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How To Organize A Family Reunion

If you want all the details on how to organize a family reunion look no further. We have everything from breaking down the cost, activities, meals, and more!

At the beginning of the week we all piled into the car and headed up to Idaho. This was the first year that Derek's immediate family hosted a family reunion, and I'm pretty sure it's something that we're going to repeat each summer. It was honestly so much fun and it was such a great way to be able to get the entire family together, have fun, and not spend 10,000 years cleaning up Derek's parents house afterwards. I've had a lot of people ask for details about the reunion, so I'll share as much as I know in case anyone else is wondering how to plan a family reunion.

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I do want to start off by saying Derek's sister planned this first reunion and did an amazing job. I think the plan is for it to rotate among Derek's family who plans it in subsequent years and Keriana honestly did such a fabulous job this year that it really made an awesome blue print for us moving forward. 

How to Organize a Family Reunion:

Where to host a family reunion?

We did ours in Driggs, ID. This was a one hour drive from Derek's parents house, and a 4-5 hour drive for us from Utah. Most of Derek's siblings all live in the same town as his parents, or the next town over. Most people had a short dive except for Derek and I, and his sister who lives in Pocatello.

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If you're planning a reunion, picking a place that is within a good driving distance for most families is ideal. I think we originally picked Driggs because it was a short driving distance to Yellowstone National Park, which I think originally we were going to go to, but with covid-19 I think the entrance was closed so we wound up doing other activities instead, but it wound up being just as fun.

Try picking a location that has a huge focal point such as a lake, a national park, or some sort of key highlight, and then it will make it easier to plan activities around that. Then look for places that are big enough to host all of you. I think we found our place on Air BNB, so look on home rental sites like that to see what you can find. We wound up having enough space for each family to use two bedrooms. 

Who to invite to a family reunion?

Honestly, you can make it as big or small as you would like. Derek has a large family (his parents have 9 kids, and there are 20 grandchildren so far), all together there was 36 people. It might have been a little unreasonable to plan an event for anyone outside of the children, spouse, grandchildren circle, but if you have a smaller family you could totally include extended family to make it more inclusive. 

How to plan meals for a family reunion?

Each of the married spouses and Derek's parents took turns rotating through the meals. Derek's sister and her husband were in charge of dinner the first night, and then his other sister and her husband cooked breakfast the next morning, Jacob and Krista were in charge of lunch on Monday, and Maurcine and Dakota were in charge of Monday dinner. Derek's mom and dad were in charge of breakfast on Tuesday, and Derek and I were in charge of Tuesday lunch. This made it really easy for delegating responsibility and knowing what to bring. We all brought additional snacks and pretty much shared those in between meals for kids when they were hungry.

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How to divide expenses for a family reunion?

This was a question someone sent me on Instagram and I'm not really sure the exact answer. Everyone who was in charge of cooking a meal purchased all the food and supplies for that meal. I believe all the married couples and Derek's parents spilt the cost of where we stayed six ways (there might have been others who did contribute but I'm just guessing). Most of the activities that we did didn't cost anything (aside from some prizes and candy and things like that, and I assume Derek's sister paid for those so thank you Keriana if you're reading this!). One night the entire family went horseback riding for two hours and I'm sure there was a fee for that, I'm assuming paid for by Derek's parents. 

What activities to do at a family reunion?

I'll share the full schedule we used for the reunion at the bottom of this post but here is an extensive list of all the activities we did at the reunion:

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  1. Face Game: Derek's sister asked for everyone to send an individual picture of everyone in the family, she then took two different people and morphed their faces together, and everyone had to guess which to people in the family were morphed into one photo. Everyone had a piece of paper numbered 1-36 and whoever got the most guesses right at the end of the game won a prize. I don't know what app Keriana used to make the photos, but there seems to be a lot of options when you google it. 
  2. Minute to Win it Games: The first night we were there we played a bunch of minute to win it games with all of the nieces and nephews and they had a ton of fun. You can find a ton of options for games to play on pinterest! 
  3. Family 5k and Running Events: We held a family 5k that went from where we were staying and ended at a local high school track. The family members that weren't running met us there in their cars, and manned the streets directing the runners where to go. Once everyone was done running the 5k we did 100m and 400m races for all the kids and adults to participate in. 
  4. Outdoor games: After the races we did some games on the football field like a family relay race, a freeze dance competition where one kid would pick which dance to do (most of ours turned into dancing like some animal) then the music would stop and we'd pick a new dance and did this 5-6 times before going onto the next activity. We also tapped a bunch of candy to a plain t-shirt and put it on the oldest nephew and had him run around the field with all the other nieces and nephews chasing him and trying to rip the candy off. 
  5. Horse Back Riding: We paid to ride horses for two hours and each kid had about 10-12 minutes on the horse before getting down and letting the next person have a turn. If there aren't horses where you're staying maybe you could rent some ATVs, go boating, some sort of big adventure that everyone can participate in. 
  6. Hike/Picnic: We were originally going to go on a hike around a lake near where we were staying on the last day, but it rained and we all ended up going home early. But hiking is a super easy go-to activity. 
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What to do during down time in a family reunion?

