Organizing Books to Encourage Reading {& clean up}


Organizing books to encourage reading and clean up motherhood university .com

BOOKS! Anyone else have a complete and utter love affair with books? We have just under 1000 in our home collection. So people often ask “where do you put all those?” We store book in many ways and there will be future posts all about books. But this is one way we organize our early readers.

Most of the time, books are placed on a shelf sideways with only the book spine showing. Research indicates that when a child can see the front cover, they are more inclined to want to see what’s inside and read the book.

So this is what we do.

The books are organized into baskets all facing front. The baskets have a colored sticker labeled with a number. Each book that belongs in that basket has the same colored sticker in the top right corner. The numbers indicate reading level. We start with one (the easiest) and continue numerically as we go. For us, one is very basic phonics readers – short vowels, long vowels then CVC and high frequency word. What’s more important is that no matter where a book ends up, everyone know it’s home. Even children that can not yet read can usually match colors. So even toddlers and preschoolers can clean up. 

book organizing ideas motherhood

a close up

A child can take the basket appropriate to their reading level and flip through them finding what they want to read. This “book of the week” is our favorite way to create spelling lists. This book organizing method is a win for everyone!

Are you crazy for books too?


~ Regina

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Heart Hairdo {video}

Heart Hairdo

Just in time for Valentine’s Day. Girls of all ages will love this cute do. Try it with braids, twists or even a double twist. You can wear it all up, half up or pig tails. Fun year round!


If you can’t see the video, watch it here: Heart Hairdo

Video Notes
  1. with hair half up, do a “topsy tail” to point the hair up
  2. divide the hair into 2 parts, right side and left side, twist, braid or double twist  each side
  3. bring together and secure with rubber band
  4. shape heart, you may need a hair pin

Ever see a hair style and wonder “how do they do that?” ask us in the comments below and we’ll make you a video!


~ Regina

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What’s A Love Language And Why Is It Important?

relationship building with love languages from motherhood university


Ever feel like you’re putting your love out there but your partner isn’t feeling it? Maybe it’s the other way around. I’m guessing by now you’ve heard of love languages. But if you haven’t let me break it down, this is an incredible relationship building tool!

In his book The Five Love Languages, Gary Chapman explains there are certain ways that we express our love for one another. They are: acts of service,  gift giving, quality time, physical touch and words of affirmation.

So picture this…hubby has been away for work all week, you miss him and can’t wait to snuggle on the couch and watch a movie. When he gets home he washes your car and does laundry. There is no time for a movie but tomorrow you plan to go on a hike and then watch that movie. The next day hubby says he needs to mow the lawn before the hike and then it rains so no hike. You’re feeling frustrated and you lash out at him for not spending time with you – in your mind he’s neglecting you. Of course he can’t understand why you’re upset because in his mind, he is showing you how much he loves you.

Here’s what went wrong: your love language is quality time and you planned activities to spend time with your partner to show him how much you love him. BUT, hubby’s love language is acts of service and because he’s been away all week, he’s now working a little extra to show you how much he loves you. Oops! You’re missing one another’s love language.

So how does this work with your kiddos? Pretty much the same so it’s important to learn your child’s love language. It’s easier than you think. You can go to 5 Love and have your child take the quiz. The quiz will rank each of the 5 love languages with a score. Sometimes there is a clear cut “winner.” Some people don’t have a dominate love language but rather two languages that score fairly equal.


  • if your child is young, you can ask the questions
  • you may need to simplify the verbiage but don’t alter the point
  • kids may change as they grow and understand more so don’t pigeon hole them – have them take the test once a year
  • while a love language may stay the same, it will be expressed and accepted differently at various ages (age 4 and 14 will want to receive physical touch in different ways)
  • share your love language with them so they can learn to understand how we show love differently

Understanding love languages is one more tool to meeting your child where he is and building your relationship.

What’s your love language?


