to Chula Vista Waterpark and Noah’s Ark Waterpark with your stay in addition to having its own pool and a poolside bar for the grownups. There are lots of other things to do in the area as well, including magic shows, zipline tours, duck rides, and more.

Community pool party

Many cities and small towns across the country have public community pools that are available for pool parties. In fact, in addition to a swimming pool that the kids can splash around in, they may offer packages that include lunch, drinks, cake and ice cream. All you have to do is create the invitations and show up, easing the stress of party planning as well as hosting, not to mention clean up.

How To Stop Kids From Tattling (Video Tip)

How to stop kids from tattling

Dr. G is back with a great tip on how to stop kids from tattling. Summer break, when all the kids are home and playing together more is such a tough time for tattling! All of the “quality time” together leads to arguing, bickering, and yes, telling on each other. Dr. G has a straight-forward way to cut way back on it, though. Thanks, Dr. G!

Find more helpful parenting videos from Dr. G (Debi Gilboa or @askdrg) on her YouTube page.