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Camp Mommy 2014 – Summer Fun Bingo

summer bigLast year was our first year of Camp Mommy, where I wasn’t working and the kids were therefore home with me. This year we are doing it again, but since we did so much last summer, I was feeling a bit unexcited to go to the same places, So to freshen things up, I have created a new version of my Camp Mommy Summer Bucket List.

To see last year’s version, where we drew slips of paper from different cups each day, see my post “Summer Bucket List (aka Camp Mommy).”

This year I created a Bingo board with many choices! There are so many places to go that we definitely won’t cover the whole board! Again it includes places at a variety of price points and time commitments. I try to do as many free or inexpensive choices most days. I thought it would be fun for my boys to close their eyes and each day one boy points to a bingo square to decide what we do for that day. We normally go somewhere 3-4 days a week (the park and the library are often several days a week and are great for afternoons). I try to leave Fridays for work around the house and getting ready for Shabbos.

I also made a new schedule for the day. I found a great resource to make a schedule to display on the refrigerator. I plan to mount it on cardstock and laminate it so I can use it from year to year. If you want to get your own, check out the post “Printable Summer Schedule.”

Summer-Schedule-Printables-print-out-and-put-on-refrigerator-to-help-organize-your-summer-days--500x708Here is our schedule for the day (which of course varies if we have specific plans):

7 – 8 a.m. – Play, breakfast
8 – 9 a,m, – Outside play
9 – 9:15 a.m. – Clean up
9:15 – 10:15 a.m. – Television time
10:15 – 10:30 a.m. – Snack, get ready to leave
Outing or if home – art, games, activities, schoolwork
Lunch
Books
1 – 3 p.m. – Nap for youngest three, computer time for oldest
3 – 3:30 p.m. – Outside play
3:30 – 4 p.m. – Make fun snack or do an art project
4 – 4:30 p.m. – Schoolwork to review for upcoming year
4:30 – 5 p.m. – Rotation of computer time between younger three boys
5 – 6 p.m. – Television time while we get dinner ready

* The times after lunch may vary some based on what time we get home from our outing and if we plan to go somewhere in the afternoon.

The Bingo board is available in two versions:

Summer Bingo 2014

Summer Bingo 2014 StL version

I left a bit of space on each square so you can put stickers on each as you complete an activity. If you see any mistakes, let me know! I did not include prices this year since things change so quickly!

What are you doing with your time this summer? Please leave a comment or feedback below!

 
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Posted by on June 30, 2014 in Family ideas, Forms for everything

 

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Kids’ Mitzvah Checklist for Passover

nissan_simaneihaseder_magidI am taking a break from my regular Passover (Pesach) preparations to think of my kids. One of my favorite new traditions is involving the kids by helping them get excited about doing the mitzvos for that holiday. I already had a reader/friend ask where my next holiday checklist for the kids was! So here is this holiday’s mitzvah checklist for your children.

Kids’ Mitzvah Checklist for Passover

I like to print these out in color for my kids and post them on the door of their room. They love adding stickers for each mitzvah they complete and then we go for a family reward after the holiday. Thanks again to Chinuch.org for the great clip art!

If you are still in the middle of your holiday preparations and need some tips, here are my past related posts on Passover (Pesach):

For other related posts, check out:

Have a wonderful and meaningful Passover!

 
 

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Back to school: Jewish learning resources

Normally at this time of year, I am starting to get things ready for the school year and setting up my classroom. However, this will be my second year working for the Child Abuse Prevention Program at Jewish Family & Children’s Service. I don’t need to get my own classroom ready, but it is always great to find good resources for my own children. It is so helpful to have websites to go to for accessing holiday ideas, projects, information sheets, etc. for different things my children are studying.

For this post, I wanted to provide Jewish resources that you could use whether you are a parent, homeschooler, or teacher. You might even find them helpful for your own reference if you have no children at all! While this post will not save you money, it will sure save you time and energy when you want to find an activity or idea!

Chinuch.org

This is one of my favorite Jewish resources. I used it a lot when I taught preschool as well as third grade. I also found some great additions and activities for our family seder last year. You can search for materials based on age (early childhood, elementary, middle school, high school, special education, administration, or kiruv) or by topic (which includes Torah, Hebrew language, Interactive classroom, Yamim Tovim, Halacha/Dinim, Arts and Crafts, and more). This site, which is sponsored by Torah Mesorah and the Avi Chai Foundation, allows educators to upload and share a variety of resources with other educators and parents. The resources often include not just instructions, but typed resources (or pdfs) ready to copy or change as needed. Many include photos as well. Additional resources include clip art, forums, audio/video, Olomeinu archives, and more. Their database grows daily!

