New York Times best-selling author, slow cooking expert, mom of three
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Totally Together

Golden Rules for the Family — printable

May 12, 2014 by · 7 Comments 

The Family Golden Rules

click the link for a printable PDF version of the golden rules for your use –steph

The Family’s Golden Rules

Summer is coming, and I plan on having the kids home with me. I don’t like having the kids at camps and try not to have a lot of structured activities planned during the summer months. It’s a little old-school, I know, but I just really like having them home with me and I like the uninterrupted free time and play that occurs when we don’t have something we HAVE to do.

And I’m kind of lazy.

And I’m terribly cheap.

That said, I do have things that I need to accomplish this summer, and in order for me to get my work done, the kids need to find a way to fend for themselves and not run completely feral.

We have chore charts, and we do follow The Daily 7 as much as we can to keep the house in somewhat decent order. I try to let them work out their own squabbles (my kids are currently 12, 9, and 4) and choose to not intervene unless truly necessary.

(see above. I’m kind of lazy…)

AND? I am not going to always be here. I need these kids to grow up to be responsible members of society, and in order for that to happen, I can’t swoop in and fix every last thing. They’ve got to figure it out on their own.

I’ve gotten a few emails about chores, and responsibility charts, and decided to use those emails as a springboard to make up a list of Golden Rules for the house. These are certainly not the *only* rules in our house, but these are the ones that I expect to be drummed into their heads before embarking out into the Wild Wild World.

Feel free to print these out and hang them up in the play room or family room.

I hope you’re having a wonderful day!!


age-appropriate listing of household chores, Wipe On/Wipe Off chore charts, “closet” homeschooling for the summer 

update to Family Game Night

July 20, 2011 by · 9 Comments 


I seem to be getting gutsier in my old age. A month or so ago I wrote about starting a Family Game night tradition in your house, and listed some of our own family favorites. Kim and I talked in the comment section about how it would be neat to have a lending library of family-friendly games at school or in the community, and I really liked that idea.

So I emailed Hasbro.

and they sent two HUGE boxes of games— 50 in all — for the school.

I couldn’t be happier.

Thank you, Hasbro.

I need to make some sort of checklist for checking out the games, and figure out where I’m going to house them. I may need to work out of the back of the van if I can’t find an empty cabinet somewhere! The girls (and their friends) are making inventory lists for each board game, and are putting the little pieces into separated ziplocks. So far the biggest hit game has been “girl talk” which has been deemed the BEST SLUMBER PARTY GAME ever. I haven’t looked over the cards very carefully, so I’m not sure exactly how appropriate the content is, but the boxes say ages 8 and up. I’ve noticed a lot of walking backwards and duck quacking…

I’ve been trying to figure out how our PTA can give back to the school for a while (without spending any money, since there ISN’T ANY), and having a lending game library will be a huge help. We just lost our biggest “free” fundraising effort–the Amazon Affiliates account, because of the new California tax laws. This is a big blow to our school, and I am looking into ways to replace that income. If anyone has any ideas (we have Scrip, and need to campaign big time this year to get more people involved) I’d love to hear them. I really liked the Amazon thing because it was such easy money and parents didn’t feel nickled and dimed—

I’ve got six weeks to figure it out.


In the mean time, I’m going to enjoy the last month or so of summer vacation and soak every bit of it up that I can. I love having everyone home—even though it means I’m in constant fire-fighter mode.

things are going well for you?


Starting a Family Game Night

June 6, 2011 by · 25 Comments 

We play a lot of games in our house. This is a photo of the family game shelves in the garage. The board games and puzzles are accessible to the big kids, but out of reach from the baby. I try to maintain a “one or two games in the house at a time” rule, to limit lost or damaged pieces.

Since my kids vary in ages (9, 6, and seventeen months), we have quite a few to choose from– but truly only play a handful on a regular basis. I always thought it would be a good idea to have a way to rent board games. Or a lending library. This might be neat to set up in schools, or through your church or neighborhood— something free the whole family can enjoy that promotes togetherness.

If you’re new to playing board/card games with your children, do not expect everyone to have fun and get along perfectly. This is real life. Go with the flow, and try not to be a dictator. Rules are important, but good sportsmanship is a much more valuable lesson to learn. I’m okay with bending rules or getting new cards/scrabble pieces to keep a game moving along and to retain interest, but the family needs to agree. Anything sneaky is cheating, and that’s not okay.

It’s not about winning or losing. It’s how you play the game. — Grantland Rice

words to live by!

Preschool Games (no reading required):

Candyland– this is THE classic preschool board game. This game teaches the “luck of the draw,” taking turns, and color recognition. Ages 2.5 or so and up–child needs to be able to not flip the board, and understand taking turns.

