Photo books made easy with Shutterfly Photo Story iPad app #Giveaway

This is a sponsored post about photobooks made easy thanks to my affiliation with Global Influence and Shutterfly.  I am the first person to admit to anyone that I take hundreds- maybe thousands of photos each year, but that’s it.  They are sorted into month folders and I’m just awful about actually doing anything with them.  When I heard Shutterfly had a new photo app called Photo Story, I decided to view it as a kick in my pants to DO SOMETHING with the eleventy billion photos that I have stored on my iPad.

shuttefly-photo-story-ipad-app

Mind you, I can’t fit all of my photos into one book. But I am off to a good start.  Obviously I had to download the app (I think we all know how to do that at this point, right?), open it, remember my password. That took a while. Don’t worry, four tries later I remembered.

shutterfly-photostory-5

Then I had to peruse the photo book options. I went with an 8×8.  Mostly because it’s a cute size and my kids adore looking through photo books, so the smaller size is easy for them to handle. Maybe just a tiny bit because that was what I was asked to order for my review.  There aren’t a ton of layout and design options that you will find within the app but for me, that was better. While I adore my iPad and other devices, it’s not always easy to move images around and place things – my attention span wanders…so having fewer options for ME was a great thing. It made it easier for me to settle on a design layout and start to create my book.  In total I think it took about an hour and 45 minutes to create my book….but it was while I was watching tv and discussing paint colors with my husband.  So I probably could have finished it in less time.  Lazy photo people of the world, Shutterfly knows us well, and has found a way to allow us to be lazy and semi-productive!

shutterfly-photostory-1

Making this book was fun.  Now that I’ve got my first one made, I have every intention of making books using my photos shared on Instagram and Facebook…plus I have more photos saved on my iPad to add to a book or 2.  That’s the cool thing about this app, and what I love most about it (aside from the ability to create the book when I’m on the couch watching TV and don’t have a 932432 degree laptop on my lap because I’m using my iPad!) because like I said, I’m good about taking the pictures. I’m NOT good about printing the pictures.  I am good about sharing them on social networks….so now I can preserve them for my family to enjoy! A bonus? There’s a share-able digital version of the book when you create it so you can share on Facebook or email to family and friends.

shutterfly-photostory-2

I’m challenging myself to create a book a month for the next 6 months.  Care to join me? I’m really kind of excited about this challenge.  With the app, I can get all of the photos I want to create saved onto my iPad and then I can create the book with or without internet connection- so when I’m a little early for pre-k pickup or someplace without service and some down time, I can work to meet my challenge.

shutterfly-photostory-3

Now, just like “regular” photo books, you can add captions and lettering to your photo books created with Photo Story. I opted NOT to include anything but images in this first book I created, because I made it mostly for my kids to enjoy, and I thought they would have fun captioning themselves.  Plus, down the road, they can look back at their own captions and see what their handwriting looked like, etc.

With Photo Story, you can  add 30 second audio messages on each page.  You can also include a QR code for printed books that, when scanned, brings the viewer to the digital version and they can enjoy the audio messages along with the book.  Pretty cool, right?  It’s like a regular photo book but kicked up a few notches. (Tip: You can use talk to text to create your captions!!)  You can add photos as you like or you can use the Smart Autofill feature and let Shutterfly do the work. This app is quite user friendly- enough that I have promised my 8 year old SHE can design a photo book all by herself.  She’s got a pretty nice selection of photos of her friends and I think it would be a really fun keepsake for her to enjoy- plus she can share it with all of them via email to their parents!!

shutterfly-photobook-app-download-here-freeReady to download this FREE app?  I’m sure you are- especially because one of you is going to WIN a code for an 8×8 photo book to be ordered through the Photo Story app!  