We had lots of downtime at night after dinner, and during the afternoon between lunch and dinner on the second day. Where we stayed had a big yard, a hot tub, TV for movies, and we brought lots of board games. During the downtime everyone kind of did their own thing and it was really nice. Most of the kids all played really well together, I got a nap at one point, and a lot of the adults played board games, cards, or just simply talked. It was really chill and didn't feel like it needed to be planned or overly scheduled.

How to keep everyone on schedule at a family reunion?

Derek's sister wrote an itinerary and had it hanging up on a lot of the walls where we were staying, and sent it to everyone a week or so before we got there. Everyone knew what to expect and what time all the meals were happening, and when we had to be in certain places for horse riding and major activities like that. Did we stick to the schedule perfectly down to the second? No, but we stuck to it pretty well and it was just really nice for everyone to be on the same page about when certain things were happening so we had general idea for what to expect.

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Family Reunion Awards:

Derek's sister made medals for all of the nieces and nephews out of canning lids and ribbon that said "Flamm Reunion 2020" on them and were super cute. She also bought 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place medals for each of the running events that were held, and ribbons for other things like best chef, the freeze dance competition, and other fun little games. She also gave gift cards along with some of the awards as well which was super fun. Derek's family is really into Boggle and they even bought a trophy that will travel to all future reunions and get engraved with the Boggle campion's name on it for that year.

This is pretty much all the information I have on how to organize and plan a family reunion. If you have any tips or suggestions that have worked well for you, I'd love to know about it in the comments below!

If you liked this post, How to Plan a Family Reunion, you might also like:

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Week 1 Recap of 2021

We're a week into 2021 and the memes all over the internet are already saying 2021 isn't going to be much different than 2020. I'm holding out hope that the world can still turn this around and that we can get everything moving in the right direction. One of my goals in 2021 was to bring more of the family blogging aspect back to this... family blog. I'm excited to share the ups, downs, and all arounds of what this past week (and all weeks moving forward) looked like for our little family. 





Monday:

One goal that I made this year that I hadn't mentioned was starting therapy. I think so many people can benefit from it, and since I spent the entire last year advocating for children's mental health, I figured it was time to do the same for myself. Monday was my first session and I spent the following three days resolved to the fact that they screwed me up more than before I went in, but considering I'm a two time therapy drop out in the past, I'm resolved to stick this one out and not be a quitter in the name of pride... so we'll see how this goes over the next few weeks. 


Tuesday:

Kyle had speech therapy that we've been participating in for almost six months now. He has two more visits before we're done with our "episode of care" and he has just come so far from where he was last winter when we pulled him out of public school. The difference it's made is huge, and I'm so so proud of the hard work that he's done to get here!

Wednesday:

Kinsley had physical therapy for the first time since getting her casts off and she did so well! We set new goals for her to work on over the next 10 weeks before we take a four month break, and I'm so excited to say we'll be working on forearm crutches! The big goal we have for her in 2021 would be to not use the walker anymore and to use crutches full time. This is beyond anything we could have ever hopped for, so I'm excited to see how it works! Our main goal though for the next 10 weeks is to just stand with the crutches, and eventually progress from there. 

Thursday:

I was given new tasks to do with The Bamboo Brace and spent three solid hours working on that while the kids were at school. It filled my cup in all the best ways. I know I shouldn't tie my identity to work, and that I probably have problems because I like to work so much, but I seriously am so happy to have the opportunity to focus on that more in 2021 since my previous tasks diminished with the shutdown last year. Getting to jump back into that with both feet has been the best. 

Friday:

The kids have remote learning at home today. They both have schoolwork to do on the computer and then we get to spend the rest of the day playing. Derek has this Friday off so at some point he'll be on kid duty while I get work done. Friday's are usually our library day, and then we have "Fast Food Friday" in the evening where we get in the car and everyone gets to get whatever they want for dinner. It's a great time killer before bedtime, and it's something we've been doing for almost two years now. 

How was your week? I hope you're doing well and that this first week of the year has brought some good things to you and your family's life!

My 2021 Mantra of The Year + Goals

Welcome to 2021 my friends! Is it just me, or did you too wake up with a renewed sense of hope for the future and better days ahead? I feel hopeful at the optimism a new year can bring and can't wait to get started on some new goals.



I've really struggled with goal setting the last few years. I set really high goals for myself, and often achieve them, but they never change me in the way I hope they will. I keep thinking that if I check certain boxes that I'll have a better self-confidence, self-worth, that I'll feel more worthy of being a human being for doing certain things... and it's just not the case. In 2020 I've learned that no amount of athletic pursuit, work, or education will ever fill this need that I have to find value and worth from the outside world. 


In 2021 my hope is to do more things for my own personal happiness and development, and to stop chasing this ideal life that I think other people want me to have. So over the next 12 months I hope to work on several things to better myself, for no other reason than they bring me personal happiness, no strings attached. 


Go Skiing at Least 10 Times: 

We live within 45 minutes of at least three different ski resorts (Snowbasin, Nordic Valley, and Powder Mountain). Right after Christmas Derek and I went skiing for the first time in 10 years and I loved it so much. I want to take advantage of these mountains that are right at our fingertips, and hope to get Kyle into lessons and skiing this year too. We also got skis for Kinlsey and need to figure out the best and safest way to get her on the mountain as well. 