~ Regina

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Valentine’s Day Sibling Bonding Activity

Sibling Bonding Activity Motherhood University


We love family traditions. The special things that are unique to our family are far more important than mainstream celebrations. For most of America, Valentine’s Day is filled with chocolate, flowers and store bought cards. While those things do convey a message of love, I like to be more personal and specific. And before you V-Day haters chime in…I love you’s are not isolated only to Feb 14. We show our love throughout the year in many many ways.

The “I Love You Box” started with an “I Love You Wall.” This year we’ll use it as a sibling bonding activity. It goes like this…. Each year I choose a spot for an I love you wall. The top is labeled “I love you because,” and it’s divided into sections (with tape), one for each child. I dig out the cricut machine and make a whole bunch of hearts (or grab some pink or red post its). Each day from February 1 to February 14, I write down a reason why I love that child and tape it on the wall.

I love you wall sibling bonding activity

You could use…
  • a wall
  • kid’s bedroom door
  • bulletin board
  • kitchen cabinets
  • refrigerator


The first time I did it I just throw the hearts away after Valentine’s Day. But the next time I realized how much the reasons changed in a year and I thought they should be saved. First I thought I’d put then into some type of scrapbook. I journal to the kids and maybe someday I’ll stick them in there. But for now, I group them by year and put them in a 3 inch by 5 inch card box (one for each child). They then get stored in each child’s keepsake box. It’s important to express what you love about the unique individual’s character and strengths rather than just “generic” I love you’s. The goal is for your child to feel like you truly understand who she is.

Imagine if  YOU had such meaningful messages from your Mom over a span of your childhood. How would that impact your relationship?

How To Make It A Sibling Bonding Activity

Just as important as family traditions (if not more so), is sibling bonding. Someday I’ll die and my offsprings will have one another. So fostering positive relationships with siblings is vital to the health and goals of our family. This year instead of getting a message from Mom, each child will write down something they love about each sibling.


  • make the hearts bigger for “early writers” with still developing handwriting
  • write for younger kids
  • accept where they are today, don’t expect anything too deep
  • kids reluctant to participate may just have a hard time expressing themselves, help them – give them 2 ideas to choose between
  • choose a time of day conducive to success (not while tire or hungry or right after school)
  • have fun with this

I hope you add family traditions that help grow your family relationship now and for years to come. Share your favorites with us in the comments below.



~ Regina

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Crock-Pot Oatmeal, Because It’s Breakfast That Cooks Itself

Crock-Pot Oatmeal

January is National Oatmeal Month. Okay, that really means nothing to me but it’s a great excuse to share our favorite oatmeal recipe. One of the reasons it’s a fav is because it cooks itself. With just a couple steps we wake up to a hot and healthy breakfast.

First, let me say that all crock-pots are not created equal. You may have to tweak the amount of liquid until you get your desired oatmeal consistency. I have found that our older and smaller crock-pot has worked the best. There is a theory that the fuller the pot the better it cooks (much like a full refrigerator stays colder).

The Recipe

Notice there isn’t much for measurements. That’s because this is a very forgiving recipe once you figure out YOUR crock-pot. This is the most basic version, you can change it a million ways.

  • 1 part steel cut oats
  • 5 parts water or liquid
  • 1 apple
  • 1 banana
  • splash of vanilla (a heavy handed teaspoon)
  • dollop of molasses (great way to sneak in a little extra iron – a heavy handed tablespoon)
  • palm full of cinnamon (if using, that’s about a teaspoon)
  • pinch of salt (1/4 teaspoon – use a quality salt, nothing processed)

The oats to water ratio is 1 to 5. So if you use 1 cup of oats, use 5 cups of water.

1 1/2 cups of oats (and 7 1/2 cups water) feeds my 6 eaters.

I use some of that water in my vitamix with an apple and a banana. Puree it and add to sweeten the oatmeal. Put everything in the crock-pot and set it on low for about 8 hours. The basic idea is oats, water, something to sweeten it, something to flavor it and hopefully you add something to increase the nutritional value.

*Yeah know how wasteful toddlers and young children can be with food? Totally sounds gross but if someone only eats half a banana or apple I just toss it in the fridge until I make the oatmeal and it gets used as the sweetener. (I wouldn’t serve that to guests). Makes me feel a little better about toddler food waste.

