Cleaning Tips and Tricks: Wash Less Dishes

Once upon a time, three little kids used a cup at breakfast, another at lunch, a third at dinner and then 47 more throughout the day whenever they needed something to drink.   By noon, their weary mother had an avalanche of dishes. By 5:00 p.m. the family was out of cups and the weary momma had to wash them. You see, she was a rather busy momma, homeschooling her kids, taking them to tromp through creeks, pinning cleaning tips and tricks from Pinterest that she never got around to using and accidentally becoming an assistant scout leader.  She had no time for all these dishes.

So she invented the “My Cup Today” system and has been using it successfully for at least two years. She can’t remember exactly when she made it but, for ages now, people have been coming to her home and remarking about how clever it is. In fact, she just made a lovely set for her friend Janice, who also prefers not to do dishes. She will now share with you, the easy 3-step process, so that you, too, can do less dishes.

How to Wash Less Dishes

  1. Take cardstock and trace a glass for each person in the family and write their name below their circle.
    my cup today tracemy cup today write names
  2. Laminate it.*
    best laminator ever
    *And now, a word from our sponsor. Well, actually, it’s an Amazon affiliate link. This awesome laminator  has gotten a workout in the Creekside house for the last two years and it’s still going strong [link is to the updated version]. Paired with Scotch Thermal Laminating Pouches, you will be ready to laminate schoolwork, important documents and possibly, one of the children.
    laminator and Scotch laminating sheets
  3. Put it on the kitchen counter and say to your kids, “Children, you may use one glass per day. When you’re not using your glass, it goes on the circle. Rinse your glass after you drink something, unless it is water.” (Or rinse it for them if they’re itty bitty.)
    My Cup Today system to reduce doing dishes

That’s it.

The laminated sheets wash easily, right in the sink, so clean up is simple.
my cup today laminated sheets wash up easily

If you want to be vey fancy, you could make these on your computer and print them out in pretty fonts on fancy paper that matches your kitchen decor.  You show off, you.

My Cup Today system

Follow the Clean the house! board on Pinterest. It’s full of awesome ideas that I totally am gonna use someday. What? I am!

Thank you to our sponsor, Brave Writer.

How To Combine Homeschooling and Special Needs Therapies (Without Losing Your Mind)

Does this sound familiar?  How will you fit in math, therapy exercises and an OT appointment after breakfast and reading, Speech and preschool work for your younger child in the afternoon, and oh, yeah, they need to play with their friends and go outside and just be kids and then there are meals to fix and a house to clean and therapy exercises and baths before bed and more books to read and something you need to research on the computer after they go to bed but you forgot what it was because your brain no longer works at this time of day and you are Just. So Tired.  

We’re doing so much to give our kiddos what they need while also meeting the needs of the rest of the family, and trying to take care of ourselves in the process (maybe).  We won’t actually lose our minds, but it just really feels like that sometimes, doesn’t it?

I was a homeschooling mom who went from one special needs kid who pretty much had things under control to having a second child completely in crisis and a preschooler along for the ride.  I felt overwhelmed as to how to fit special therapies, a sensory diet and other activities into our already busy life of learning.

But I saw and read about strong mommas doing it all around me, and I marveled, learned from them, soaked it up. I’m no expert at this, for sure. We’ve only been at this a year but I’ve learned a lot in that year. I’m sure I’ll learn more.

I have a friend who is already spending many hours a day with therapies, exercises and activities for her special needs toddler and wondering how in the world she is going to fit homeschooling into that when her daughter is older.

Our family adjusted and hers will too. So will yours, if you find yourself in a similar place. Already been doing this for a while? I’d love to hear more from you.  Please leave a comment about how you combine homeschooling and special needs home therapies or activities.


Do Whatever You Can at the Same Time

Guess what? There’s a name for this. It’s called “embedding therapy into every day life”.  Christie Kiley, who blogs at MamaOT, told me that. She advocates a realistic approach of “weaving” therapies with learning and combining them with other therapies because there simply aren’t enough hours in the day.

Examples of embedding:

My daughter is learning to skip count but she also has motor-planning issues to work on so we made it into a game that combines both:  Indoor Hopscotch. The numbers on the board are what she is working on and she is learning how to hop on one foot, then two, then one, then two.

Anything that needs to be counted (jumping on a trampoline, taking steps, throwing a ball, crossing the midline in a pattycake game) can be utilized for math, whether your child is learning to count to twenty, to count by 5’s, or to memorize multiplication tables.


