My Summer Incentive System

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My Summer Incentive System for Kids

I just finished the first full week of summer with both girls home and out of school, and we had a really pleasant week. In summer’s past, this has not always been the case, which is why I am thrilled to pieces at the splendor of what some rainbow popsicle sticks can do.

I attribute the first week success to my new summer incentive system to inspire behaviors that make them nice humans to be around.

And it worked! Well. Which is why I am sharing with you today.

Over the years I have done a variety of things to try to achieve the same result, but nothing has ever worked quite as well as this system. Here’s how it goes…

Supplies needed: 

~ Two vases or clear bowls or really anything that kids can put stuff in.

~ Something to put in them as a token of a good behavior : in my case, rainbow popsicle sticks. You can also use coins, marbles, beads, anything.  But they really like the popsicle sticks.

~ Display in an area of the house where they spend the most time.

Our Summer Incentive System:

1. Each child starts with the same number of sticks.

I started with 20, which I placed in a pile in front of the vases. To keep them separate, I put an orange or white rubber band around them, one color for each girl.

2. A child earns a stick when they exhibit positive behaviors.

Things like playing nicely together, sharing, cleaning up without complaining, helping, generally those sweet behaviors I want to reward.

3. Popsicle sticks can also be lost (or taken out).

If it is an egregious behavior, they will lose a stick immediately. Like my oldest talked to me in a sassy, disrespectful voice and lost a stick immediately. No warning. NOT okay.

But for most everything else, they will be given a warning before losing it. For example, say a bickering episode starts within a game of Barbies, they both want the same Barbie and keep on whining and fighting over it. I could say, “You both have a warning. There are two choices. You can chose to work it out or separate and play something on your own.” Hopefully they work it out, but if they fighting continues, they both lose a stick.

4. When they earn all 20 of their sticks in the vase, they are given a small reward.  I am going to increase the number of sticks each time we start over because it only took 5 days to earn the reward. That’s a lot of rewards.

For the reward, we are talking small things they helped me come up with. My little one wants a frozen yogurt trip (don’t tell her we would have gone anyway), and my oldest wants an hour with me playing Barbies with them (sad!! Note to self…)

I think I will come up with a bigger reward for the last week of summer to celebrate all the sticks they earned over the past couple months.

Random Rules:

1. They may not take a stick without a parent telling them to do so.

2. There is one way to earn an automatic stick: making their beds when they get up. So they can get up, make their bed, and come out and get the stick on their own.

3. If you ask for a stick, you automatically don’t get it. “Mom! I cleaned up my clothes on the floor! Can I get a stick?” NO! I don’t want them to get used to just doing things they normally should just to earn a stick.

4. I told them I am keeping track, and counting them (I’m not), and if I notice there are extra sticks that they did not earn in there, they will lose all the sticks and start over (serious!!)


The Beauty of It All

They are competitive with each other, so if one makes their bed, you better bet the other one will too, lest they have one less stick. They have been tied neck in neck the entire week. Or, for one to lose a stick is a big deal because again, that means the other one will be ahead.

Love This 

Emma said, “Morgan you can play Barbies with us when I win my reward.” And then Morgan said, “Emma you can go to frozen yogurt with us when I win.”

I gave them both a stick.

Do you have a system that works for you? Please share!

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Kids’ Birthday Parties: The Gray Areas

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Recently we shared a post on our Facebook page that got a ton of comments and shares and I could just hear moms everywhere yelling “Amen sister!”  On that note, we have some really good stuff we share on our Facebook page, if you don’t follow, please click here to like us. I think you will be happy you did.

The post was from a blogger called Scary Mommy (she’s hilarious – highly recommend following if you don’t already) with an attempt to unite moms across America to end the birthday party favor tradition for kids.

I am so on board.

Nothing bugs me more than cheap trinkets cluttering our house, and once the kids leave the party, they likely never touch them again. I would rather the host save their money. Isn’t the party enough for the kids?

Her post got me thinking about another pet peeve of mine regarding kids’ birthday parties and it has to do with what are often two gray areas: are siblings welcome or is it a drop off party?

When kids are little, typically birthday parties are a family affair. But when they get older, some parties start to become “drop off” parties where parents drop the kids and pick them up after.  In my experience, with girls, the drop off phenomenon tends to start around 5 – 6 +.

So I am in the “is it drop off or not?” phase with both of my girls now.  And lots of time it is unclear.

