Category Archives: As Seen on TV

10 Tips for Stress-Free Road Trips

Who can afford to take 6 people on a plane for a vacation regularly? I can’t! If we flew anywhere, that be the vacation (plus some;). But one of the benefits of living in Fresno is that I am within driving distance of so many awesome things!

I know that the idea of taking your kids on a road trip can be daunting but with a little planning and smart strategies it can be fun and affordable for all!

1. Get a great dependable travel backpack for women and men! Yes, it should be good for both. This bag should have all your group snacks and necessities for while you are out adventuring. Make sure it is a great bag. I recently had my Day Owl backpack save my computer from a leaking water bottle on a recent business trip. Take the time to get a good bag to save your stuff!

Now, why did I say it should be good for women and men? You are on a family trip. That means it is a group so why should 1 person carry the bag the whole time? You want to make sure you can hand it off to anyone in the group and they won’t be embarrassed ;).

2. Make and use a packing list. Make sure to include cords and prescription meds! I even like to put which bag each thing should go in.

3. Make an itinerary. Are you eating out every meal or taking some with you? Do the attractions you are going to allow you to take in lunch? Lay out the rough schedule and add the food list to your packing list;).

4. Pack snacks for the car and the hotel. Make sure you include napkins, utensils, and the like.

5. Take a file folder with you that contains reservation confirmations, maps with directions, attraction addresses, and phone numbers.

6. Let your bank or major credit card company know you are traveling. They may place a freeze on your card if they don’t know for sure that it is you. When NerdDad and I had only been married a couple of years we went to San Jose for the Embedded Systems Conference and it was our first trip. After 4 days American Express put a hold on any new charges. It was not good, to say the least!

7. Do a little gas planning. Vacation spots tend to have high gas prices so if you could hit the last Costco or bargain gas on your way it could save you big! We have found the Costco in Carlsbad that we hit on our Legoland trips every year! Saved a good amount of money over a gas station right off the freeway.

8. Make sure electronics are charged for the car and then have a spot in your luggage where all the cords go!!

9. Put together a little first aid kit. Bandaids, aloe, wipes to clean cuts, etc. You will find it on the road but it is annoying and expensive to get back to your hotel and realize that you need to go find a place to buy expensive bandaids;). On our first year going to LegoLand NerdBug fell and needed a bandaid. Then NerdDad got a sunburn on his neck. The hotel did have Aloe gel but it was like $10 for a small bottle that didn’t have all that much aloe in it! Now we always pack the first aid kit;).

10. When you are ready to pack up and go home, use your pack list!!! I think it is pretty self explanatory;). I also recommend that after all the kids and luggage leave the room, 1 adult checks under beds, in drawers, and closets! Peace of mind goes a long way on that drive home!!

Free Reading Comprehension Tests Online

ReadingComprehension Everyone knows that I am a huge fan to getting kids reading! I do not believe that reading always has to serve some great academic purpose but still you want to make sure the kids are understanding what they are reading. An occasional book report is a great option or even a story board or lapbook but you don’t always have time (or care) to do a huge project.

Sometimes you just want a quick check to make sure they understood the book and to maybe get some measurement for rewards!!! There are some great sites with quick and simple reading comprehension tests for tons of books. These are great resources for homeschoolers and teachers to use all year. They are also great tools to make sure your children don’t suffer the summer slide when it comes to reading by them staying engaged and reading! And they are all free!

  • Fun Trivia has literally thousands of quizzes available! Not only do they have a ton of quizzes available for K-8th but they also have a Young Adult section(with the Hunger Games;)! It is well organized by authors last name and there is also a section for series books. You have your choice of HTML version where you answer all the questions at once or a more quiz like format. In the true quiz format you will have you”point” value go down based on how long it takes and if you need a second chance.
  • Children’s Books Quizzes over at SoftSchools has a variety of quizzes also. Their list isn’t quite as extensive but they are just the quizzes. There isn’t a rewards system or even an account creation step. Just pop in and take the quiz. I think that most of the books are really 4th grade and under but there are a variety of Harry Potter books also. They even have Henry and Mudge for your early elementary students.
  • Book Adventure  is no longer free! But is a great site that is built for rewarding. You input what rewards are available to your student and then track what quizzes they take. This is aimed at K-8th and there are a lot of book options.

These are great tools but they are just that. You don’t have to quiz on every book or any for that matter. They are just tools for you to use as you see fit!!

(Updated 2021)

Collage Memo Center

If you are looking for a gift or are just setting up your communications center for the year this collage memo center is a win! Even though we all have planners my kids absolutely having this hanging on the wall. In addition to any appointments, you can put chores and your meal plan on this board along with who is cooking it! Having it all laid out on the wall means you are equipping your children be more successful and maybe not ask you what you are having for dinner.

Ok, I have seen this in a variety of places and can’t remember the first one but… I love the idea of this custom made dry erase memo center!!! Why does this work? Glass is a perfect dry erase material!!! First, you get a cheap collage picture frame (mine was $6 from Walmart).  I also got out my paper cutter, tape runner and scrap book paper collection (which is way too big;).  This collage is 9 holes so I can do more than just the days of the week!