Practice The Piano Three Times a Week: 

We got a free piano from some friends when we moved this summer, and Kyle started taking lessons last month. I learned to play a little bit when we lived in Georgia and have been working through Kyle's lesson sheets along with him each week. I would like to learn to play a recital worthy piece by the end of the year that uses both hands and the pedal. 


Build An Accessible Wheelchair Ramp to Our Front Door:

We bought this house because it was basically one of the only houses available that checked most of the accessibility needs we had for Kinsley. That being said we have about 2-3 steps to get into the front of the house, and to go out to the backyard. Kinsley is getting to the point where it's hard for me to lift her, and I need Derek to carry her out to the car for me most mornings for school. Our hope is to get a concrete ramp poured this spring so that she can use her walker or wheelchair to get to the car on her own. She can get into the car without being lifted with minimal support, so a ramp will make this entire process about 95% hands off from me. 

One of Kinsley's classmate's parents owns a landscaping company and gave us a pretty good quote to get this done, we're hoping to use our stimulus check to make it a reality. Here is a little inspiration pic of what we're going for. 


Finish Furnishing the Main Living Area of Our House:

With the Christmas decorations gone, it's very clear that we have nothing in the upstairs of our house. We're hoping to give a little refresh to our kitchen with new cabinet doors and a coat of paint, a new light above the dining room table, some barstools, and maybe a new backsplash in the kitchen. This will do a lot to fill in the gaps we currently have. We also need to figure out a new TV stand situation because the one we have is too small for the space. 

Produce Three Blog Posts Per Week:

The last few years I've really struggled to figure out where I wanted this blog to go, and what the purpose was behind what I wanted to be doing. This last year I realized that food will always be a go-to over here, and that I love sharing seasonally focused content (book lists, holiday crafts/projects, monthly coloring pages, etc...) I want this space to be a go-to for family friendly related content. My plan is to share one recipe a week on Mondays, one seasonally related post on Wednesdays, and a family journal type post on Fridays. 

This feels really manageable for me and like something I can keep up on. There will certainly be posts that vary from that outline depending on brands I work with that might need something posted on a Tuesday or Thursday, or if I have a post I want to write about pets or finances that may vary from the previously mentioned topics, but the overall focus of what I want to be doing is there, and I have a lot of fun content already planned for January that I'm excited about! 

My 2021 Mantra:

A few weeks ago when I was on my treadmill I had this phrase, "fill in the cracks" come to my mind and I loved it so much. In February of 2019 my life slowly started unraveling at the seams and it didn't really stop until about the fall of that year. Without going into too much detail I'd basically found out that everything I believed about my life up until that point was based off of lies, I completed 57 college credits in a year for a degree in a field that I can't necessarily say I fully respect all the ideologies behind, and my faith had been shaken more than we were from the Utah earthquake of 2020. 

My hope in 2021 is that I can "fill in the cracks" and start to meaningfully piece my life back together. Sure what I once thought to be true about my life will never be that reality again but I can move forward to restore and improve relationships and make those more meaningful and stronger than they've been the last 20 years. 

I can find joy and satisfaction through my work blogging, and doing marketing for a local small business, and be satisfied knowing I'm doing things that fill me with joy and passion. Are they things I thought I'd be doing after graduating? No. Can I sleep better at night knowing that they align with core values? Absolutely yes. 

And most importantly, I need to fill in the cracks of my faith. I don't think I need to say more than that right now, as it all feels super personal, but I know how much more I could be doing, and the gap between where I am and where I wish I was is vast. Here's to finding more answers than questions in 2021.

What are some things you're working on in 2021? I'd love to hear all about it in the comments below. 

If you liked this post, My 2021 Mantra of the Year + Goals, you might also like:

Be sure to follow along on Instagram @thehappyflammily to stay up-to-date on all the latest posts and projects. 

Month by Month Recap of 2020

 Like most people around the world, I'm ready to move on from 2020 and see what the next 365 days will have in store for us. While our family has come out of 2020 mostly unscathed in the way many Americans and people around the globe have been affected, we've had many trying moments throughout this year nonetheless. Our year had some really amazing highs, and as much as everyone wants to forget this year happened, there are many moments I hope to remember, even if they didn't turn out the way we hopped, planned, or expected. 


January 2020: In January of this year Derek and I took the kids on a trip to southern Utah. It was so fun to be outdoors in the warm air in the middle of winter. We enjoyed hiking, playing, eating at some of our favorite spots, motorcycle rides with friends, and so much more. It was an awesome way to kick off the year.

February 2020: After many hard months of Kyle struggling at school, we made the hard decision to pull him out of public school, and into a local Catholic school. The difference it made was night and day, but a few weeks in the kids both got pink eye, and then the flu, which left them out of school for a couple weeks. 


I flew to Columbus, Ohio to help with the launch and development of the #OnOurSleeves campaign with Nationwide Children's Hospital to help advocate for Children's Mental Health. While I was there people were buzzing about the incoming coronavirus. I placed a Walmart grocery order for a month's worth of food storage to be delivered to our home while Derek was with the kids. We never knew how much that would come in handy this year. 