 

Foreign Language Learning is fun and easy with Little Pim

This review post about foreign language learning with Little Pim is made possible by product samples received.  In this day and age, it’s hard to not encounter different languages no matter where you live.  Even scanning radio stations, we hear all kinds of music- sung in all different languages.  My kids seem to have inherited their mama’s love of learning new languages. They’ve all been asking to learn Spanish and Chinese, and since I don’t speak a word of Chinese, we thought we’d start with some Spanish.  Little Pim was where we headed, because the adorable Panda pal, Little Pim, speaks 11 languages himself and loves to teach kids ages 1-6 (and maybe older) all kinds of fun and practical things from each of the languages he speaks.
little-pim-easy-foreign-language-learning-for-kids
Little Pim teaches languages using videos, apps, music, books, flash cards and more. Each video is segmented into 5 minute episodes to accompany a young child’s (age 0-6) attention span and encourage pausing for parent interaction. Don’t worry too much if this isn’t a language you speak or just aren’t familiar with- the series is set up so that parents can easily pick up and interact along with their children.

little-pim-friend-foreign-language-learning

My kids have a lot of fun with Little Pim.  The actual Little Pim stuffed friend we received actually lives on my 4 year old’s bed amongst her eleventy billion other stuffed friends, but she’s always making sure that Pim is tucked in and whenever she’s wanting to practice some Spanish words, she runs off to find him to talk to.  The earlier videos in the series seem a bit young for my older kids (but they are 6 and 8 so I’d expect that) but really?  The kids all enjoy them.  I love the pace that the program goes- not too fast, not too slow. My 3rd grader is learning Spanish in school this year and was beaming that she knew several words that the teacher had taught them in class the first few days.  I’m waiting for her to come home singing “A mi burro” like I did when I learned it in school!

The music  “bop” CD seems to have the kids’ attention and enjoyment the more we get into the videos — I think at first it just sounded kind of strange to them.  The more we listen to it, the more we like it.  It’s in the van so I have to say we.  I’m listening too!  The flashcards are well loved in the van (and are in the van with my husband at Home Depot right now)– the kids like to “quiz” each other and practice their Spanish vocabulary with them.

What are your thoughts on foreign language learning for kids? Have you tried any programs? Or Little Pim?

Back to school memories preserved with Hallmark

We received the Hallmark Pics ‘n’ Props School Days Activity Kit to review so that we can have our back to school memories preserved.  A few days ago, my kids went back to school.  Third grade, first grade and preschool. I usually try to get a pic outside on the first day, although this year I tried to get it in the same place as we did last year for continuity.  We also added in the chalkboard frame from the school days activity kit so that I can remember who was going into what grade when I finally get around to printing photos and adding them to albums. Also because it’s cute.  But really, I don’t always remember.  This is a help.

hallmark-school-days-back-to-school

Changing the “grade” is as easy as sliding a poster board paper out and a new one in.  Voila.  One side has an even numbered year and the opposite has an odd numbered year.  All 12 grades, plus preschool, kindergarten and “I’ma  graduate” all come in the kit.

hallmark-pics-n-props-activity-kit

I have to move fast when I do these photos- the kids are antsy and, especially with my 8 year old, all she wants to do is cartwheels.  All.  day.  long.  So I try to get that photo ASAP before they start digging in mud, stomping on wet grass and doing whatever else kids do for fun.

preschool-hallmark-pics-n-props-kit

It’s not just a fun frame for marking the grade in school that comes in the prop kit- it also has a little photo album with a card for each grade….you or your child can write a bit about what they liked and who their friends were on the card, and you can slip that on one side of the album with a photo from that year on the facing page.  Pretty nice way to remember things– I’d love to have that from my childhood- there’s so much I’ve forgotten from my school days!!

first-day-of-school-dont-want-pics

Of course, you want to be sure to make copies of photos like this one, because we all know that THIS kind of says more about the kids than the great shots we tend to share with others…

hallmark-back-to-school-pics-n-props-kit

Creatively capture your kid’s first day of school each year with our School Days Activity kit. It comes with a chalkboard prop with inserts for preschool through 12th grade, plus chalk, a photo album and journaling cards. And cap off all those years of education with our Graduation Celebration kit. Grad and friends will love posing with dollar signs, oversized scholarly glasses and more. The included album is perfect for capturing all of your creative handy work.

hallmark-fun-kids-cards-just-because

Hallmark also has a huge assortment of cards (which I’m sure you know), including a line just for kids relating to school- meant to encourage, just let them know you are thinking of them, proud of them, wishing good luck.  I love to tuck cards like this into their folders or lunchboxes to be found at school- so much fun to surprise them!

hallmark-back-to-school-card

 

One reader will win a prize pack including the Pics ‘n’ Props School Days Kit plus an assortment of cards for kids. 