Organized Jewish Home

I have mentioned this blog before, as it has some great resources and articles. The author is a homeschooling Orthodox mom who writes about many topics of interest to frum families: menu planning, holiday preparations, activities for kids, organization, recipes, and more. She posts resources for each parsha that are particularly helpful if you homeschool or if your children attend a public school and you want to supplement their Jewish learning. She also has a “Shalom Bayit Book” that is somewhat similar to my Family Control Journal. See my post on “Starting a Family Control Journal.” Check it out and let her know I sent you!

Central Agency for Jewish Education, St. Louis (CAJE)

This is the website for our local Jewish education agency. They have a section for Teacher Resources that is helpful for families as well. It includes Beginning of the Year materials, board games, Shabbat materials, holiday materials, Hebrew letter review materials, Hebrew prayer materials, links to other teacher resources, and early childhood resources. I can’t wait to use some of the Hebrew ideas and board games with my own children!

Related posts:

Do you know of any other great Jewish education resources? Please share them in the Comments section!

 
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Posted by on August 9, 2012 in Email and online tips, Family ideas

 

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School Supply Shopping Strategy

Crayons (1)I can’t believe that in just over a month, school starts again. That means the school supplies are on the store displays! Last year I developed a strategy for shopping wisely for all my son’s needs without paying a fortune. Here is what I did and am doing again this year:

The List:

I retype or rewrite my son’s school supply list into one list with the total of each item I needed. Our school’s list is broken up by Judaic and General Studies, so that you bring separate supplies for each classroom. However, when I am at the store, I need the total amount of each item (4 erasers versus 2 erasers for General Studies and 2 for Judaics).

The Plan:

To start, I go to my overflow box from the basement and pull out any supplies I had gotten on sale last year (and didn’t get used) that my son needs for the coming year. I then put any supplies that coincide with my son’s current list in a bag or box (items will be labeled later when I have everything).

Then, each week I check the sale fliers from Target and OfficeMax. I identify which items seem like a really good deal. These are the items for less than $1 or with large discounts. Even if an item is not on my son’s list, I may still add it to my shopping list because he may need it another year or we may need it at home or for my own classroom.

The Trip:

I then go to those stores EARLY in the week and buy only those items. I do not get suckered into buying other items, even if my son needs them, if they were not on my list for that week.

The Unloading:

When I get home, I mark off any items that I was able to get from my son’s list. Those items get put in my “For This Year” bag or box, as I mentioned before. The others go into my overflow box.

Repeat:

I do this each week until the last week before school starts. Then I take stock of what I have purchased and still need to get. Those last items become my final shopping list. I do still take advantage of those last few sales at the end of August and early September and those items also go into my overflow box.

Last fall I even got four backpacks for less than $7 each from Land’s End (on clearance) to have on hand for the coming year if my kids need them!

So far this year I have gotten 5 composition notebooks ($.25 each), 1 box of 12 fine point sharpies ($1), 1 pack of 5 thin dry erase markers ($1), two 1” binders ($1 each) and 10 folders (free) from OfficeMax= all for less than $5!

For weekly shopping lists and tips, check out “Kosher on a Budget.” She features the school supply sales at Walgreens, CVS, Target, OfficeMax, Office Depot, and Staples.

Related articles:

 
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Posted by on July 12, 2012 in Family ideas, Other savings tips

 

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More Summer Reading programs 2012

I found another one!

Book It! Summer Break Reading Challenge – From June 15 to August 15, kids who were in grades K-6 during the 2011-2012 school year and who read five books, will be eligible to enter this sweepstakes. The prize is a “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” summer fun prize package. There will be 50 winners. The website also contains fun activities for kids, parent and teacher printables, online games, book information, and more.

Adult summer reading programs – Ask at your local library if they have an Adult Summer Reading program. I have seen many listed on individual library websites. You might be able to earn some prizes, too!

NOTE: To find a United States public library near you, check out the Public Libraries.com website.

Other posts on this topic:

Related articles:

To get cheap books besides going to the library:

 

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Summer reading programs 2012: Promote reading and earn prizes!

Summer time will be here before we know it. For the kids, it means days to fill with camp, swimming, fun outside, special cool treats, and more. As a parent, I know it is hard to find enough activities to keep my children busy and not spend a fortune. But one activity that is good any time of year is reading.

During the summer, your kids can earn rewards for reading by participating in one or several summer reading programs. These incentive programs are a great way to help bridge the summer gap in learning and retention and to help your kids earn some great prizes for doing an already rewarding activity.

For years, my kids have joined the Saul Brodsky Jewish Community Library’s Summer Reading Club. This is our local Jewish library. The librarian, Barb, and her devoted staff, host a kickoff and ending party complete with crafts, prizes, snacks, and storytelling. For keeping track of our reading, we have earned tickets to various amusements in town, free treats from the local bakery and deli, free ice cream, books, toys, and a variety of other prizes. We particularly like her program because even young children can participate and the log is easy to fill out.