Can you help a mother out? 

On your birthday party invites or evites, or even in a separate email, can you make it clear if it is a drop off party or not?

If it is a drop off party, that’s easy, and I don’t have to worry about my other daughter. Taking that a step further, if it is not a drop off party, can I bring my other child or should I make other arrangements for her?

Tell me what you prefer! 

When it has been unclear, I have asked the hostess if it is drop off or if moms are staying and, being the super sweet moms they are, I have heard, “You are welcome to either drop or stay!”

Which is so nice, but what I really want to know is what YOU want me to do! Do you prefer to have parents there to watch over their kids or you would prefer to not have moms standing around?

Here’s the thing: I will do whatever you want. I just need to know.

Invitation wording: give it to me straight!  

Lately I have gotten a few birthday party invitations where the hostess flat out says, “So sorry – no siblings.” And to that, I say, “THANK YOU!” I won’t bring her! No offense taken here – would you agree? Or would you be offended if you saw this?

So it can be as simple as staying “Siblings welcome!” or “Sorry – no siblings.” Either one does the job.

Same with the drop off part.

It can be as simple as stating, “Drop off party” at the bottom of the invite, or including it in the invitation wording, “Please drop off your child at 11:30am and pick up at 1:30pm.”

Or, on the invitation, you can address it to the “Scheumann family”, which would tell me that the party is a family affair and we should plan on staying.

Or, address the invitation using both of my children’s names so that I know they are both included. Which, typically means I should stay too, unless otherwise noted.

Tell me your thoughts! 

I would love to hear what you all think about this topic. Are you offended if someone says, “No siblings?” How do you feel about drop off parties? What do you do if it is a gray area? Please comment…

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$1 Movies for Kids this Summer

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OC cheap summer movies for kids

Who doesn’t love to go to the movies?  Wellllll…sometimes it can be a bit overwhelming with a preschooler and first grader in tow.  That’s why I LOVE the these OC cheap summer movies for kids! We are talking $1 movies for kids this summer in Orange County, yes, only $1, offered at many theaters locations I have compiled for you below.

These fun, kid-friendly movies are shown in the mornings. Typically filled with other parents and excited, squirmy kids. And it’s okay that your kids laugh extra loud, talk during the movie,  spill their snack, and get up and down.  And up and down.  And up and down.  Oh, and cruise the aisles.  While watching the movie.

OC Cheap Summer Movies for Kids

Regal Entertainment Group

Summer Movie Express Program

Tuesdays and Wednesdays / Start time:  10 a.m.
(All tickets must be purchased at the box office)
Cost – $1

Regal’s 2014 Movie Schedule Includes:

Tuesday July 1 & Wednesday July 2
 – Arthur Christmas AND 
Despicable Me 2

Tuesday July 8 & Wednesday July 9 – 
The Lego Movie AND 
Free Birds

Tuesday July 15 & Wednesday July 16 – The Adventures of Tintin AND 
Rise of the Guardians

Tuesday July 22 & Wednesday July 23 – Kung Fu Panda 2
 AND Madagascar 3

Tuesday July 29 & Wednesday July 30 – The Croods AND 

Tuesday August 5 & Wednesday August 6
 – Turbo AND 
Walking with Dinosaurs

Tuesday August 12 & Wednesday August 13- 
Mr. Peabody & Sherman
 AND Rio 2

Click to enter your zip code and find the closest participating theater to you. And feel good knowing that a portion of the proceeds goes to the Will Rogers Institute.

Picture Show at Westfield Mainplace

Westfield MainPlace
2800 N. Main Street
Santa Ana, Orange County, 92705
Discount shows on Tuesdays – $1 

Krikorian Premiere Theatre

2014 Krikorian Kids Series 
(Buena Park and San Clemente locations)

Buena Park Metroplex 18

8290 La Palma Ave.
Buena Park, CA 90620

(714) 826-7469 (SHOW)

***Movies are FREE at this location!!  Sponsored by Buena Park Downtown.

641-B Camino de Los Mares
San Clemente, CA 92673
(949) 661-7469 (SHOW)
$1 movies at this location

Every Tuesday from June 17th through August 19th
Two showings per day will be available at 10:00 a.m. & 12:30 p.m.
Seating is first come, first served!