My daughter has also begun horseback riding to work on her trunk strength, motor planning and sensory sensitivities. As far as she’s concerned, she’s riding because she loves horses. This wonderful obsession with horses has inspired her, for the first time, to choose non-fiction books from the library. We read about horses every day. She makes lists of types of horses and writes her own books on how to care for them. We call that Language Arts in our house.

Don’t feel like you have to do it all.

Prioritize in both school and therapy areas.  When my daughter was first diagnosed with SPD, we cut way back on her academics. She was in crisis. She needed to stabilize. Our main focus needed to be going to OT appointments, doing therapeutic activities at home every day and for me, learning as much as I possibly could  about her diagnosis and how to help her.

You don’t have to follow the public school’s time table as to when your child needs to learn which subject, which skill, etc. and this has never been clearer for me than when I felt overwhelmed with the combination of home therapies and homeschooling. We also learn all year long, taking breaks when we need to, schooling more lightly in the summer so we can go to the pool and hang out with our publicly schooled friends more.

Don’t volunteer for more stuff, join more groups or take on caring for other people’s kids or adopt six more pets. You are in service to your child and to do it well, and care for the rest of your family and yourself, you can’t take on more.

Any kid you have that can do schoolwork independently, have them do it. I like working with my 9 year old, and I could literally do that all day, lounging on the couch reading endlessly and solving math problems together and looking up stuff on the internet, but I can’t. I need him, more and more, to do what he can on his own. We have time together each day, of course, but my other kids need me. His sister’s special needs are a big darn deal right now and his four-year-old brother needs to learn some stuff, too, rather than just watching LeapFrog Letter Factory and playing with trains all day, which pretty much sums up most days of his preschool year last year.

Get your spouse more involved, even just a little. Involved in school or involved in therapies. My husband took over part of one subject with my 9 year old last year. It was a huge help. They read together one evening a week and did a project together.

My husband is a pretty involved parent but he doesn’t go to the OT appointments with the kids or read all the stuff about their diagnoses that I do. But, finding myself completely exhausted and low on patience with the kids at the end of the day, I appealed to him to learn how to do some of their therapy exercises and do them in the evenings with the kids. They thought this was great fun to have Daddy time with him on the floor and I had some much needed time to myself. Note: You will have to resist the urge to jump in, because he might not be doing things “quite right”. Learn to go with the “close enough” approach and pour yourself a glass of wine or go out and get a pedicure. Much more therapeutic for the whole family, especially the momma.

Don’t do school every day. Last school year, we did not do school on Mondays. Monday was OT day for my older two kids, it involved us driving 30 to 40 minutes each way, depending on traffic and two hours at the therapists office. That took our entire morning. We got into the routine of eating lunch afterwards at a restaurant with a play place because even after 2 hours of therapy, you would think my kids would be tired, but nope. Then we would  stop at a new-to-us library on the way home each week to return books and get new ones. That was plenty of activity for all of us for the day. School started on Tuesdays.

Don’t do all subjects every year. Yup. It’s true. We don’t do that. Not because of therapy but because it’s kind of a rhythm we fell into. We’ve gotten really into our history studies, the kids wanted more so we went with that and just never really fit in the science curriculum we planned to use. Luckily, these things have no expiration date so I put it on the shelf and didn’t worry about it. It seemed more important to have a history intensive year. Next year we’ll have a science intensive year. Don’t worry. In the meantime I let them watch a lot of Bill Nye the Science Guy videos on the car’s DVD player while I drove them to therapy appointments so I don’t feel bad that they didn’t get any science this year. That’s my Get Out Of Guilt Free card right there.  You can have one, too.

Bring therapeutic activities into your home.

After watching a specialist working with my child for a while, watching friends who worked with their own children, reading other blogs about special needs kids and seeing cool stuff on Pinterest, I picked up a few things. Safely incorporating those into our home has been helpful. For example, my daughter needs more tactile input to address her sensory sensitivities so I put an indoor sandbox in our house. I’ve gotten a lot of comments on various social networks about how insane that is, but mostly because people think it’s messy (it’s not, I promise). It works for us.

My kids frequently choose to use exercise balls to sit on instead of chairs. This strengthens their core and helps them focus on balance. And we will be adding more things this fall, consulting with our OT on what would best suit our everyday needs, things like a platform swing and a scooter board. David’s Mom over at Laughing With Aspergers has a great post about how she learned to bring Occupational Therapy into their home. 