In the morning, top with your favorite fruit, berries, nuts and/or dried fruit. Kind of like an oatmeal bar! (My kids like nut butter in oatmeal).

Liquid Ideas

  • water
  • almond milk
  • coconut milk
  • hemp seed milk (boost the nutrition)
  • my paleo friends like raw milk
  • fresh juice

Sweetener Ideas

  • pureed apple
  • pureed banana
  • steamed and pureed winter squash
  • steamed and pureed sweet potatoes
  • maple
  • raw honey
  • stevia
  • agave if you must

Recipe Variations

  • Chocolate Banana: omit the cinnamon and apple, double the pureed banana, add cocoa powder, top with fresh bananas
  • Cranberry Walnut (pictured): to the basic recipe add 1/2 teaspoon each of cloves and nutmeg, top with dried cranberries, walnuts and flax seeds (my fav)
  • Sweet Potato Pecan Pie: trade the banana & apple puree for a couple of steamed and pureed sweet potatoes, top with chopped pecans and almond milk
  • Tropical Delight: trade half the water for coconut milk, omit the apple and cinnamon, add crushed pineapple (or chunks), top with shredded coconut, slice bananas and macadamias
  • Honey Vanilla Butternut Squash: trade the banana and apple for about a cup of steamed and pureed butternut squash, double the vanilla, add a once-around-the-pot of honey, top with sliced almonds

This list goes on and on. We also like to cook the oatmeal with coconut milk and add fresh strawberries and blueberries. The possibilities are endless. What is your favorite oatmeal recipe?








~ Regina

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Call And Response {Parenting Quick Tip #001}

Call and Response


Ever think – hmm, I wonder if the kids heard me? Or, ever wish you had a great way to get the kids’ attention without turning into the “crazy-big-eyes-arm-waving-screeching-loud-Mom?” Try a call and response! (The call and response technique came up in conversations had at the No Yell Challenge Facebook event.)

A call and response is a teaching technique used to gain the attention of your students. Most often both the call and the response are verbal but non-verbal actions could also be used. This technique works great for large groups like when you’re coaching soccer or volunteering at church. But it is just as effective with one child. Call and response is an easy crossover from classroom to home/parenting. It’s particularly useful during free play, transitions, or when the kids are getting a little rowdy.  It is appropriate for all ages toddler to teen.

The general idea is that you call out a word or phrase and your child or students respond with a specific word or phrase and then freeze and listen. It can be short and sweet, long and funny, based on a book you’re reading or a moving you love. It can incorporate your organization’s name or whatever works for you.


(parent/teacher on the left, child/students on the right):

  • Hey……………Ho, Kid SPACE let’s go (clap and freeze) (change Kid SPACE to something that works for you)
  • Chicka Chicka……………Boom Boom (super easy for little ones)
  • Eyes……looking, Ears…..listening, Brains……….ready to learn
  • Who you gonna call………….Ghost busters
  • Hey there kiddos, how are you……………we are listening, through and through
  • Hey hey what time is it…… is time to quit and sit (use when the kids are wild)

I can go on and on but I’m sure you get the idea. Just make sure it’s appropriate for your use. For instance, years ago I taught summer dance camps and used: Me: Are you ready? Students: We’re hot, we’re sweaty, but baby we are ready! silly and fun when you’re sweating at camp but not so cute for the preschoolers at church!

*Bonus Idea

Another fun way to get their attention is clapping a rhythm. You clap out a measure and they clap it back to you in tempo. You keep going back and forth until you have the attention of everyone. This works well for older elementary aged kids and up. With older ones, challenge them by making the rhythms get harder as you go.

My very Southern Mom had her own version of call and response. Anytime she asked us to do something she would end it by asking “Do you understand?” To which we replied “Yes Ma’am” (I catch myself doing this all the time). Lots of opinions on the ‘ma’am’ thing, but it provided an opportunity for two-way communication and ensured that Mom’s instructions were heard. I hear lots of Moms today ask there child to respond with a ‘yes Mom.’ Not exactly a call and response but this is very helpful in teaching manners, validating Mom and all around good communication.