March 2020: The world shut down. Derek started working from home. I started homeschooling our children, and we never would have imagined at that time that things would never be quite the same. Derek started living out of our walk in closet while I had kids setup in different corners of the house for school work and zoom meetings. We found peace being outside at local abandoned parks, driving in the mountains, or simply riding bikes in the parking lot of our townhome. 



April 2020: The two week break was much longer than we thought it would be. We got into a rhythm of school work, I managed to sign onto a new ad network for my site that dramatically increased my blog earnings each month, and Kinsley tipped over her massive tricycle and got her first concussion. The finest joys of being home all the time. We celebrated Easter at home with a small Sunday church service that had become routine by the time Easter came around. 


May 2020: Derek and I started evaluating what we wanted for our family long term as we knew we needed to find a new place to live come July. Our three story townhome was not conducive to a child who could not walk, and with an increase in rent for a new lease, it was no longer financially worth it to stay. We looked for so many single level rental homes that allowed a dog, but all of the available options were way out of our budget, and wouldn't allow for us to continue sending Kyle to his new private school.



We looked into building a home near where we were living and got locked out of the model home and took it as a sign to not continue down that path. Then we decided that Kyle needed to just go back to the same public school he went to for Kinder and first grade (not the same public school we pulled him out of in second). There were two single-level homes in our budget for sale in that boundary, but one that we thought was going to be removed from the boundary with the building of a new elementary school in our area. 


The other home that was in our budget was back in the same neighborhood we'd both rented and owned in previously. We felt sheepish about going back for a third round, and had inquired with some friends who owned lots to build in another neighborhood. They weren't going to have anything ready to move into until at least the fall, which didn't match up with our timeline, so we put in an offer on the house in our previous neighborhood and the rest was history. We had a 60 day close so that we could finish our lease and not pay double rent and mortgage and everything went smoothly. 


June 2020: We got a break from our normal day-to-day quarantine by going up to Idaho for a family reunion with Derek's brothers and sisters, and their families. The days were filled with games, a family 5k race, food, and welcomed company after long months of not seeing very many faces. 




July 2020: Derek and I closed on our new home, moved in, and almost immediately ditched the kids with Derek's siblings who graciously watched them while we headed down to Zion's National Park to celebrate our nine year wedding anniversary. It was our first kid free trip ever, and was so welcomed and necessary. It was another great way to break up the long days of being home and doing the same thing over and over again. 



August 2020: We celebrated most of the birthdays in our home. We had a family beach day to celebrate Kyle turning 8, Kinsley turned 6 and was spent quietly at home as I moved into a short lived role as a PE teacher at the same Catholic school mentioned above. I turned 29, and we spent the day taking Kinsley to her very first horse show which was probably one of the most magical moments in her little life. 


We also got into the world of remodeling our home which equated to us finishing Derek's new office (he's pretty happy to not be working in a closet anymore), our master bathroom, and Kyle's bedroom








September 2020: After teaching PE for several weeks, not being given the proper cleaning supplies to stay healthy during a pandemic, getting sick (not with covid), and a million other things that would make your head spin, I stepped away from my teaching position to help keep my family healthy, and to support my own personal sanity. Will I find myself in a classroom again? Time will tell. Question marks all over my entire future at this point. The kids also went back to school four days a week which was very welcomed after a long period of homeschooling and remote learning!



October 2020: Derek turned 32. I can't exactly remember how we celebrated but I think there was a chocolate cake involved, and Derek's sister babysat at some point for us to go out on a date night. We needed a miter saw to finish the remodel in our other bathroom, which Derek graciously accepted as a birthday gift. He also got to use said power saw for the good of the blog... seems like it might have actually been a gift for me and not for him, but he's a good sport about things. 



This was the month where Kinsley also had her final test to see if she qualified for a life changing surgery that could help her walk independently. It was a pretty low blow to find out that she didn't qualify, which left us with lots of questions about her future and the longevity of her ability to walk with her walker. Although the outcome wasn't what we expected and there was a fair amount of grieving that information, we also felt at peace with the situation because we understood that going through with the surgery would give her a poorer quality of life than she has now, and we ultimately want to keep moving forward and not backwards with her health.



This was a pretty defining moment for me that taught me to find peace in the unknown and that sometimes in life you aren't going to have all the answers you need immediately, but that sometimes your hopes and dreams change and shift with your available resources. This was the first time in Kinsley's life where I really accepted that she likely won't walk independently. She might be a walker/wheelchair user her entire life, and that's totally fine, but it's been a mind shift for sure since it feels like we've chased this goal for six years straight to ultimately realize it's not in the picture for the set of cards she's been dealt. 


November 2020: We spent Thanksgiving at home this year. Luckily that was mostly the plan pre-covid anyways since we did Thanksgiving in Idaho last year. I ran my first half marathon in two years, and we started a new tradition with a Thanksgiving piƱata. I still don't know if beating a fake turkey with a baseball bat was the healthiest activity for young children to partake in, but they had fun, got candy, and everyone was happy about it. 



