DadLibs: The Adventures of Super Dad

DadLibs: The Adventures of Super Dad - A FREE printable Father's Day Questionnaire

As Father’s Day approached this year I was excited to do something fun with my kids to give to their dad for Father’s Day. I *love* all the little questionnaires that you can find where you ask the kids questions about their mom or dad and then fill in the responses. The answers the kids give are hilarious and awesome. This past Mother’s Day my five year old did one in his preschool and one of his answers was that his mom “weighs medium”. It’s fun just to see what’s going on in those cute little heads of theirs!

As I was looking up which one I wanted to do this year I thought it would be really fun to put those answers into a little story, like a MadLibs. There wasn’t anything I could find quite like this and I finally decided that I had the skils to make one up myself.  The story is about the superhero Super Dad, because let’s be honest isn’t that who every kid thinks their dad is? The story is a little cheesy, but I thought it was a more fun way of doing the questionnaire than just the straight questions/answers.  I made it so that you could change “Dad” to be “Grandpa” or “Uncle” or even “Mom” or “Grandma” or whatever you might like!  Just be sure that if you make the story for a woman that you check the box that says your recipient is female so that all the pronouns are correct.  Also be sure to select the right gender for your child so their pronouns are correct as well 🙂

I’m a bit finicky about layouts (job hazard of working with some awesome designers) and I’ve never liked not having enough space in the questionnaires to write all of the child’s responses, or having to squish it in and look wonky. So I’ve made this into a little web application, you can fill in your child’s answers and it will put them right into the story without having to squish answers or use your very best handwriting. Yes, I’m finicky enough that I decided I’d rather spend a couple days writing the code to make it a web application than have to handwrite the answers in 🙂  Your child’s answers will be highlighted in blue so you can still tell which parts are the form story and which parts are your child’s responses.  If anyone would like a copy with just blank lines so you can handwrite your answers, let me know and I’ll put the effort into making a printable version too.

The background for the printable and for the banner graphic for this post I created using Julie Billingsley’s Masked Marvels digital scrapbooking kit. I contacted her for permission to use her designs for this project and she graciously obliged, thanks Julie!

You’ll have to enter in your answers to be able to see the story, but the background basically looks like the graphic at the top of this post, except that it’s portrait instead of landscape, and obviously the story is on the inside instead of the promotional text 🙂  Anyways, I’ve rambled long enough…

Click here to fill out your own DadLibs!

Oh, and if anyone has their own fill-in-the-blank story they would like to share feel free to send it to me and I should be able to create another similar page without too much trouble now that the heavy lifting is done 🙂  Any suggestions for improvements will definitely be considered so let me know if you have any ideas to make it better, and feel free to share this with your friends!

How to Keep Pinterest from Being a Time Suck

pinterest-time-suck

We’ve all been there.  You’ve gone onto Pinterest to pull up a recipe, or get an idea for FHE… and 2 hours later you realize you’re still there, pinning a million ideas that you’ll never get around to doing.  Dinner’s still not made, you’re no closer to actually having an FHE lesson prepared and you wonder why you got on in the first place.

Pinterest is an awesome resource.  I’ve seen so many awesome tricks and tips for making my life easier and better, but I also know how easy it is to get sucked in for hours at a time without getting anything done.  I’ve come  up with a couple of techniques that I’ve started to use to help me make my Pinterest time productive rather than wasteful.

I think the best thing I’ve done is change my Pinterest bookmark from going to the Pinterest home page, to going directly to my personal boards page (i.e. http://pinterest.com/techiechic/ instead of http://pinterest.com).  That way when I’m logging on to find a recipe or idea that I’ve already posted I can go right to it rather than seeing a whole bunch of other brilliant ideas on my home page.  Also, if I am just logging in to find a good idea or browse for a little while, this encourages me to look at the things I’ve already pinned and actually DO one of those things instead of pinning 50 more things.  Why spend an hour pinning things when you could spend it actually starting to make that skirt, do that exercise, or clean your house?  It’s a good reminder to me that there are plenty of things I could be doing instead of trying to find more 🙂

The other thing I’ve done is set up a separate Pinterest board for recipes that I’ve already tried and one for recipes that I haven’t gotten around to yet.  This makes it easier for me to find the recipes that we already know and love instead of having to sift through the hundreds of recipes that are waiting for me to try.  It also makes it easier for me when someone asks for a recipe to be able to tell them – it’s on my Pinterest board of recipes I’ve tried – so they don’t have to sift through a million recipes either.  Plus, it lets my friends know that this recipe does have my personal stamp of approval and not just an enticing picture.  I always try to write my own reviews of those recipes as well, especially if I have tips for making it better.  I would recommend doing this for other projects as well, but I definitely use it most for recipes!