Rebekah at The Golden Gleam is homeschooling her kids, some with special needs.  They do in home therapies in the mornings and their schooling in the afternoon. Appointments with therapists are easier to get in the early part of the day, with most clients needing appointments after public and private schools let out.  She does art projects with her kids while one child is having an in-home therapy.

Another momma who is homeschooling her special needs child and writing about is Tabitha over at Meet Penny. She has lots of posts about homeschooling with autism, including how to teach specific skills and where to find resources for doing activities and exercises in your home to help your child.

More on this topic…  I’m planning to write more posts about other parents who are homeschooling special needs kiddos with practical advice on how they do it. Of course, sometimes my best blogging plans don’t actually get to the blog, because I get distracted by other cool stuff I want to write about.  So, if you want to read more about this, tell me. That will motivate me to follow through. What would you like to know from the mommas who are in the trenches?


Parenting Inspiration: Peaceful, Mindful, and Connected

I-am-Abundant-MamaSo sometimes I make these elaborate and creative learning activities for my kids but then I’m in a grouchy mood and I don’t have nearly as much patience as I’d like and I grump and fuss at my kids.  And I realize that, when it comes down to it, my kids are more likely to remember that mommy was moody and grouchy than the super duper fun science or history project.

Sure, I know we all get in bad moods and we can’t be patient with our kids all of the time. But I want to be more patient.  And less fussy at my kids. I want to show them more kindness and love and gratitude. I’ve been working on it and I’m getting better at it. I’m a work in progress and I’ve found some new inspiration.

Lately, I’ve been savoring a new (to me) blog during the quiet moments I have in the morning before my husband and kids wake up. Just me and my mug of coffee and my yellow Lab at my feet, having just had her breakfast. I’m reading Awesomely Awake.

Shawn Leddington Fink and her collaborators write some amazing and inspiring stuff on how to parent more mindfully and peacefully, how to play more with your kids and truly connect, how to not yellhow say yes more often, and this post, which inspired me most of all: setting a daily intention for what kind of day I truly want to have.


And she has something else. Her Abundant Mama project. I’m signing up for it and I’d love for you to join me. Here’s what it is:

This 5-week e-course is designed to inspire Mamas to create their own daily gratitude practice — a new perspective on their life and family. It will bring new life to old routines. It will strengthen the bonds you have in your relationships. It will provide comfort on those challenging days. It will add a little bling to the ordinary.

Here’s how it works:

You receive one to two weekly emails with inspiration and several writing prompts “to get you thinking and writing about the goodness in your life and really fun, meaningful family activities to get the whole family in on the fun.”

The focus is on becoming aware of and appreciating the abundance in your life right now. I know I will learn and grow with this project as I’ve already received so much from reading the other wonderful ideas on Awesomely Awake.

You can find more information and sign up for Shawn’s Abundant Mama Project here. 


Disclosure: I’m receiving The Abundant Mama course for free in exchange for writing about it. But you know what? I would’ve gladly paid for it. So go check it out. And consider joining me on this journey. 

The Secret to Happy Kids (and Dogs, Too)

Want to know what makes my kids come alive, use all of their senses, stop fighting (for the most part), and work as a team to help each other with challenges?  It’s this:

I so want to get outside every day this winter, unless its ridiculously cold. Each year I say this. I say I’ll bundle the kids up, go out for a half an hour, and we’ll run around to keep warm and we’ll play.  Truthfully, the kids would probably go for it, but I always chicken out.

This year I thought maybe I could do 15 minutes. But on day 1 of my plan, it was super cold and windy.  Amy, a homeschooling momma with far more experience that I, advised that we spend our 15 minutes looking out the window and noticing things, then drink hot chocolate. I am pretty sure she is a Naturalist at an actual Nature Center so I considered this very sound professional advice and we did just that.

And wouldn’t you know it, as we gazed out, it started to snow. Tons of flakes swirling around in the wind, sticking to everything in sight.  “I feel like I’m in a snow globe, Mommy!”, Firefly said smiling, looking out the window and up at the sky.  Little birds scurried around on the ground underneath the feeders. It was just us and those few little birds and the swirling, rushing snow.