December 2020: We finished out the year with lots of Christmas crafts, our annual Christmas service project, and a quiet and fun Christmas at home with the kids. We enjoyed board games and setting up our new basketball hoop and playing together as a family. We started a new tradition of making a birthday cake for baby Jesus, and really felt like we did a good job at marrying the balance between the fun of Christmas and the spirit of Christmas together. We had elaborate white board discussions about the true meaning of Christmas and what happened that one night two millennia ago with the children that always seems to put a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes. It's been my tagline of the year, but despite all the things in life I don't know, I do know we have a Savior who knows us and loves us, and that's been enough to get me through some dark times in 2020. 



2020 has been a year of highs and lows for so many, my heart aches for those who have experienced loss of any kind at the hands of this pandemic or otherwise. I'm hoping that 2021 can bring all of us everything that 2020 did not, and that you can find love, peace, and happiness in your lives. I'm hoping the same for me too. 


If you liked this post, Month by Month Recap of 2020, you might also like:

Be sure to follow along on Instagram @thehappyflammily to stay up-to-date on all the latest posts and projects. 

DIY Lycra Compression Bed Sheets for Deep Pressure Input

A few years ago someone commented asking if I could do a blog post sharing our bedtime routine. I kind of laughed it off because that is a pretty non-existent thing in our home. What works for a week or month often doesn't work the next, and it's a constant changing battle in our home.

compression bed sheets








Kinsley has always been a pretty awful sleeper. Part of that is because she has middle interhemispheric variant holoprosencephaly, which is the long way of saying she has a few brain malformations. She is certainly a lot more high functioning than we ever thought she would be, but she does have several long term issues, one of them being sleep related. Because Kinsley has a lot of spasticity in her lower extremities, she often kicks or flails her legs when she is trying to get to sleep, which means she wakes herself up when she is just starting to fall asleep, or will easily wake herself from a deep sleep in the middle of the night. 

In 2016 we started using a weighted sensory blanket to help solve the problem. The sensory blanket worked really well for a long time, but then Kinsley got too tall for it and Derek and I were having to run into her room several times a night to get it back onto her. For her birthday in 2017 my friend's mom made her a new blanket, but that meant that we had a period of a couple months between the first blanket not working and the new one arriving at our house that we had to figure out a solution for. 


Why We Made A Lycra Compression Bed Sheet: 

I have a few friends with children on the Autism/Sensory Processing Disorder spectrum, and a lot of them had told me about the benefits of deep pressure input. We obviously had success with it in the past which is why we used weighted blankets, but many of my friends were having success getting their children to sleep with compression bed sheets to provide that same grounding sensory input, and I thought it was worth a try. 

What Is a Compression Bed Sheet? 

A compression bed sheet is essentially a bed sheet that fits over your mattress like a sleeping bag would. They're usually pretty tight and hold your child in place so that they can't move around as much in the middle of the night. They give your child a nice deep pressure feeling like being hugged, while still allowing your child to safely get in and out of the bed and be safe while they sleep. 

Initially when I had heard about these sheets several years ago I was hesitant to try it with Kinsley because she was so immobile at the time and I worried about her getting trapped. When we were in between weighted blankets though, that one year made such a big difference with her mobility that we decided to make her a compression sheet as an intermittent fix until her new blanket arrived. 

Why Make A Compression Bed Sheet Instead of Buying? 

I am not the most crafty person on the planet, but if I can make a sensory bed sheet, I promise you can too. I didn't want to spend a lot of money on this, just to find out that it might not work. When I was looking online, store bought compression bed sheets were between $30-$40, which was more than I wanted to spend on something that might not work. 

I went to Hobby Lobby and found some stretchy jersey knit fabric for $5, borrowed a friend's sewing machine, and made my own for less than $10 after I bought thread for the project as well. The savings were well worth making the compression bed sheet on my own and it took maybe 15 minutes to sew the entire thing together. 

If you have a child, or know of someone who could benefit from this, here is a super easy (really, so easy) tutorial on how to make a compression bed sheet for your child. 


Supplies:

Fabric (enough to fit the bed)
Thread
Sewing Machine

Directions: 

Measure the top of your mattress. You'll need just the length and the width. You'll then want to multiply that by two (a piece for the top, and a piece for the bottom). By not measuring the thickness of the mattress, you're ensuring the fabric will be tight enough when stretched over the mattress. 

Head to the fabric store and get your fabric. Lycra is ideal, but Hobby Lobby didn't have any when I went, and so I just went with a thick stretchy blend that they had that felt durable. I did mine on a crib size mattress and 1 1/2 yards was the perfect amount. 

I then laid the fabric out on my table and folded it in half (right sides together). I pinned the long open seam shut, and then pinned the bottom edge shut as well. 


Using a zig-zag stich, I sewed together the two pinned sides, and then I turned the sheet right side out. 


At this point it just looks like a big stretchy sleeping bag. Congratulations, you've succeeded.

Then I simply headed up stairs, placed the new sheet on top of the mattress, and put it back in the bed. 




Have your child try it out to make sure it's not too tight and is comfortable, and then get yourself a full night sleep!


If you liked this post, DIY Lycra Compression Bed Sheets for Deep Pressure Input, you might also like:

Be sure to follow along on Instagram @thehappyflammmily to stay up-to-date on all the latest posts and projects. 