This last one may seem kind, but remember – your friends won’t know if you’re following them or not!  When I do surf my newsfeed on Pinterest I’ve found that there are a lot of things that my friends pin that I really don’t care about.  I’m already married so I don’t care what wedding dresses/cakes/flowers my single friends are saving, I’m not big on makeup so the latest nail painting tutorials don’t appeal to me, I’m not a photographer so I’m not looking for the best ways to pose my subjects.  When I see pins on my home page that are in a category that doesn’t appeal to me I simply click on the pin and unfollow that particular board – not the person, just that board.  It has made my browsing SO much more effective because I see fewer results that aren’t applicable to my life.  It saves me a lot of time not having to scroll through those ideas, and I really don’t think anyone is offended that I’m not following their makeup board anymore 🙂

That’s all I have for now.  What about you?  Does anyone else have great tips for using Pinterest wisely?

Angry Birds FHE

As I was playing on Pinterest a few months ago I came across an idea for a Family Home Evening lesson using Angry Birds as a way to teach children to control their emotions.  Since I have little children and a smartphone, Angry Birds is obviously something that gets played A LOT in our household and I knew this would be a hit.  I found the lesson on The Home Teacher and her original lesson plan is here.  She has also taken the time to put together some awesome resources, including a follow up post with more birds and lots of printables including posters and workbook pages.  The whole thing is awesome and I was excited to do it for my boys for FHE.

For Christmas this last year my sister-in-law gave us a flannel board and a bunch of flannel board stories for FHE.  Sam now thinks of FHE as a flannel board story time so I knew the lesson would go best if I were to make the Angry Birds into something that would go on our flannel board.  So I took all of the bird images and put them in a single page format so I could print them onto an iron on transfer.  The lesson that night was a little scattered because I was working off of my memory of what I had read in the blog posts.  As part of a project I’m working on right now I decided to write out a concise, easy-to-use FHE outline that had all the main ideas from The Home Teacher’s blog posts as well as an assigned opening and closing song, a shortened link for an idea to make your own version of an Angry Birds game using paint, cans and a dodgeball, and a treat suggestion.  Basically I wanted to make it so you could print out the outline and have an almost zero-prep FHE lesson.

Anyways, I finished that off and decided to share the fruits of my labors here.  I’ve included the outline, the single page formatted visuals and the visuals reversed (for iron-on transfer).  If you aren’t using the lesson on a flannel board or some other small format I really suggest The Home Teacher’s posters as they have a lot more detail and are just plain prettier.  I also highly recommend reading through her blog posts on the lesson as they explain her ideas in a lot more detail (my main goal was to make the lesson plan fit on one page front and back so I had to pare it down a lot).

This has become Sam’s favorite FHE lesson, whenever we pull out the binder he asks us to do the Angry Birds lesson again.  Not just because it’s a fun topic though, he really knows what we have each of the birds representing and names the birds by their lesson names when he’s playing the game too!  I hope you enjoy this as much as we have!

I just want to say thanks again to Keri at The Home Teacher for all the effort she put into putting this lesson together in the first place, and for the permission to share it again here!

2012 Primary Theme Printables

2012 Primary Theme Printables

For those of you who might not know, I’m currently in the primary presidency of our ward.  I’ve been emailing out printables to the parents of our primary children each month that have the theme and scripture for the month that they can print out and hang in their homes.  Our biggest goal as a presidency is to find ways to help the parents in our ward to teach and discuss gospel principles with their children in their homes.  We realized that often the parents don’t even know what we’re talking about each month!  So we made these posters so the monthly theme and scripture can become a focal point of their study and interactions with their children.

The printables aren’t anything really fancy, just a themed seasonal border and the theme and scripture nicely formatted inside.  I went through the other day and finished making printables for the rest of the year so I thought I would post them here in case someone else finds them useful.  I didn’t start making these until April so I’m sorry if you were hoping for posters for the whole year.  If people really want ones for January, February and March I could probably put some together, I just didn’t think it would be worth the effort to do it.  I’m hoping to make new ones for 2013 as soon as the Sharing Time manual gets posted and I’ll put those up as soon as I make them.  Please feel free to share these with anyone who might find these helpful, I always appreciate a link back if you do 🙂

Mint.com

My dad is a CPA, as such he taught me early on the importance of tracking your spending and reconciling all of your credit card statements etc.  He and my mom always used Quicken to track all of their spending.  I remember every month when my mom would get have to go through and make sure they had entered all of their transactions and reconcile their credit card bills.  So, when I got old enough to have my own computer it also came with a copy of Quicken and I started to track my own finances as well.  I think i did pretty well through at least the first few years of college, and then when Eric and I got married I kept meaning to get us all set up with Quicken and never did.