Then you actually need to pick out the papers that you are going to use in each frame. For me, this is the most time-consuming part. But look at the upside, Out of 1 set of papers you can make multiple boards so you just have to choose once;). I went with a fairly gender neutral set here.

Then cut your paper down to fit each frame. 8 of my frames were 4 x 6. So I cut my 12 x 12 in half then each half into thirds. Then label each frame so you know what goes there! I did the 7 days of the week, notes, and shopping list. You could use stamps, letter cutouts or just print the labels on paper. I just used this template for my Memo Board Labels then cut them out and used a tape runner to fix them to the paper!

Then take off the back and prepare to assemble. This is the time to clean your glass!!! Nothing is more annoying than to finish and realize that you have marks on the inside of the glass;). To assemble just put your paper into the frame like a picture. That is really it;).

You can also go the extra mile…. Put a piece of velcro on the side of the frame (where no one can really see) and the dry erase pen too!

Not only is this great to make for yourself but it is a fabulous gift! I mean, how much is a custom memo board worth?

Christmas Gift Planning

Christmas_wreathDoes Christmas seem to sneak up on you every year? Trust me you are not alone! But, as with most things, there are some strategies that help make Christmas a little more fun, sane and affordable!!!
I like to start planning for Christmas in the summer before we start back to school and before the early fall clearance sales start. Here is the first step! A master list!!!
1)Make a list of everyone whom you will give a gift to! This includes the faceless/nameless people who will be getting gifts, like Sunday School teachers or regular school teachers who haven’t been assigned yet.
2)Put an H by all those you would like to make a homemade gift for or a B for those you know you are going to buy for (this can be subject to change, it is just to give you an idea)
3)Put a price range! You can always spend less if you find a great sale but this will keep you from going crazy.
4)Put any gift ideas/sizes/etc next to the receiver’s name. If you know they collect something specific or you have a great idea make sure to not it. That way when you see a great sale you don’t have to remember the 2 people in your list of 20 who might like it! And when inspiration hits in the middle of church you can whip out your list and make that note!
5)Put the list in your wallet! It does no good if it isn’t with you!!!
We can also get a jump on those handmade gits! On another list:
-Make a list of homemade gifts (like cocoa mix, facial scrubs, baskets, etc)
-Star any that can only be made with in a month of giving
-Note how much time each craft will take and if it will take multiple sessions .
Supply List is mandatory!!! Make a supply list then you can use JoAnns and Michaels coupons to buy them for a deal! Keep it with your gift list in your wallet/purse!
None of this is rocket science but it helps to have someone remind you and lay out a path. So try this method this year and see if your Christmas is a little more enjoyable!!!
10 days 2017 button

This is part of my 10 Days to a Better School Year series! Pop over to see the rest of my pieces along with pieces from all the 10 Days of Tips for Homeschool Moms.

Finding Free Ebooks

finding freee books

Ebooks are awesome! They are great ways to read on the go and to keep a lot of books at your fingertips. While they will never replace paper books, ebooks are becoming more and more common place. But did you know that there are many, many ebooks that are out there for free? Some are classics but some are quite new and even best sellers! You can find them too but it is all about where to look!

My favorite hub is! They don’t provide any ebooks themselves but link you straight to the sources for many! They also have audio books in addition! They show links to a lot of the big sites but not everything.

Another hub for many is your local library’s website! Here in Fresno the Fresno County Library’s page has tons of ebook resources! Our library (and many others) have free magazines through Zinio that download and are yours. There are also lending agreements with OverDrive, 3M Cloud Library, Bookflix and OneClickdigital. Many of the books provided through these services are a lot of bestsellers and popular books.

I also like going straight to Amazon! They have free collections and often have many sales. I am currently reading  Pinterest Savvy: How I Got 1 Million+ Followers (Strategies, Plans, and Tips to Grow Your Business with Pinterest) that I picked up when it was free!

We are also very fond of the Gutenberg Project! They really are the originator of the free ebook. It was the original place for all the copyright free material. BooksShouldBeFree links to them a lot!

So in this day of ebooks, do you currently read them? What is your favorite kind of book to read on a device?



Preschool and Kindergarten Valentine’s Day Crafts


Kids like crafts! And I like kids being busy with crafts;). Valentine’s Day is the perfect time for little kid crafts because they can help create some seasonal decor and use their crafts as gifts!

The first one is a super simple heart wreath!
To prep for the kids you can take cheap paper plates and cut the center out of them. I picked up a great heart punch and had my son punch a bunch of hearts out of 2 sheets of cardstock but I could have used old magazines too! Then just place glue all over the paper plate ring and let them go crazy arranging them!!! If you want to get fancy they can draw faces on the hearts first;).

The second one is a super cute butterfly!
Take toilet paper roll and cover it in a rectangle of colored paper by placing glue on both ends of one side and then roll the paper roll in it. Then glue 2 hearts on the back for wings. You can put a hole punch in the top of the toilet paper roll in between the wings. Then have them place a colored pipe cleaner in the hole for antennae! Then just add googly eyes and draw a face! You could write to & froms on the wings and make sweet little gifts!