How We Handle Chores and Money

When Kyle was about 2-3 years old I made an online chore chart, bought some stickers from the dollar store, and even wrote an entire blog post about my amazing parenting skills (eye roll), and how I planned on doing chores with Kyle. The thing is though, when you're implementing anything into your home, it has to be sustainable. Maybe chore charts work well long term in your home, but for us, Derek and I don't have the energy to keep up with rotating zone charts, stickers, or anything super regimented.

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What We Do Instead of Charts:

I really don't have a name for this other than "expectations". I think the kids know really well what the expectations are in our home and how we do things. The fact that Kyle has been around for eight years means that he knows the rhythm of our home really well and just knows what he needs to be doing at any given point in the day. 

If Kyle just ate breakfast, he knows to put his dishes in the sink, put the food away that he got out, and clean up any mess left in his space. Same with snacks and other meals. Before bedtime every night he knows he needs to clean his room. He knows at some point during the day I'm going to ask him to take out the recycling. And that while Derek is getting Kinsley in bed, I'm going to have him help me clean the main floor of the house and get things tidied before I read him a story.

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Progressing Chores with Age:

As Kyle has gotten older we've obviously given him more responsibilities. When he was 18 months until he was about 4 he mostly just helped clean up toys before bed. When he was 5 we started having him clean his own room and make his bed. Sometime last year we put him in charge of taking out all the recycling. When we've lived in a home with a backyard, we've had him be the one to pick up all the dog poop. This year we had him start taking control of putting his own laundry away. 

As Kyle gets older we'll just keep adding more tasks such as doing his own laundry, mowing the lawn, doing dishes, etc...  

I think that your home can have a natural flow and energy where everyone knows their roles, and just by living in that home, your child will learn your personal family culture and fall in line with whatever method you decide to implement in your home. 

How to Handle Chores with A Physically Disabled Child?

Honestly if you have a child with a physical disability I'm sure you know the challenge that comes with trying to make their "expectations" in the home fair, especially when compared to what the other sibling(s) are doing. 

Right now with Kinsley we're focusing on just a lot of her own self-care tasks. Can she brush her own teeth? Can she get herself dressed? Can she brush her own hair? Those things are hard for her and I think those basic things count as chores in their own right. (She still needs assistance to do these things, but we're working on that independence). 

Other things we have her do is wipe her own face and hands, and spot at the table after each meal. If she has a pile of laundry ready to be put away she will crawl back and forth from my room to her room with each piece of clothing and put them in the right drawers. Are they put away neatly? No, but she did it herself and that's what counts more than anything. (Also typing this made me question why we don't just put the basket of her clothes next to her dresser to make it a little easier on here. Proof I'm not a perfect human, and have never claimed to be one).

Other things we have Kinsley do is put all her toys back in the right bins when she's done playing. She has a box full of occupational therapy toys that she uses daily, and she knows to clean them all up and put them away when we're done. 

This is obviously going to be so specific to whatever your child's current abilities are, but I think anything you can do to help any child contribute to the housework and chores and be a part of the family culture is so important for them to not only learn how to do those things and become independent, but also to feel like they're a part of the family.  

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Do we Compensate Our Kids for Chores?

Honestly we don't. It's something that we've tried to keep up with in the past, and again, call us lazy but we just don't have the energy to keep up with it. It is something that I really want to get better at though because I think there are so many important money management skills that can be taught with this. 

I will say though that I only remember a small handful of years that my brother and I actually got a weekly allowance and then I remember that getting phased out pretty hard when we were around middle school. (My parents are divorced, so when that happened we pretty much just went to our dad's house on the weekend and he just gave us money for whatever, not saying that was ideal but it was the situation). I also worked from 9th grade all the way through high school so by then I pretty much had my own money anyways. 

All that to say I don't think "allowance" money is the only way that you can teach your children about money because it wasn't a huge focal point in our home and I think my siblings and I left home with enough money sense to avoid debt, don't spend what you don't have, and save what you can for a rainy day. (My brother did that last part a lot better than me).

How Our Kids Get Money:

As far as money that the kids do get, we have grandparents that send them money in the mail a few times a year, and whenever we find change in the car or around the house, we tend to dish that out to the kids. In fact, during quarantine Kyle said he wanted to spend the money he had, and when we added it up he had about $76 in coins. So for a kid who doesn't get a weekly allowance, our system of handing out loose change as a reward for being a functioning member of the family had worked out pretty well. 

From there we were able to talk about how much money he had, what he wanted to spend it on (he bought two toys, one for him and one for Kinsley and had $20 left), and we went to the store where he took his own money, counted it out, and paid for it on his own. 

All of this to say is that we have pretty loose systems in our house when it comes to chores and money, but I think it also proves that you don't need to have super regimented systems in place to teach your children the skills you want them to learn. Every family works differently and as long as you have something in your home that is working for your family, that is all that really matters!

I would love to hear in the comments below what chores, allowance, and expectations all look like in your home! 

As a side note, after writing this post, I found this article from Positive Parenting Solutions about Why Chores and Allowance Shouldn't Be Tied Together, and all I can say is YES. Ten fist bumps. 