Additional Tips

  • Have the kids help you create a call and response. This gives them ownership in it and they’ll be more inclined to use it.
  • Don’t overuse it.
  • Change it when you find it has become ineffective (I like  anew one each year).
  • Make it fun and your kids will love it.

What is your favorite call and response?




~ Regina

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No Yell Challenge

Happy New Year! Resolutions? Goals? Nothing at all? Here’s a change you should make even if you’re not a “New Year” person. Let’s just say it – stop yelling at your kids!

No Yell Challenge

So you had a bad day,  flat tire, missed deadline at work. Maybe you’ve been home all day and the kids are “behaving like birth control.” Yes, parenting is hard and kids can test your patience. Still no reason to scream at them. Our job as leaders is to act consistently rather than react. You can not blame your child for your choices, even when little Johnny just poo-poo-Picasso-ed the bathroom wall.

Maybe you still think shouting at the kiddos is just no big deal. These days most folks don’t need a degree in psychology to know the long term damage of verbal abuse. Yes, abuse. And abuse is abuse, there is no reason to compare it: verbal (emotional), physical, sexual, etc. Long term emotional abuse can negatively impact brain development in many children.

Need more? Harvard research suggests:

Verbal abuse has as great an effect as physical or non-domestic sexual mistreatment.

Children are people. They deserve to be treated with the same level of respect as any other person – period. Here’s a test for you. If you wouldn’t speak to a co-worker by screaming and yelling, then you shouldn’t speak to your child that way. Additionally, your co-worker isn’t likely someone you LOVE (like your child). Yelling is NOT how you show someone unconditional love. Think about what type of love you want your teen or adult child to seek.

Also, you should not be blaming, name calling (insulting) or belittling your child. These, along with screaming, are examples of YOUR problems and YOUR lack of ability to maintain self-control. Find new coping skills.

you can't teach self control if you don't have any/

So Where Do You Start?

The No Yell Challenge will ask you to answer some hard questions.

  1. Why am I angry?
  2. Why am I feeling frustrated?
  3. How can I control my feelings?

Put yourself in your child’s shoes. How does it feel to be yelled at or blamed for an accident. Do you feel safe when the person you love most screams at you or threatens you?

Some Tools

  1. Identify your triggers. Adult, like kids, can be set off by hunger and tiredness. Find all your triggers. Consider keeping a log book and write down what is happening when you yell.
  2. Understand expectations. Often we react because we set an unrealistic expectation. Kinda looks like this: we expect a certain outcome, it doesn’t happen, we get pissed. To cope, lower your expectations altogether. When you do set one, communicate it clearly and thoroughly.
  3. Rethink your attitude. So you get pissed off when your kids spills his lunch. Stop and use it as on opportunity to teach him how to carry his plate, how to sit properly at the table, how to clean up the mess, etc. Are you sending the message – you must be perfect and not ever make a mistake because if you do I’ll lose my shit and scream at you OR do you want to send the message we all make mistakes and we can learn from them, this is a safe place for you to make mistakes and I love you unconditionally.

Take The No Yell Challenge

Click on the PDF below, print it, fill it out and do! Ok maybe I over-simplified. Encourage the entire family to participate. Determine how many days you will vow the first time around. Make it achievable. Make sure everyone understands that if you yell you start over until you fulfill your commitment. Once you reach the goal, take the challenge again but longer continually increasing until you’ve formed a solid habit of not yelling – ever.

*screaming pillow clause

If you should find yourself in a situation that would normally have you shouting, you are frustrated and can not find any other ways to recover from your anger, you may explain to those around you that you are implementing the “screaming pillow clause.” You may go into another room and scream into a pillow. This is a short term coping skill and should be replaced with better anger management approaches. Also, there may be laughing and that’s perfecting acceptable…because really.

