Tip Tuesday: Spy Journal!

Tip Tuesday ~ Our Cozy Den

Start a Super Secret Family Spy Journal! ~ Tip Tuesday @ Our Cozy Den

I made this for my family on Shutterfly and my whole family is just LOVING it! When somebody finds it, they write a message (or draw a doodle if they can’t write yet), then hide it for someone else to find! *I* love that it is encouraging them to write and be creative without any nagging from mom! Click on THIS LINK to go to Shutterfly, edit with your family’s last name, and save it to your account. Then you can order it, or wait for a sale/deal — I got mine for free, and I’m sure you can too if you wait for the right coupon code!


Great Lakes Adventure part 4: Lake Ontario

Our Cozy Den's Great Lakes Adventure! ~ All 5 Great Lakes in 10 Days!!

After our wonderful time on Manitoulin Island, we headed out for our longest day of driving on the trip: 6 hours. We were trying to keep the driving days shorter, because we have lots of kids, several of whom get carsick (along with yours truly). Our 6 hour drive ended up being almost TEN, because of horrendous Toronto traffic. I have been in pretty bad traffic in a lot of cities, including Paris, Rome, Frankfurt, London, Atlanta, Los Angeles, San Francisco — but Toronto was the WORST EVER. Which was crazy, because I went there last year and had NO problems at all!

Our Cozy Den's Great Lakes Adventure! ~ All 5 Great Lakes in 10 Days!!

Three of our four with Toronto’s famous CN tower! I’ll give you two guesses as to which kids didn’t want to be in the picture. {The one crying and the one missing…}

Our Cozy Den's Great Lakes Adventure! ~ All 5 Great Lakes in 10 Days!!

The old fashioned train station across the street from the CN tower is SUPER cool!

Our Cozy Den's Great Lakes Adventure! ~ All 5 Great Lakes in 10 Days!!

Playing at a downtown playground.

Our Cozy Den's Great Lakes Adventure! ~ All 5 Great Lakes in 10 Days!!

A bed! A real bed! I was pretty excited to sleep on a MATTRESS for the first time in a week.

Our Cozy Den's Great Lakes Adventure! ~ All 5 Great Lakes in 10 Days!!

Lake Ontario!

Our Cozy Den's Great Lakes Adventure! ~ All 5 Great Lakes in 10 Days!!

It was pretty nice, until the algae rolled in. Then the lifeguard said the beach was no longer safe to swim. But we got to for a little while at least!

Our Cozy Den's Great Lakes Adventure! ~ All 5 Great Lakes in 10 Days!!

Then we headed to a nearby splash park instead.

Our Cozy Den's Great Lakes Adventure! ~ All 5 Great Lakes in 10 Days!!

…which the kids thought was super fun anyway!

Our Cozy Den's Great Lakes Adventure! ~ All 5 Great Lakes in 10 Days!!

Gotta love free water parks!

If you missed my posts about Lake Michigan, Lake Superior, or Lake Huron, check them out on my North America Travel page here. Stay tuned for Niagara Falls, Lake Erie, and our Grande Finale!

When We Let Kids Do Things {with FREE printable!!}

When we let our kids do things ~ Our Cozy Den

Do your kids ever say, “That’s not fair! ______ gets to ______!” Then you respond with the typical parent response, “You’ll get to when you’re his age!”

But is that really true? Honestly?

I don’t know about you, but I have about ten million thoughts in my head at any given time. The last thing I can remember is how old little Johnny was when he lost his first tooth, or got to stay up until 8 p.m., or get his first cell phone.

So what did I do to keep track of it all? I bet you can guess. I made a chart.

When we let our kids do things ~ Our Cozy Den

Now, I recognize that life isn’t fair. One kid doesn’t necessarily get to do things at the exact age as another kid. It depends on the environment, your location, the maturity of the child, and many other factors! But it does certainly help me, as a mom, from having to keep all of that information inside my head! And for some things, it helps my kids to know that there is an official age when some milestones occur. Then they don’t whine about it!

Here’s a blank copy of the chart, if you want to edit and use for your own family! It’s a Microsoft Word doc, so you should be able to save it and make changes on your own.

May you be filled with peace {and not too much bickering}!

Tip Tuesday: Keeping Track of Kids’ Allowances

Tip Tuesday ~ Our Cozy Den

Tip Tuesday at Our Cozy Den -- Keeping Track of Kids' Allowances!

It’s SO much easier to manage than trying to hand out cash to all the kids, and trusting younger ones not to lose it! And since I have it with me at the store, there is no more whining: I can simply say, “Sophie, you have $4.13. That’s how much you have today to spend.” The kids know that is the bottom line! 

My Dirty Little Secret

My Dirty Little Secret ~ Our Cozy Den

Ever since I started blogging, I was getting comments from readers. Most of them sounded something like this:

How do you do it all? 

How do you keep up with everything? 

I don’t have enough hours in the day to do all that. 

Well guess what? Neither do I.

I can’t do it all, and I don’t do it all most of the time. I just do my best to do as much as I can. 

And I have photographic evidence to prove it.

Let me introduce you to what we call “The Back Room”. It’s a common topic of conversation around here.

Husband: Where do you want me to put this? Me: The back room.

Kids: Where does this go? Me: Put it in the back room.

Husband: Do you know where my _____ is? Me: I think it’s in the back room.

