Life is beautiful…and tough, life with kids is even more beautiful…and even more tough. As a busy mommy of four beautiful children I am fully aware of the beauty and the craziness life offers up. I am always seeking out ways to simplify the chaos, save a dime and give my children a lovely life.
I’ve compiled a short list of things I’ve learned , that my family use in our daily lives that help us get by and I’m excited to share them with you in hopes that you may find them useful in your own beautifully chaotic lives.
1) Video Games
My son is six years old and has only recently decided he loves video games, alot of them, and they are expensive. Him being so young, just recently beginning to read, and having a short attention span all came together as a perfect storm for us. First we tried Game fly, a service where you pay monthly and it operates much like netflix. We recieve a game from our que, play it until he’s bored with it, mail it back and wait for the next game. In theory this was our perfect solution, only it takes a pretty long time to get the next game and my son was checking the mailbox everyday, several times a day and harassing me non stop about when his game would arrive. Sometimes the game would be damaged and unplayable and goodness gracious his dissapointment was more work than the whole thing was worth. So while that maybe to the ideal solution for people with more patient and reasonable children, it wasn’t for us. And it wasn’t cheap either, true it cost less than purchasing games ,but it was a frustrating drawn out process and one we paid for every month.
Then I discovered free games! Yes, free. The platforms we own are the Nintendo wii and the Xbox 360. The wii has wifi built right in, but our xbox 360 was an older version that we were able to fix up with an inexpensive wifi receiver and a USB memory stick. You can connect to the Internet go to the “games” tab and select “demos”. This has reinvented game time for us. The demos are 100% free and download right to the system, no disks to lose or scratch. the process is so simple that my six year old can browse and download the games HIMSELF and thanks to parental controls doesn’t have access to anything unsavory. Best of all, the demos prove to be a very satisfying chunk of the game, he often gets bored with them before he “beats” them, and he’s on to his next adventure. In addition, if you use the search feature and look at the games there are to purchase alot of them have “free trials” and they work the same way! We were able to use this little trick on the wii as well.
My oldest daughter is 8, for Christmas I found a deal on a karaoke machine and knew this would provide her with hours upon hours of enjoyment. But disks of any sort around here don’t make it very long before they get scratched or lost and again, they are expensive! It adds up very quickly when you are trying to build a library of musical selections that everyone in the family can enjoy. The machine was equipped with auxiliary input jack to connect mp3 players to which is terrific but downloading karaoke tracks isn’t free either. Then I discovered that on you tube nearly every karaoke song that has ever existed is on there, free. We simply plug our phone, kindle or iPad (whatever has a charge) into the input jack and read the words right from the device while the music and microphone feed through the machine. This has been amazing for us!! We use this trick at all of our parties and I can confidently say I will never again pay for karaoke music.
3) Movies and TV
You will notice a recurring theme here in my distaste for cds, dvds, games disks, all disks in general, so we like many other families were happy to embrace digital downloads and streaming tv. Not wanting to put cable in the kids rooms and worry with the additional expense or availability of tv to them at anytime of the day or night, we resolved to use the wii in the children’s rooms so they could enjoy the benefits of Netflix kids and amazon prime on their tv, when we want to rent them a new release or buy them a movie they watch frequently we can do this on amazon prime, and when tv is off limits, we simply take the wii remote away.
We love amazon prime. At Christmas we find the best deals there and with the free 2 day shipping included with a prime account I order nearly everything we need from there, cosmetics electronic parts, clothes and shoes for the kids birthday presents for our kids and for party’s we are invited to. With 4 children (ages 8,6, 4, and almost 2) and a husband who works crazy long hours it’s nearly impossible to just pop into specialty stores and pick up a pair of tights for an Easter dress or gifts. Amazon prime is my solution. As an added perk you also get amazon instant video with your account and it offers tons of stuff netflix doesn’t have and (as I mentioned before) the capability to rent or buy digital movies. Only problem is, when we are on the go and prior to my prime awakening, I used Google play to buy movies for the kids to watch on my phone in the car or at drs appointments and amazon instant video doesn’t work on my android device so I was faced with a dilemma, my digital media spanning over several different applications. The kids would watch amazon at home Google play on the road but it drove me crazy that without hooking my laptop up to the TV the movies we had all over the place couldn’t be accessed at home. Until roku.
This $50.00 little box has almost (and probably will entirely in the near future) replaced cable for us. I can access my netflix, hulu, amazon and Google play libraries on any television in any venue equipped with wifi. In addition to the apps which I named, it has so many more and the ability to search across all of the platforms and find the best price on whatever movie I’m looking for. I can do this hotel rooms, in laws houses and any room in my own house. It’s fantastic. I believe it’s also offered on a USB stick that you could carry in your pocket. I no longer have to worry that if I rent a movie on Google play, that we can’t enjoy it on the television in our home. And that’s a wonderful thing.
5) Credits for Google Play
Now this one is pretty cool, after all this talk about digital media, obviously I rent alot of movies this way and I thought it would be really nice if there was a way I didn’t have to always pay for them. As an avid android user (I know that iTunes has been absent from this discussion and for that I apologize, I know that apple tv is out there and alot of people love it but I really don’t know much about it.) I was truly excited to learn that I could get paid in Google play credits for taking some simple surveys and having ads displayed on my phones lock screen, i could then use the credits to rent or buy movies or music. Very cool. Slidejoy is an app you can download on your Android phone or tablet from the play store. It places ads on your lock screen, you don’t have to click on the ads or anything! You just swipe right and unlock your phone, or swipe left if you want more info on what’s being advertised. It can pay you through PayPal, donate your earnings to charity or credit your Google play account, basically you get paid for unlocking your phone. It doesn’t pay tons, but it does add up over time and will most definitely equate to some free content. Google opinion rewards is another free app available in the play store, this one credits your Google play account for taking very short simple surveys. Using them bother together you will certainly earn a free rental for a rainy day!
6) Just dance!
It’s totally free and the kids have an absolute blast to play “just dance” (as in the video game) from you tube (you tube is available through the roku player on your television as well) and watch the kids rock out together, who needs to get rated or hold a pesky remote, it’s all about learning the choreography and having a great time! Great time filler for an otherwise boring day at home.
Well there you have it. A few nuggets of knowledge from my home to yours. I hope you find something useful in there to make this amazing journey a little less bumpy.
Meet Melissa Bankson:
My name is Melissa Bankston. I am a madly in love with my wonderful husband, Russell and a gloriously blessed mother of four beautiful children; Chloe 8, Gage 6, Annabella 4, and Sophia 2 as well as a privileged stepmom of two beautiful souls, Lauren and Zach. I revel in the blessings and challenges of this life and praise God for constantly guiding me and helping me grow. You can view all of my “meanderings” on my blog : meanderinghousewivery.blogspot.com