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Birthday Gifts for 8-Year-Old Boy

Kyle turns eight at the end of the week and I honestly can't believe that he's really going to be that old. Eight just sounds old to me. I've been really wanting to get Kyle some more intentional gifts this year instead of toys because I feel like we get him something really cool and fancy and then a week later he is over it, and is back to playing with Legos and Hot Wheels or other things that he's liked for the last five years. This year instead we focused on more practical things for him. Items we know will get used, are still fun, and will actually get played with. 

If you're in the market for some birthday gifts for an 8-year-old boy, I've got you covered with some great and practical ideas that any child will love. 

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Birthday Gifts for 8-Year-Old Boy:

Kyle lost his soccer ball sometime in the last year. With soccer starting up again one of his Grandma's bought him a soccer ball and a pump (which we've never had), so that he'll be all set to start soccer in a couple weeks. He's missed being able to play soccer in our backyard and so he's going to love this so much. 

My mom bought him these pop-up soccer goals for him to use in our backyard and I'm honestly super excited about them. I also love playing soccer, so now that we can play one-on-one in the backyard with real goals instead of cardboard boxes seems super fancy to me! Kinsley will get plenty of enjoyment trying to kick the ball into them as well. 

He's been asking for a telescope for the last year and we've always forgotten about it anytime a gift giving moment comes. We'd gotten a $100 Best Buy gift card when we purchased our washer and dryer last month, and used part of that to get him this telescope! It came with a four star review, and a microscope kit too, so I think he's going to love it, and it will come in handy now that we're homeschooling this year too. 

Kyle has been using this Olaf bike helmet for four years now. In as much as it still fits him, he's outgrown it from a maturity standpoint. We purchased him this matte black bike helmet and I think he's going to love cruising up and down the street in his Storm Trooper bike a lot more now that he won't have an enormous carrot sticking out of his head. 

An Experience Gift:
My dad has always been the type of person to just mail checks for birthday's and this year he felt bad and asked if we'd rather do something else, I told him to keep doing what he's doing! This year we're using the check to have a really fun beach day up at Pineview Reservoir. We used the money he sent to buy some cheap beach toys and a pop-up shade tent for the beach, so what he really ended up giving Kyle was the main fun activity that he'll get to do on his special day, and we're so grateful for it! 


If you liked this post, Birthday Gifts for 8-Year-Old Boy, you might also like:

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Summer 2020 Bucket List

The next few months are going to be kind of a wild ride for us. We move into our new house in 12 more days, we need to get the kids registered for their new schools, I'm going to be teaching PE starting in August... there are so many things to prep for! While this summer is going to be a bit crazy in it's own right, I don't want to lose sight of the fact that it's summer, and I want to make it as intentional as I can for my kids, and plan some fun things that I'm excited to do as well!

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Camping in Bear Lake: We go to Bear Lake once every summer. Last year we stayed in a condo, the year before that we just did a day trip, this year I would love to camp there and rent a boat to take the kids out on the lake! 

Take a trip without the kids: Aside from going on Pioneer Trek last year where we swapped our two kids for a large group of teenagers, Derek and I have never been away from our kids overnight. This year we're heading down to Zion National Park for an anniversary getaway and I could not be more excited! 

Move into our new house: We close on and move into our house in 12 more days. I really couldn't be more excited about it! Cleaning, packing, organizing, unpacking, it's a thrill. But I'm also looking forward to the fact that we're never never never never never moving again. I know no one believes me when I say that, but I really really really really really really mean it this time. 

Remodel our home office: We slowly want to change some finishes in our house over time, and I think the home office is a small enough space to give us good DIY confidence, without also needing a ton of work. We mostly want to paint, and change the doors and ceiling fan. This is finally going to be the house where I get the black wall I've been dreaming of the last three years. 

Daily focused activity with kids: I want to make sure I'm being hands on with the kids each day whether that's setting up something for them to do in the yard, a craft inside, or some at home PT with Kinsley,  I want to make sure that I'm spending some sort of intentional time with the kids each and every day. 

Invite friends over at least twice a month: Part of the large appeal of this home was the ability to host a lot of people. Yes we could host in the last house we had, and we did, but after being in a townhouse for a year where we haven't had friends over, and then living through a pandemic when we couldn't get together with people, it's making me feel really intentional about gathering our friends and having their kids over when possible. 

What do you have on the menu for your summer bucket list? I'd love to hear about it in the comments below!

Be sure to follow along on instagram @thehappyflammily to stay up to date on all my latest posts!

We Bought A House (Again) + Answering Your Questions

In a wild turn of events Derek and I are under contract on a home that we will move into in about six weeks. We honestly had zero intentions of buying another home for a couple more years, and were content to keep renting like I mentioned in our financial goals blog post I wrote a few weeks ago. The reality is that things just fell into place in the most unexpected ways, and that is the story I'm going to tell today.


For a lot different reasons, we were originally planing on trying to rent a single level, single family home when our lease ended here at the end of July. We're currently in a three story townhouse and it's getting difficult to carry Kinsley up and down all the stairs, plus she might be having surgery in the next year, and carrying her up those stairs while going through recovery seems miserable. Also, we'd really love to have a backyard for our dog to poop freely and not have to take him out on the leash several times a day. 