Tuesday, July 1 – The Croods

Tuesday, July 8 – Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs

Tuesday, July 15 – The Smurfs 2

Tuesday, July 22 – Epic

Tuesday, July 29 – Despicable Me 2

Tuesday, August 5 – The Lego Movie

Tuesday, August 12 – Turbo

Tuesday, August 19 – Percy Jackson – Sea of Monsters

Cinemark – Century 20 Huntington Beach & XD

Summer Movie Clubhouse 

Tuesdays and Thursdays at 10 a.m.
$1 movies (when purchased at the box office)
$5 for 10 movies (when purchased in advanced at the box office)

Century 20 Huntington Beach & XD
7777 Edinger Avenue
Huntington Beach, Orange County, 92647

Tuesday July 1 & Thursday July 3
 – Turbo

Tuesday July 8 & Thursday July 10 – 
Despicable Me 2

Tuesday July 15 & Thursday July 17 – Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2

Tuesday July 22 & Thursday July 24 – Walking with Dinosaurs

Tuesday July 29 & Thursday July 31 – The Lego Movie

Tuesday August 5 & Thursday August 7 – Rio 2

Tuesday August 12 & Thursday August 14 – 
Mr. Peabody & Sherman

Tuesday August 19th & Thursday August 21 – The Chipmunks – The Squeakquel

Tuesday August 26 & Thursday August 28 – Zookeeper

**Disclaimer and note – I encourage you to always call ahead or check theater websites for updates!

Another great resource I found is Plan a Day Out – this site shares about local discounted movies, movies in the park, movies at your local library…plus lots of other great summer activities and event ideas.  Check it out!

I love these $1 movies for kids.  It’s cheap, it’s air conditioned, and it’s fun for summer!  Share your favorite thing to do with your kiddos below.  And, where do you like to take your kids to the movies?

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Unbooked Appointments

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Unbooked Appointments is a Tiny Oranges Sponsor and Affiliate Links are used in this post.

Unbooked Appointments: Go when they are slow and get the best price

I love it when I find out about new businesses that simply, just make sense.

For example, recently I blogged about one of my favorite apps, Hotel Tonight, which offers last minute killer rates on hotel rooms day of so the hotel can fill up unbooked rooms. Makes sense, right?

Well, this same sort of philosophy has now come to the service industry, in the form of a brand new company in Orange County called Unbooked Appointments.

The premise is simple and a win-win for everyone involved: consumer and provider.

For any business that keeps an appointment book (think massage therapists, personal trainers, dentists, chiropractors, estheticians, hairstylists, etc.), Unbooked Appointments gives them the opportunity to offer their best price for appointments booked during slower times of the day.

Most people in the service industry would agree they would rather be working at a reduced price vs. having an appointment slot sit empty. Right?

How does Unbooked Appointments work for you? 

Now here’s where you, the consumer, come in. If you are able to be flexible in the time you book your appointment, you can go onto and search for the service you are looking for to see if there is a time that would work.

For example, I have been dying for a massage to work out the end-of-the-school-year kinks.

I went to, searched under  “Swedish Massage” and bam! I found a place close to my home offering a 60 minute Swedish massage for $50. Yes, please!

Then I clicked on “Promo Times,” selected the day / time slot that worked for me, entered my payment information (you can even opt to pay via PayPal) and booked my appointment.

No voucher code, no need to call and make an appointment, you are done. All that is left to do is show up (they will have your appointment in their system) and enjoy the massage!

Side note: gratuity not included.


Keep Unbooked Appointments on your Radar

The company is brand new to the Orange County market, so keep this in mind when looking for service providers. In the next few months, they intend to grow rapidly, adding more and more service providers to their system every day.

So, if you don’t find a place close to you offering the service you want, keep checking back and you will likely find more.

Better yet, pass on the site info to the service providers you love and encourage them to sign up! It’s free to list their business, and the service provider only pays a commission to Unbooked Appointments for appointments booked.

Again, doesn’t this just make sense?

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The Truth About Family “Vacations” with Young Kids

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The truth about family vacations with young kids


That photo above was taken as I was setting the self-timer on my camera in an attempt to capture a family photo of the four of us on our recent El Capitan Canyon glamping trip.

Every time we tried to take a photo, someone was not looking or doing something stupid, and I got to the point where I said, “We will do this as many times as it takes to get ONE good photo of our family together on this vacation!!!!!!”

Note their enthusiastic faces. Husband included.

Which inspired this post: the truth about family “vacations” with young kids.

Yes, we had the most amazing trip overall, but there are definitely moments within a family “vacation” that are not so pleasant.