These aren’t complicated but they are fun!

Teaching Goal Setting to Children

Goal settingJanuary, it is the months of resolutions! And no plan, hope or goal seems to fail like a resolution. So for the most part, I don’t believe in resolutions but I do believe in goals. The difference? A plan!

Goal setting doesn’t come naturally to most people and needs to be taught. So why not set up kids for success by teaching them goal setting?

Goals can be long term or short term but the approach is the same. Since we are talking about kids lets aim for short term goals! Once they get the emotional payoff they will use goal setting to achieve more and more!

1) Come up with a goal!
2) Put it through the dream test! What do I mean? Are there any reasonable steps at all that can help you achieve your goal? Wanting to be taller isn’t a goal but a dream. You can’t really do much about your height.
3) List 1 step you can take tomorrow to work towards your goal. Just start with 1 but it is something you can do almost immediately!
4) List 2 more steps that you can take to achieve the goal.

If you go much further with young kids you will overwhelm them! Help your kids practice goal setting with you. Maybe once every month or 2 ask them to give you a list of 3 goals with 3 steps each. When they start out resist the impulse to criticize the goals. They may seem a bit wonky but remember, they are kids;).

That is what we did here in the NerdFamily for New Year’s. Goals do not have to be complicated either. Here are some that my kids did.

NerdBug (12):
Goal: Beat Adventure Mode in Plants VS Zombies
1) Take time to strategize before playing
2) Ask for advice from siblings
3) Try different techniques every day

NerdPie (10):
Goal: To write in my diary every day
1) Set aside the first 30 minutes of room time for writing.
2) No mp3 player if I don’t write in the first 1/2 hour
3) I will sit on my bed until I write.

Nerdster (8):
Goal: Be stronger
1) Run
2) Exercise more often
3) Play minimum video games

NerdPud (6):
Goal: Time with God
1) Go to my room
2) Sit down
3) Pray

Their goals may not be what I would have chosen (and I could lead them into some goal choices) but they are theirs! Allowing them to set goals also really reveals what is going on in their heads and hearts too. So it is a double parenting win;). Go get your kids to set some goals!

Advent Jar Calendars

Advent Jar CalendarsWe are all super familiar with Advent chains, calendars, and the like that call count down to Christmas starting December 1st. But I have some new ideas and instead of taking links off chains or eating chocolate out of paper calendars. Those paper chain count down toward Christmas were so exciting when we were in preschool or kindergarten. But lets be honest, counting from 1 to 25 is just not as thrilling as it once was;). These ideas use a jar (or bowl or basket) instead. Some start full and some start empty!

Activity a Day Jar: You put 25 pieces of paper folded in the jar and each one has a holiday activity on it. If you have activities on your calendar you write the number of the day on the outside of it. So if you are going to the Nutcracker or having an open house, put the date on that piece of paper. Anything not numbered is a random grab for days that don’t have plans! You can use activities like making a gingerbread house, cutting snowflakes, watching a holiday movie and the like.

Thankful Jar: On Thanksgiving as a family you fill 25 slips of paper with something you are thankful for. Then everyday leading up to Christmas take out one slip and discuss why you are thankful! Then you will be full of gratitude long before presents get opened!

Random Acts of Kindness Jar: Every day we should do a random act of kindness as just a general rule. This helps you put it into practice. When you do a random act of kindness over the month just write it down and put it in the jar. You can even tell your family that there will be no Christmas until there is at least 25 acts if you want to be hardcore;). Write the act and the date on the paper.

So there are just a few ideas to spice of the count down to Christmas! What are the traditions that you have in your family? Do you do the candy calendars? We do those too but this year we are going to do more!

Technology and the House: Home Automation

Technology. Cell phones. Apps. So many people view these as things that are only for work or for play but not for real life. Well, that is so 1980’s (cheesy, I know but I couldn’t resist;). But seriously, technology is so much more than information management and game playing. There are so many companies that are taking technology into home management. And I don’t just mean todo lists or how they manufacture your keys. I mean actually being able to manage household appliances and devices with your technology on smart phones and tablets.


– See more at: Geek for the Real Girl!

Tips for Do It Yourself Halloween Costumes

The base of many a homemade Halloween Costume!

When Halloween comes around I am always amazed how expensive Halloween costumes are! When did the fun, kids’ dress up night move into a night where parents spend hundreds? I mean, it is just 1 night! But homemade are not that hard or expensive. Here are 9 tips get you on your way to fun and cheap costumes!
1)Sweats, turtle necks and leggings are a great base for any homemade costume!
2)Dollar Store Accessories can sell it!
3) Don’t buy special Halloween/costume make up. Cheap make up usually results in better colors and doesn’t bother the skin as much. Then you can use a makeup wipe to remove it too!
4)If it is for Trick or Treating remember: It is dark! Don’t fret over the details!
5) If you need cardboard, Costco will let you pick out boxes!
6) Spray paint is a cheap and easy tool. You can paint quickly!!!
7) Pipe cleaners make great antennae, extra arms, etc.
8) Act like it is just playing dress up. Go with what you like not just what fits the “theme” of the costume.
9) Have fun!!! And let the kids help!