And this is what it looks like after about a month of neglect:

"The Back Room" ~ Our Cozy Den

I think there’s a floor under there somewhere…

This room encompasses many things for us. We don’t have a garage, so it holds many of our outdoor things and tools. It serves as our pantry. It’s our laundry room and laundry sorting area. It houses our seasonal organizer, 5 recycling bins, and tons of miscellaneous storage as well. It’s also the entrance to the basement, so it tends to be a catch-all for things that need to go down there.

But my whole point here is that I’m not perfect! My house isn’t organized all the time. It’s messy. I have 4 kids, life is messy. So when you look at blogs like mine, packed full of money saving tips and organizational tips and stuff about homeschooling and field trips and traveling and life — keep in mind that nobody does everything all the time. We are all just striving to be a little bit better each day, baby steps toward a slightly cleaner house and a slightly easier routine.

Yes, I have my kids do most of the housework. But sometimes I forget to tell them to do chores. Yes, we try to eat healthy. But sometimes we order pizza. Yes, we homeschool. But sometimes I cancel school so I can read books.

And that’s okay.

By the way, I did eventually clean The Back Room. This is what it looks like all spiffed up.

Not perfect, but good enough. And that's all I need.

Not perfect, but good enough. And that’s all I need.

Have a blessed day! ♥


Mom’s Kitchen Helpers ~ with FREE printable helper chart!

Mom's Kitchen Helper ~ FREE printable chart! ~ From Our Cozy Den

love having my kids help me cook in the kitchen. I think it’s an important skill for them to learn, and it’s great bonding time too. But when you have multiple children — in my case, four — that’s just WAY too many cooks in the kitchen. So, I have them take turns. But then we start getting squabbles about whose turn it is: “Lia went last time!” “I haven’t had a turn in forever!”… and so on. So, I made a fun chart to keep track of whose turn it is to help me cook.

It’s really easy to use, and I made some FREE printables so you guys can download a copy for your own family to use!

Here’s how to get it set up:

  1. Print the chart (see below) with the appropriate number of bubbles for the number of kids in your family. If you have more than 5, just print two “3” charts or a “2” and a “4” or however you want to do it.
  2. Write your kids’ names in the bubbles.
  3. Laminate the chart if you want to. This makes it more durable, but is not necessary. (You could also put it into a page protector.)
  4. Tape/stick the chart to the refrigerator.
  5. Choose a magnet to move around the chart.

When it comes time to actually use the chart, I move the magnet when I begin cooking. So the magnet rests on the name of the child who had the previous turn. When the kids ask, “Is it my turn?”, I move the magnet to the next child in line, and announce who it is.

Download the charts here:

Two Kids

Three Kids

Four Kids

Five Kids

Easy! Hopefully this helps eliminate some complaining in your house, as it does mine! And it also frees up some of your mommy brain space (I need all the space I can get!) to remember other things instead of who gets to cook with you next!

Your kids go to bed HOW early!?!

Your kids go to bed HOW early?!? ~ Our Cozy Den Since the very beginning, my kids have been put to bed early. FAR earlier than most of my friends’ kids. I was insecure about it at first, like many parenting things. I would second-guess my/our decision. But as my kids got older, and we added more to the bunch, I began to see that they were much better off!

Reasons I love early bedtimes:

  1. They get more sleep. This seems to be a no-brainer, but early bedtimes mean more sleep. It’s not abnormal for my kids to sleep 12-14 hours a night. There’s no way they would get that much if they stayed up later.
  2. They are better behaved. I think this goes along with getting more sleep. A tired kid is a cranky kid.
  3. I get more “me” time. This may sound selfish, but I spend all day homeschooling, cleaning, cooking, barking orders, and chauffeuring my kids around. It’s not unreasonable for me to clock out at a decent hour.
  4. *I* get more sleep. Since I have some extra time after the kids go to bed, I can get some housework done, check in online with my friends, watch a TV show with the hubby, and still get to bed by 10 or 10:30. Then I am rested and ready to start the next day!


So how early DO they go to bed?

We have a general rule-of-thumb for bedtime, and occasionally we have to bend it for outside obligations (like our Wednesday night Bible study).

  • kids 0 – pre-school age go to bed at 6:45
  • kindergarten – age 9 go to bed at 7:45
  • ages 10 – 14 go to bed at 8:45
  • ages 15 – 17 go to bed at 9:45
  • 18 and up choose their own bedtimes

No, my kids are not in these higher age ranges yet, so this is a tentative plan. But I do intend to enforce bedtimes even for my teenagers, to teach them the value of getting to bed at a reasonable hour. It’s part of organizing and time management, important life skills that many teens never learn.


Our “X” system:

Sometimes our kids go to bed earlier than the official bedtime because they receive X’s. If they are misbehaving throughout the day – not listening, disrespectful, disobedience, etc – they receive an X. Each X represents 15 minutes of “free time” lost. Three X’s equals automatic loss of free time. Free time is what we call everything after 6:45 pm, when the littlest ones go to bed. So there are some nights when my 9 year old has been disrespectful, and he has to go to bed at 6:45 with the baby, but my 5 year old gets to stay up until 7:45. This is effective discipline for us, because my kids love free time. It’s when they are allowed to do anything in the craft closet, play games together, or play games on the computer or iPad with the stickers they earned.


So, now that you’ve read about our bedtimes, when do YOUR kids go to bed?