We also really wanted to stay down here in southern Davis County so Kyle could continue going to his private school, and Kinsley could go to her same school without much disruption. A few weeks into quarantine we found out Kinsley's teacher who she was supposed to have for three years wasn't coming back next school year, which made us less dedicated to keeping her in her school because a new teacher is a new teacher. However, we were still wanting to keep Kyle in his school and since I had to drive him every day we were still thinking of staying close so that the drive would be manageable. 

We had been looking at rental options for weeks and weeks and nothing came up that met our one level home with pet criteria. There was one house, but it was going to be demolished in February, so it wasn't a good long term option at all. Even still when I look on Zillow in our current area there isn't anything there. 

Then Derek and I started playing with the idea of "Well what if we bought a house?" and "What if Kyle switched schools one last time and then really never again?" We also didn't have much in terms of a downpayment saved up (we only had 1% saved because we'd been purging basically all our income into student loan payoff for the last year), and didn't really know how that was going to pan out. We had actually looked at using a down payment assistance program in January to possibly buy a home, but the interest rate on the loan would have been almost 6%, which was why we decided to hold off on buying. 

Then I saw a Facebook ad for downpayment assistance programs in Utah and we got connected with a lender who was offering a program to give us 3.5% for a downpayment and a 3.7% interest rate, and the downpayment money didn't have to be paid back as long as we lived in the house for three years. (If we leave the house before 3 years we have to pay back the downpayment money at 8% interest). (For anyone local, I don't know the name of this program, but I can get you in contact with our lender if you're interested.)

So with a loan that was a lot better of a deal than we'd ever had previously, we started cautiously browsing Zillow. Another hurdle was that the Utah market is so crazy that houses go really fast and unless you put an offer on something the second it's listed you likely won't get it. This was an entire other fiasco we didn't want to get into. 

We started looking all over the county at various places we could live, but I kept getting this nagging feeling about Kyle going to a new school and really didn't want to send him somewhere completely new that we knew nothing about. Derek and I agreed at that point that we would either stay down here so he could go to his current school, or move back to Layton so he could go back to the school he went to for Kinder and first grade. We knew we loved that school, and that Kyle had a ton of friends there, so going back would be a really positive thing.

On May 2nd I went to tour a new construction neighborhood down here where we're currently living, but wound up getting locked out of the model home, so then I decided to drive up to Layton and see what some new construction options would be like up there. There weren't any new builds that would be ready before school started in the fall, but after looking on Zillow I noticed one of my friends was selling their house. It had been on the market for 40 days and I thought for sure she'd had an offer at that point. I texted her and she said she'd had no offers and that I could come and look. 

I went over to her house, looked around, and instantly knew we wanted the house. I texted her back and asked if we could have it, but that we couldn't close until July 1st because of our current lease. She said she wasn't in a hurry and that closing then wouldn't be a problem. Within a couple days we'd given her the earnest money, and were officially under contract. 

We had our inspection last week and there was nothing majorly wrong with the home, just the tiny little things that tend to always pop up so that the inspector can write something on the report. It was literally things like painting window wells, move these plants, adjust this gutter, etc... 

It's honestly just insane to me how all the things lined up the way they did. Even since going under contract things have worked out that I've gotten paid for past blog posts that we'd forgotten about, and Derek's pay checks will shake out that we'll have the perfect amount of money for our closing costs without being dirt poor and eating cat food for three months afterwards. 

Pro tip: even if you're doing a downpayment assistance program, you still need money for closing costs, which can be between 2-5% of the price of the house. Derek and I had already had savings for first and last month's rent, and a deposit for a new rental which is what really helped get the ball rolling for the upfront costs... again timing is everything. Just beware that even if you have enough money for 3.5% down on a home, you almost need to double it to cover closing costs. Some sellers will pay the buyer's closing costs, but in Utah the market is so competitive that most do not. 

I asked on Instagram what questions you had about our house, so I'll quickly answer some of them now:

How old is the home? It was built in 2003.

How big is your lot? It's just under a quarter of an acre.

Are you going to be doing major renovations? It is move-in ready which is amazing. We do have dreams of painting home's exterior, inside walls, cabinets, etc... maybe adding some built-ins, but mostly just a lot of painting projects for right now. The carpet I'm assuming is original to the house and is probably ready to be replaced in a couple rooms, which we'll do slowly over time.

How far is the new house from your current house? The home is 20 minutes north from where we live right now.

Can you have roosters on your property? Sorry Karen, we do not want your rooster haha!

What made you pull the trigger? Honestly, if it wasn't for the loan program we got with the amazing interest rate, along with our friends selling their house and it being a super seamless and EASY transaction, we probably would not have bought right now. Buying a house in Utah is not fun, and the idea of throwing in offers on houses that already have seven offers is so daunting. If the process wasn't as easy as it was for us, I doubt we would have done it.

Why are we going back to the area we just moved from? When we decided to look into buying we decided we would either say in the North Salt Lake/Woods Cross/Bountiful area so Kyle could keep going to his current school, and the only exception was going back to Layton for him to be at the school he went to for Kinder and First. All the pieces just aligned well for us to go back to Layton and be in a home we love and can see ourselves in long term.


Be sure to stay up-to-date on all of the latest things in our lives by following along in instagram @thehappyflammily!