So here are my tips on how to make the most out of your family “vacation” with little ones.

First off, traveling with young kids is not a “vacation”

I think we would all be better off banning the word “vacation” when it comes to traveling with young kids. Trip, yes. Vacation, no.

When I think of a vacation, I think of relaxation. Me by a pool with a cocktail, good book and a snooze. Vacationing with small kids is anything but.

Let go of the dream

When traveling with young kids, I have found it is best to not set unrealistic expectations.

It is easy to romanticize the family vacation. You plan for it, dream about it, and envision your happy family splashing in a pool together or enjoying a theme park all day with grateful, happy children.

Now let’s talk about reality.

Traveling with  young children can cause nightmarish moments. Whining, tantrums, what have you.

This can lead to disappointment if you have a romantic family vacation vision in your head, because damnit, we are on VACATION people, you WILL have fun if it KILLS me!!!!

As fun as it might be, traveling does throw kids off their regularly scheduled program. Factor in a few hours less sleep per night, spotty naps, extra sugar and exhausting activities, and you will likely have full on CRANK-sters on your hands at times.

What is a parent to do?

First off, recognize these facts and give them a break. If someone is on meltdown mode, get them back to the room with an iPad, TV show, or anything it takes to bring them down.  Chill out time has to be factored in. It’s okay. You might need a chill out moment too.

If a kid is burnt out at the theme park – I give you permission to abort mission before hitting everything you had planned.

Pushing on when kids have hit the limit can have less than favorable results.

Laugh at the bad moments 

On this particular El Capitan trip, we got all packed up and headed down to Refugio Beach for a beach day. We get there, get unpacked, schlep up the beach to find a perfect spot, unpack our beach gear and not five minutes later my 7-year-old gets stung by a bee.

By her reaction, those on the beach might have thought she got bitten by a shark.

As I am carrying a child too big to be carried, screaming up the beach to the car, I start to laugh because it really is, funny. The vision of my trying to carry her on the beach made me crack up.

My laughter distracted her from the trauma of it all, and she asked why I am laughing. I tell her, “We will NEVER forget this beach trip.” Which makes her laugh too.

And we won’t. We will always remember the time she got stung by a bee at Refugio beach.

Don’t set yourself up for disaster

On another family trip, we found ourselves having a blast at the pool and leaving later than expected to go back to shower and get ready for dinner.

Kids swam all day. They were sun-kissed and exhausted, and even though it was 7:30pm, we thought we should head up to the hotel restaurant for dinner. I had a romantic family vacation vision of us sitting up on the beautiful outdoor patio enjoying a lovely al fresco dinner together.  Deep down I knew it would end in disaster.

Mother’s instinct is always right. Trust IT ladies!

We get to the restaurant, and it is another full hour before we get our food. My kids were a hot mess.

We should have called for a pizza or I should have sent hubby to run out to a local place for take out.

Carve out a little time for your own sanity

Family trips are a lot of together time.

And yes, we love each other so very much, but dear God, we also need a little break so I urge you to carve out an hour here and there to have to yourself.  Take a walk by yourself, go and sit and get a coffee alone somewhere, just get away for an hour if you feel you need it.

Even if working out is not your idea of vacation – well, it just might have to be on your trip! An hour at the fitness center alone or participating in a resort yoga class might be what the doctor ordered.

Don’t do yoga? Yes, you do. Fake it.

Hour on, hour off

When my kids were too young to swim on their own, my husband and I would switch hours when we were off and on kid duty. When we were on, we were responsible for watching the kids in the pool. When we were off, we could read and feel free to sit in the lounge chair and watch from the sidelines.

This gave us both a break so we could find a little relaxation.

Even better, ask your hubby to treat you to a morning at the spa and trade him for a round of golf!

High hopes

This summer my girls are 5 and 8. They are not little kids anymore, so we are taking our first family trip with older kids. Note I still do not use the word vacation just in case. We are are going away for a week, including plane ride and six nights in a hotel.

It will be my girls first time on an airplane and the first time we have gone away for more than a few nights.

I have high hopes that I might be able to use the word vacation for this upcoming trip. But that remains to be seen. Stay tuned.

Embrace the good moments

In any family trip, you will come away with moments that you will remember forever (and some you might want to forget), but, those moments you remember will be SO worth it. It just won’t be EVERY moment. Go in with that mindset, and you will be ahead of the game. Happy summer mamas!


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