Hot chocolate forgotten, kids and dog darted out the front door and ran around in the front yard. They were back in a flash for coats and mittens, then out again.  Then just as quickly as it had begun, it was gone. Wind swooshed in and blew the snowflakes around.  Landing on what must’ve been warmer streets, patios, and earth, they disappeared. We retreated back inside.  For two, maybe three days. I lost count.

Then it happened. Unseasonably warm weather. Sixty degree days. Two of them in a row.  We would make up for lost time. We grabbed the dog and her tennis ball and headed for the woods the first day.  The second day, today, we went here:

A new place for us. So much to explore. Full of new rocks to climb, new paths to take, little fish swimming in the water, and so much more.  They didn’t want to leave.

Here’s the dog just before she ran out onto an even longer dock and flung herself into the water.

She’s sleeping now, beside me as I type, all curled up and smelling of wet, happy dog.

I feel so grateful for these two warm, unseasonable days. Maybe the key to getting out in the winter is to just get as much as we can, when we can, and let it sustain us for those cold, cold days.  Hmmmm, I don’t know. We’ll keep at it and let you know how it goes.

Linking up with:
Fun Stuff Fridays

Smooth Mornings

I grew weary of asking my 6 year old, “Did you brush your teeth?” every morning.  I grew even wearier of battling with the 4 year old to do each one of her morning tasks (go potty, get dressed, etc.).  So I was looking for a new system.  I found some great things on line and in catalogs, but nothing for under $20.  Per kid.  Twenty dollars. Well, I have 3 kids so I decided to design my own Morning Routine Posters.

{This post contains affiliate links.}

Plus, I was itching to use my newly acquired laminator.  I love my  Laminator. Here she is, isn’t she beautiful?

I also love velcro dots.  Oh, the many, many uses of the velcro dot.

Here’s how the Morning Routine Posters work:  Each child has their own poster with disks, one disk for each task they need to complete.  The disks start on the “To Do” or red side of the poster.

As they complete a task, they move the corresponding disk to the “Done” or green side of the poster.  It doesn’t matter to me what order they do these things in, as long as they get done before they go off to play.  When they finish all of their tasks, they can then move their “Green Light. Go play!” disk to the “Done” side.  This is absolutely their favorite part! I included it as an afterthought and didn’t imagine how much they would love moving that green light to the “Done” side, then running off to play.

This has truly increased their responsibility for completing tasks in the morning and decreased my need for nagging them.  I can simply glance up from the dishes at the sink or the diaper changing table and see if they are “Done” or not, and redirect them back to their posters as necessary.  This has honestly given me a little more time in the morning to read my Facebook and drink more coffee clean up the house.

One trick I am using is to simplify for my 6 year old as a way of modeling for my 4 year old. My 6 year old doesn’t need to be reminded to “go potty” in the morning, for example, but when my 4 year old sees that her brother has that on the “Done” side of his poster, it gives her a bit more motivation to do so herself. They’re competitive that way. I like to make it work for me. [evil Mommy grin]

You can add your own tasks with clip art.  I used Microsoft Office clip art.  It’s free.   My kids have asked me to add tasks like “take vitamins” (good one!). They are so invested in this, I could not be more thrilled!

Here’s what you will need:

  • 3 different colors of 8.5×11 cardstock, plus white paper or cardstock
  • a hot laminating machine or contact paper
  • Velcro dots 
  • a paper cutter or the ability to cut very straight lines
  •  1-Inch Circle punch

1. Print out the tasks on white card stock. Print “To Do” on one color of card stock and “Done” on another. Use the 3rd color of card stock for your child’s name. I chose to go with Red, Green and Yellow to go along with my traffic light theme.

2. Cut the “Done” side exactly in half and use your favorite type of adhesive to secure it to the “To Do” side. Trim your child’s name and secure it to the top. I used Dotto, as it can be removed and readjusted as needed.

3. Laminate the poster and the sheets of tasks.

4. Cut out the tasks with the circle punch. You can see through the bottom of it so you can perfectly line up the clip art and words.

5. Attach rough side of  Velcro dots  to the disks and soft side of velcro dots to the poster. You can see that there is still room to add a couple more things, if needed. I can also change out the tasks if, say, my kids no longer need to be reminded to brush their teeth in the morning [pause for hysterical laughter].

So far it is working beautifully!

Update: We have been using this system now for nearly two years and it still works beautifully! I’ve changed a few of the discs and made a poster for my now-3-year-old. It really helps our mornings run smoothly!