Please participate in this challenge, share it with your partner and your friends. If the yelling and screaming continues it won’t just tear down your child, it will destroy your relationship.

So how many days will you pledge to for the first round?

No Yell Challenge

Also, join the Facebook event – support and encourage others.

~ Regina

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Counting Down To Thanksgiving With Gratitude

Gratitude Thanksgiving Countdown


One of our family principles is: gratitude is the best attitude. We practice being grateful all year, but November is like our high holiday of gratitude. Thanksgiving is our beginning and end. It’s when we reflect on a year’s worth of blessings as well as think ahead to all the ways we can share our gratitude with others. So, like many people do advent calendars to countdown to Christmas, we countdown to Thanksgiving. It’s different each year. This one is an oldie but goodie.

You will need:

  • brown paper – we used paper bags from the grocery store
  • a leaf template – we googled that
  • construction paper in green, yellow, orange and red
  • tape or sticky tack
  • pencils or markers or crayons


  1. Decide how long you want your countdown to be – the whole month of November may feel overwhelming.
  2. Make the tree trunk and branches (you don’t have to be Picasso, this is process over product). Consider making it a kid friendly height.
  3. Cut out 2 sets of leaves, one set of green and one set of autumn colors. You will need enough leaves for each child and each day in both sets.
  4. Attach the green leaves to the tree.
  5. Explain it to your family.

Each day on an autumn colored leaf you will write down something for which you are grateful. Then you will take down a green leaf and replace it with the autumn colored leaf. As we get closer to Thanksgiving there will be less green and more autumn colored leaves. When all the leaves have changed it will be Thanksgiving Day.

*If you skip a day or double up on a day just adjust the number accordingly.

When you’re done, you can make a little Thanksgiving scrapbook with the autumn leaves and pictures from Thanksgiving.

Be sure to join our Facebook event The Gratitude Project this month.


~ Regina

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Tex Mex Rice Bowls

Tex Mex Rice Bowls

If it’s Tex Mex or just in the neighborhood of taco flavored – I’m in! These rice bowl combine a lot of kid friendly family favorites.


taco flavored rice

lazy black beans


black olives

green onions

30 second salsa


nacho cheeze sauce

tortilla chips


There is no wrong way to build a rice bowl. This is the order I use to prepare the ingredients.

Cook the rice first because it takes the longest. I’m using brown rice – 1 part rice, 2 parts water, bring to a boil, reduce to low for 50 minutes keeping the lid on the entire time, once done add taco seasoning.

Next soak the raw cashews and take out all the ingredients for the nacho cheeze sauce. I just group them on the counter (in hopes of delegating this task).

Start the lazy black beans.

Chop the tomatoes, black olives and green onion. Make the guacamole.

Since I use the Vitamix to make both the 30 second salsa and the nacho cheeze sauce, I make the salsa first, containerize it and then the cheeze sauce (I generally pour it straight from the Vitamix -lazy). The cheese sauce is always made last so it’s hot.

Now that the rice is done, season it and start layering your rice bowl.

You can make this Nacho style be starting with a layer of chips on your plate too. I like the chips on the side – I use them like a fork! You may also like to include onions, lime or cilantro. Like I said, you can’t do it wrong. What’s your favorite ingredient for Tex Mex Rice Bowls?

~ Regina

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Ridiculously Easy Guacamole, Because You Like It Fresh

Ridiculously Easy Guacamole

I seriously need a 12 step program for my guacamole addiction (and there isn’t even onion powder in it – onion powder makes everything good).


1 medium tomato

2 ripe haas Avocados

lime juice to taste

salt to taste


On a flexible cutting board , dice the tomato small.

diced tomato for guacamole


Using a potato masher, mash the avocados to desired consistency.

mashing avocados for guacamole


Top with juice from about half a small lime (or to taste) and a generous sprinkling of salt. Stir it right on the cutting board.

making guacamole on your cutting board


The flexible cutting board allows you to fold or funnel it into a serving container (although I’ll happily stand at the counter and eat guac right from the cutting board). Do you share my addiction?



~ Regina

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