Finally, after we’d been married for about a year I went online to see if I could get an updated version of Quicken.  It seemed like in the 5 years since I’d first installed Quicken there was probably a version that at least ran faster.  I was in for a surprise!  Not only did they have newer versions of Quicken, but they had an online version that could be used for free!  Since I’m a big fan of things that are online and free, and Quicken is a brand that I trust I decided to check it out.  I fell in love.  All I had to do was enter in credentials for our various bank accounts, 401ks, credit cards etc. and all of my transactions were imported instantly.  No more reconciling statements, my statements were imported, and categorized automatically!  I was thrilled.

Within a few months Quicken bought out a company called Mint.com and started having them take over their online financial tracking solution.  What was already awesome got even better, better budget tracking, setting up goals, better algorithms for automatically categorizing transactions etc.  I immediately started telling my family that they needed to get set up with Mint.com.  My brother and sister did so and also loved what they found.  I actually thought that my mom had switched over to Mint from their desktop Quicken solution until a few weeks ago.  I had spouted off to her many many times about how much I loved Mint and how wonderful it was, but apparently she hadn’t entirely believed me.  A couple weeks ago my mom called me up and said “Why didn’t you tell me how easy and useful Mint is?!?”  The answer was… I had 🙂  She had fallen behind on their Quicken tracking and it was time to either start over with Quicken or switch to Mint.  She decided to give Mint a try and was instantly hooked.  She had it all set up in less than an hour and was able to look at their budget in a whole new way!

So why do I love Mint so much?  Here’s a basic overview of what Mint can do:

Spending Trends – Have you ever looked at your bank balances and wondered where all of your money went?  Mint provides easy to read graphs that break down how your money is being spent.  When I first got this set up I was shocked to see that we had spent over $400 one month on eating out.  Granted I was working full time and pregnant and sick with Sam at the time, but I was appalled to see how the nights that I hadn’t felt up to cooking added up.

Budgeting – So, now you know how much you spend, how to fix places where you’re spending too much?  Mint makes it really easy to set up a budget and stick to it.  They even suggest amounts based on your current spending so you don’t have to guess what a reasonable amount is.  You can set up budgets that occur every month, or on any sort of schedule during the year.  You can set up your budgets to roll over each month or not.  They also keep track of whether your budget amounts exceed your monthly income.  Plus you can set up your account to email or text you if you go over budget in any category.

Goals – We all have financial goals.  Whether it’s paying off credit cards, saving for a house or building up your emergency fund there’s something that you want to do with your money.  Mint makes it super easy to track these goals and help you make a plan to achieve them.  Just decide what kind of goal you have, pick an account to associate it with and then make the plan.  Mint will help you decide how much you need to budget each month to achieve your goal and tell you if you fall off track.

Another reason I use Mint is it helps me detect any fraudulent charges on my accounts.  Back in February I was going through our accounts and noticed a charge from Match.com – which obviously if either Eric or I were signing up for was a bit of a problem.  Someone had gotten a hold of our credit card numbers and was making charges to fake companies.  They weren’t huge charges though so if I hadn’t been paying attention I probably wouldn’t have noticed $30 here and $15 there.  But because I was watching we were able to put a stop to those charges before they escalated.

One of the major questions I had when I first found Mint is how are they making money off of this?  Nothing on the internet is truly free, someone is paying for it somewhere, and before handing my financial information over to someone I wanted to know what the “catch” was.  Mint makes it’s money through targeted advertising.  They’ll notice if you have an old 401k account that’s charging you maintenance fees an make a suggestion for another company that won’t charge you fees.  Or if you’re spending a lot in a particular category they might recommend a credit card that gives you higher rewards for purchases in that category.  And of course, they’ll suggest using TurboTax when tax season comes around.

I could go on and on, I love reading their financial blog, their customer service is pretty darn good and they email me a summary of my accounts every week! But really, for you to understand how awesome it is, you’re just going to have to try it for yourself 🙂