Our Favorite Kids' Apps

A few months ago after we closed on our house we started the daily task of getting her move-in ready (buh-bye popcorn ceilings).  The twins were in school during those couple of months but Seb and Gianna were not and so, during that time that we were working in the house, they were running around the empty rooms and sometimes...dun dun dun...on a screen.

We usually reserve playing on our Kindles for road/plane trips only, but a few hours at a time running around an empty house can get pretty uninteresting (we didn't bring toys over for awhile until we tackled the smoke smell).  We bought our first Kindle Fire*, a refurbished 10" screen, off Amazon a few years ago for a road trip and it was great at keeping the younger three kids (who were much younger) entertained in the back seat.  (Check out how we turned it into a "built-in" TV in our vehicle here.)  The next year, we took advantage of a Black Friday deal and added another Kindle Fire* (an 8") to the fam so that the twins both had their own (Seb was still a little too young to play with it).  Then, a few weeks ago we snatched up another two Kindle Fires* (we got two 7 inchers for $50!)  It seems a little frivolous and overboard in that first-world way, but as the kids get older and technology continues to flower in the way of screens, it's nice that each kid can have his/her own tablet to work on.  (PS, you might've guessed it but if you're looking for a super affordable tablet option, look no farther than the Kindle Fire*...we highly recommend them!)  With that though, we still reserve the screens for special situations - long trips, the girls will do some math on them for five minutes daily during the summer, and occasionally playing on a Kindle for 20-30 minutes will be a reward for doing something good.  It's HARD but I'm a big advocate of limiting screen time.  Believe me, especially when there's been a newborn in the house, we are no strangers to screens but I can definitely tell the difference in my kids attitudes when they've been watching too much TV.  On the flip side, I love watching their imaginations take over when they don't have the option of watching and we try to err on the side of that being the majority.  BUT, like I said, we're no strangers to that glowing, flat surface.  Nor are we enemies and when they come in handy, it's nice that there are apps out there that actually put stuff into their brains vs. just pulling cells from them.  ;)

Most of the apps we use are free and if not free, cheap.  If you're an Amazon Prime member, Amazon Marketplace is a fantastic place to find good free apps.

Here are our tried-and-true faves...

Spotted: Goodwill

I managed to skip the house for a tiny little bit last weekend sans kids to head to one of my local Goodwill stores.  They were having a BIG (and rare) furniture sale and I've been looking for a few pieces so how could I not?  Well, I didn't find any furniture I needed but I found a couple of other things I brought home.  And, like I sometimes do (check my 'Spotted' label in the sidebar) I snapped some pictures of things I thought had lots of potential to hopefully inspire you to go out and find those diamonds in the rough.  :)

My stores here always have TONS of baskets.  This one caught my eye:
It falls more under the tray category maybe but it'd be a great one to sit atop a coffee table or the corner of your kitchen counters.  Minus the handles, it looks a lot like this $40 tray from Crate & Barrel.

I saw this wood lattice square* on clearance at Target a few months ago and whadya know? 

Kids' Room Reveal-ish

The kids' room is...not done.  I spent every chance I got during the month of July to get their room in order (and some of you guys played along with the #letsroomtogether challenge!) but in the end, I couldn't make up my mind about a couple of things and so I'm just going to walk away to the next room (find out what it is here!) and I'll come back to this one later.  That's how I work.  I can't make split-second decisions most of the time.  I mean, I have a hard time making multiple-second decisions.  Haha!  I mull and mull and then usually, all of a sudden, I catch this wind of inspiration and make something happen.  So it goes with this room.  Things take time.

But, in saying that, we've come A LONG way.  Let's start at the very beginning...

When we bought this house, the kids' future room was allll pink:

Our first line of business was to get those popcorn ceilings scraped but amidst getting those down, we were also slowing ripping the wallpaper off the walls in here.  We took down the chair rail too to make things less formal.  

Unlike all of the other wallpapered rooms in this house, this wallpaper fought, and fought, and fought me coming down cleanly.  I tried every method I could find - the steamer, white vinegar, fabric softener, actual wallpaper remover, a paper tiger, and mixtures of some of those...you name it, nothing helped.  I mean, the wallpaper itself was coming off but it was taking the primer behind it with it in parts, leaving us a pock-marked wall...not pretty.  
It was definitely not a texture we wanted to see when we went to paint the wall.  The awesome part about all of this was that this room also won 'The Most Wallpaper' award in the house.  Perfect!  The most wallpaper with the most problems.

We had a few options after we got all of the paper off.  We could either take the steamer and carefully steam and scrape off all of the primer (which we actually think might just be paint...aka a poorly prepped wall) but that would literally have taken weeks.  We'd probably still be scraping and the kids' would be roomless.  We also thought about finding some new, thick wallpaper in a neutral pattern and just wallpapering over the walls.  But then we started the search for wallpaper and holy moly, we were looking at spending, on average, $500 just for the wallpaper for the entire room.  Yipe.  And nope.  In the end, we laid plastic over the carpet, taped it to the baseboards, and took a palm sander with coarse-grit sandpaper to every square inch of the wall.  

Yes, it made a MASSIVE mess.  Anthony sanded and he looked like he just walked through a severe dust storm upon leaving the room.  In the picture below, you can see the left wall sanded and the right not sanded.  You can also see all of that fine dust that kicked up when sanding, all settled nicely on the floors and every other flat surface.

Anthony sanded a wall a day for four days (it took him 30-45 minutes to sand one wall) and I won't talk about how our sander died halfway through the last wall on the last day.  RIP.  No worries though, a quick trip to Walmart where we picked up this el cheapo sander* (which, surprisingly, seems to work just as good as our more expensive, now dead sander) brought our spirits up and the rest of the texture and dust down.

Here are the walls, sanded and smooth to the touch:

String Light Nightlight | DIY

It's the very end of July and therefore, finishing up the kids' room is first on the agenda.  I've got one tiny little thing left to do and then I'll snap some pictures and get those fun afters up here!  I'm going to sneak ahead of myself quick though and show you one little corner.  This one:
That, of course, is what it looked like prior to a whole bunch of wallpaper removal and wall sanding, popcorn ceiling removal, you know, alllll the things.

Here's what it looked like a few days ago (and ha!  It's even changed since then with the addition of some new art!):

I'll get the current situation up with the room reveal but let's talk that lit star on the wall.  In our rental, the kids had this big lamp on their dresser that was uber cool but also, uber heavy.  It was great for awhile until they started thinking they could turn it on (the knob to turn it on was on the very top of the lamp and pretty much out of their reach) and started reaching and pulling the cantilever part down, down, down.  Not my most kid-friendly piece of functional decor, that one.

Kitchen Plans

While I am hustling in the kids' room (more on Insta), WE have been BUSY in the kitchen.  And when I say busy, I mean we took down a wall a couple of weekends ago and now we're just waiting on contractors.  So really, we were busy.  And now we're waiting to get busy again.  Which is why I can take this "down time" to tackle the kids' room...just wanted to clarify for anyone thinking we can do alllll the things at once.  Nope, not here.

Here's what this side of the kitchen looked like right after we closed:

And if you had walked into the den/living room and stared at that wall from the other side, this is what you'd have seen:

Or maybe it's what you wouldn't have seen.  That's what we're talking about.  From walking through this house on day one to now, we've dreamt about possibly taking this wall (halfway) down to open up the kitchen to the living room.