Chutes and Ladders– the other classic preschool board game. This game has a spinner, and is a great way to introduce numbers. Try to just enjoy and not turn each play into a math lesson. Let the math come naturally— learning is best when it’s not forced, anyway! ages 4 and up.

Memory– this simple matching game is fun for all ages. If you have very young children, start with only 5-10 pairs, then build up. When I taught preschool, I started the little ones right around age 18 months. You’ll be surprised at how quickly small guys figure it out!

HyperDash– great indoor game on a rainy day, or outdoor game to let a pack of kids run off some energy. The ages on the box says for ages 7 and up, but I think that recommendation is completely out-of-whack. There are batteries, but this is a fantastic preschool game–I’d say for ages 3 and up.

Connect Four–a large version of tic-tac-toe, Connect Four is appropriate for ages 4 and over, and I still really enjoy playing with the kids. This is a good way to teach planning-ahead and strategy– important skills for more advanced games.

Go Fish, Uno, Old Maid, Crazy Eights (you can usually find these games at your local Dollar Store)– great classic card games to toss in the diaper bag, beach bag, to keep in the glove compartment, etc. You can customize the games for smaller children by limiting the amount of cards in play. Although the Uno deck says for ages 7 and up, I taught a group of 4-year-olds who picked the game up quite quickly.

Jengafamily building game, or a solo game. It’s kind of tricky to rebuild the stack for small children, but lots of fun to knock down, or to watch mom or dad “mess up” and knock the tower over.

Young School-Aged children (but still fun for older kids/adults!)

Battleship — beginning strategy game, teaches graph/cooordinates-reading. 2 player game, ages 6 and up (looks like Amazon doesn’t carry the regular vs.; you’ll need to look locally).

Bananagrams– introduction to scrabble; no scoring needed. Easier to play on the run than scrabble, and feels more organic (although we do play a fair amount of scrabble).

Apples to Apples Jr. — we love this game for building vocabulary, and for just a great family game. Children need to be able to read/sound out words. Ages 6 1/2 or 7 or so and up. GREAT game for a large group, family gathering with all ages, etc.

Boggle — fun, quick family game. Builds vocabulary, promotes reading/word-making. ages 6 and up or so. Fun for adults—Adam and I get quite competitive with Boggle.

Yahtzee — Great math skills game. This game also sets up the framework to play poker, which is a valuable skill, right? :-) (gotta be better than Liar’s Dice… at least…)

Older Elementary-aged children to adult

Clue — the new version has added a few more rooms and weapons, and “intrigue” cards. Our family ignores the intrigue cards, and plays the classic way– we just try to solve the crime. If you’re playing with teenagers or an adults-only game, you might want to use the intrigue cards. This game is best with 3 or more players.

Blokus — Remember the old Game Boy game, Tetris? (there’s probably an app for that now, huh?) Blokus is a boardgame version of Tetris. Players use geometric blocks to build board presence and block players. Teaches spatial awareness, logic, and strategy. The game works the best with 4 players, although you can play with 2 or 3.

Carcassonne My friend, Kelly, from The Spunky Coconut told me about this game, and we’ve been playing it every couple days ever since. My kids cheat too much when they play on their own— I’d recommend having an adult involved. This is our current favorite, and when/if we outgrow this game, there are add-ons available. Great way to introduce more advanced games like Risk (which we own, but I still haven’t figured out!).

Cranium Family — This family game combines classics like pictionary, charades, and name that song in an entertaining (and not too challenging) way. (PS. Amazon is listing this for $57 right now, which is absurd. I have no idea why.)

These are our current favorites, but I’m ALWAYS on the lookout for great new games. If you have any other suggestions for me to keep an eye out for, please let me know!

Tuesday, the 355th day of the year

December 21, 2010 by · 2 Comments 


Last night was Winter Equinox. And a full Lunar Eclipse.


The girls and I crammed a million things into our day yesterday—-but it was worth it. We did end up at Michael’s, and while I was prepared for the worst, it was actually a fun visit. We wandered the aisles, and picked up lots of craft supplies on clearance.

I’m learning how to Skype. I feel like such a dork that I’ve never done it before this past weekend, and so I spent a ton of time playing around with it yesterday. I set the kids up on the desktop and I was on the laptop. There was a lot of shouting and squealing—it was great.


ten days left in this year. make them count. it’s now or never to start your 2010 exercise regimen… ;-)

daily 7

take a nap

I’ve got $100 up for grabs at Totally Together Reviews

BlogHer needs more entries on this laptop giveaway

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