Here are some suggestions for programs to participate in:

Local libraries – Find out if your municipality library has its own summer reading program. This makes it very convenient for redeeming logs for prizes. Our local library even hosts different events throughout the summer for kids and parents.

County or city library system – In St. Louis, the county has its own set of libraries that are separate from the municipality library from our town. This system has its own summer reading program. My son’s teacher, Cherie, had a representative come to their class to speak about their program and he is very excited. What a great idea! Scholastic Summer Challenge – Ask your child’s teacher about participating in this national reading incentive program. The teacher signs up their students and then students can log in on their own to record books read, etc. Parents can find tips, booklists, and logging tools on the website as well.

iVillage PBS KIDS Summer Reading Community Challenge – Starting June 18, families can get daily emails with literacy tips and activities. Participants will also get book suggestions, discounts, and free downloads of PBS KIDS shows. There will be daily chances to win $1,000 and other prizes.

TD Bank – For those of you who have a TD Bank near you, they also have a summer reading program. If your child reads 10 books, he or she can earn $10 to be deposited into a new or existing Young Savers account.

Sylvan Book Adventure – Children in grades K-8 can choose recommended books, take a quiz, and earn points redeemable for prizes. This program is FREE and you do not need to be enrolled at a Sylvan center.

UNCONFIRMED PROGRAMS FROM LAST YEAR:

Barnes & Noble – Last year B & N hosted a program in which kids could earn a free book after reading 8 books. I am not sure if they will be offering this program again this year as their website only has details from last year.

Half Price Books – This bookseller also hosted their own reading program last year.  Kids earned $5 Back-to-School Bucks to spend at their stores after reading 600 minutes. Details have not yet been released on their website. Check back later for more details.

H.E.Buddy – The H.E. Butt Grocery Company sponsors a Summer Reading program. Last year kids earned a free T-shirt for reading 10 books. Click on the section for Clubs and Contests for information. There are no dates on the program information, so I could not confirm if this program is still running.

Pottery Barn Kids – Last year Pottery Barn Kids also sponsored a reading program where kids could earn prizes for reading books from a recommended list of books. Their website does not yet have current information for this year. Check back soon at this link or ask at your local store for more details.

Be sure to also ask at your local libraries for a schedule of summer events and programs! Many include famous authors and family-friendly performances.

I will update this post as I find more current information. If you are aware of any other national programs, please let me know in the Comments section!

 

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What are you doing for Earth Day?

The Earth flag is not an official flag, since ...

Earth Day is April 22 and cities around the world are sponsoring volunteer efforts, fairs, festivals, and speakers. To find out what is going on in your town, here are a few resources. If you cannot find a listing for your town, you may need to do a Google search for your city and “Earth Day.”

Earth Day Network:

This organization “works with over 22,000 partners in 192 countries to broaden, diversify and mobilize the environmental movement.” You can search for events in your area, find actions you can take, and more.

Environmental Protection Agency’s Earth Day website:

Includes search tool to find EPA events in your area, a video, pledges and actions to take, a Greenquest game, and a daily email list with tips.

St. Louis Earth Day:

If you live here in St. Louis, check out all the events and resources on the St. Louis Earth Day website. Note that at the Recycling Extravaganza you can recycle medicines, as I mentioned in my post “Recycle your unused medicines.”

* If you haven’t already begun to take small actions to protect our Earth, see my post “Countdown to Earth Day.”

Related articles:

 

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More kosher recipe sites

Charoset made with kosher wine, apples, pears,...

I have a few more websites to add to my list of recommendations for finding kosher recipes:

Aish.com - I love to go to this site for all things Jewish. They have great articles on parenting, holidays, the Parsha, relationships, politics, and so much more. Plus, they have great recipes! I have mentioned this website before in my post “Review: Aish.com.”

The Kosher Blogger – This blogger lives in Israel and offers a lot of great recipes that she has made successfully many times and are well-received.

Jewish-Life-Organized – This writer, organizer, and home manager has a section for dinner solutions and has many great articles, tips, and advice. This is another one of my favorite websites. Check out my review of her site at “Review: Jewish-Life-Organized.com.”

Happy reading and cooking!

 

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Lessons from a lay-off

The last several months have been quite stressful for my family as I have been looking for a new job. Unfortunately, I cannot afford to stay home with my kids and we need my income to help support our family. I have been very fortunate to have only been without pay for two months, but it seemed like forever. Let me preface this post with the fact that I am not a career-planning expert, financial planner, or accountant. However, I thought I would share some lessons I have learned this past summer (and really for the past year while our finances have been tighter than ever).

As soon as you are out of work, file for unemployment! I assumed that because I was a teacher, that I would not be eligible for unemployment. I was wrong and missed out on a month of benefits I could have had. The process is quite easy if you do it online, so don’t delay!

Don’t wait until you have pennies in your checking account to ask for help. Find out what services are available in your community such as food pantries, loans, utility assistance, etc. Make use of a consumer credit agency to get help with credit card consolidation or budgeting tips.

Have an emergency fund. Money experts recommend that you have a savings account with 6 months of emergency funds. That is not always possible, but a great goal!

Prioritize your bills. Find out which bills have the highest reactivation charges or late fees so that you can plan accordingly when planning which bills to pay first. Yes, due dates are important, but having to pay those extra fees when you have to get services reinstated can really add up! Be sure to let companies and service providers know your situation and ask for help. Sometimes they will not be able to do anything, but other times you might be surprised. It is always worth asking!

Be creative with your meals. We used to shop for items we needed for the week as well as stocking up on items on sale. During tough months, we would challenge ourselves to just shop for necessities on some weeks and make a menu with as much as we have in the house. My husband has become an expert at making menus with very little shopping needed. See my previous blog post: Stretching your dinner dime… dollar.”

Research. Now is the time to reevaluate your spending and really dig deep to see what you can cut, how you can save more, etc. Don’t assume you have all the answers or have already done everything you can. Keep looking. Magazines, websites, books, friends, and social networking sites can all be good references. That is why I started this blog. I wanted to share the ideas I already was using and research even more!

Talk to your kids. It may be hard to do, but be honest about your children about why you cannot buy certain things or go certain places like you used to. This will be a valuable money lesson for them and help them appreciate important things. Just tonight my older son realized that he would rather us spend money on letting him do after school activities than buying more magazines for his school fundraiser so he could earn prizes (that he said are only going to break fast anyway). Sometimes they do listen!

Keep up with your coursework, certifications, paperwork, portfolio, resume, and letters of recommendations. The more you have ready before you need it, the easier your job search will be. It is best to have a letter of recommendation from each employer you have worked for. Make sure to get these before you have been gone too long, because you may not be able to get them later.

Document everything.

∞ Job applications: To receive unemployment benefits, you have to document jobs that you apply for or make contact with. Keep a careful record of this. I keep a chart on my computer of the websites I have been regularly checking, what I applied for, status, etc.

 References: I also keep a file of references (with current information on all references I might give for a job application). Some places will ask you to enter this into a paper or electronic form, while others may ask you to just print out your list.

 Past jobs and education: I keep a file on my computer with the following information on each employer I have worked for since being able to file a W-2: name of employer, job title, job duties, address, supervisor name, telephone, email address, dates employed, pay, and reasons for leaving. With all of this information handy, it makes it so easy to fill out job applications. At the bottom of this file I also have a list of colleges I have attended and the following information: name of institution, dates attended, degree program, date earned degree, credits earned, and GPA. If you have only attended one college, this might not be much to keep up with, but if you are continuing your education or have lived in more than one place, this will be helpful.

Cover letters: Save your cover letter files so that you can easily reuse them for other applications. You will just need to change a few things and then resave under the new employer name. Why reinvent the wheel for each employer that requests a cover letter?

Keep up with past colleagues and employers. Of course, I do this just because I want to keep in touch. However, in job hunting this can be crucial. A friend told me that a majority of jobs are filled by knowing someone. Your past coworkers can be great for references, job leads and moral support.

It is going to take us quite a while to recover from our financial woes, so my prayers go out to anyone also facing money or job struggles. May things turn around soon for us all!

 
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Posted by on September 7, 2011 in Forms for everything, Other savings tips

 

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Review: Aish.com

Many of you may already be familiar with Aish HaTorah’s website. They are an international Jewish educational organization that is amazing.  Both my husband and I had the opportunity to study at their programs in Israel. Their website is full of wonderful features, articles, and videos. The thing I like best about Aish is that their classes and resources are accessible to Jews of all backgrounds and types of observance. Here is a selection of great free resources I have found on their website:

Shabbat song audios and text:
What a great way to learn songs from Shabbat (without worrying if they are the right tune and spending money on various CDs)!

Children’s coloring pages for the Parsha

Free sample audio downloads of classes:
This section also includes information on joining their audio download program.

Family Parsha stories:
These great stories relate to the Parsha of the week and Torah values. They have great meaningful discussion questions tailored to different children’s age levels.

Free newsletters:
You can also sign up for free daily and weekly newsletters on a variety of topics including: spirituality, Torah portion, family, Kabbalah, Israel update, holidays and much more! They even have a newsletter that highlights new postings to their site. Check it out!

 

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