5 Tips for choosing the right baby crib

This is a sponsored post about tips for choosing the right baby crib.  Opinions are my own. Hey, congrats! You are expecting a little bundle of joy to arrive in your home!  Now what? Well, you’re going to need lots of things for baby, and it can be really hard to figure out what you need and what to buy.  There are countless lists and books and recommendations in stores and online, although most merchants will clearly recommend the products they make and/or sell, so how do you know that’s truly what you need or will work best in your family home?

sleeping-baby-on-me

Photo Credit: Bunnell Photography

You are going to need a place for baby to sleep.  I think it’s safe to say that the vast majority of parents have a crib in their home.  But with so so so many choices for a crib, how do you narrow it down?  Safety standards are really strict so when buying a crib what do you look for? I have tried to narrow things down to 5 basic things to look for to help make this process a little bit easier for you.
fisher-price-crib
Photo Credit: Fisher Price
Style- There are so many different kinds of cribs available now.  From color to design to shape, even, there are options sure to fit with any design scheme. Obviously you don’t want an ultra sleek, modern crib if your home is decorated in country style.  That round crib may look adorable in the store but will it work with your decor scheme?   Maybe you do want it to stand out and make a statement.  It’s kind of fun that
Color- Black, white, brown, natural, there are many color options available.
Size- Most of us are able to use a traditional crib size in our home.  If you are, you’ll probably find there are countless more options available than in other sizes. If you are a city dweller, you may not want nor have space for a full sized crib.  There are many options available- once you know the color and style you prefer, you can start looking for what size crib will work.
Budget- This is the big one.  You want your little one(s) safe where they sleep.  That goes without saying.  But you also don’t want to go into debt to buy a top of the line crib because of the brand name- you want to get a crib that your family can afford.  Safety standards on baby gear and furniture are strict and you can feel confident that any pieces you purchase here in the US are going to meet those standards, or they’d not be on store shelves.  So figure out what you can afford BEFORE you go to make that purchase.
Functionality- How long do you plan to use the crib for?  Will you be like us and use the same crib for all of your children?  Or are you wanting to have a crib that can transition with your child as they get older into a toddler bed, and then down the road, into a day bed or regular bed?  Once you know what kind of crib you want (“just” a crib,
**Even families who cosleep that I have met use a crib, bassinet or Moses basket for baby to nap at times, like during the day when no adults are in bed with them. I haven’t yet met a family that hasn’t had a dedicated spot for a baby to sleep!
build-the-nursery-dreams-are-made-of-fisher-price

Fisher Price is helping to ease the mom-and-dad-to-be’s worries by showing her/him that Fisher-Price is there to help ready the “nest” with quality products as s/he counts down the days until baby comes home.

Fisher-Price Convertible Cribs are a delightful addition to any nursery. Each crib works is incredibly versatile and the sturdy design easily transitions to a toddler bed and daybed. With a variety of styles a colors, you can find the perfect fit for your new little one.

 

What was YOUR biggest deciding factor when selecting a baby crib?

 

Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by Lunchbox. All opinions are my own.

Making beds is not fun. Not until now. #KickStarter #sponsored

One of my least favorite things to do is change sheets on beds.  If you know me at all, you know that when the kids were in the crib, I layered a mattress pad, then sheet, mattress pad, sheet, about 7 or 8 times.  That way, if there was a spitup or diaper leak, or just time to change the sheets, I could just pull the top layer off and not have to change the mattress.  Changing regular beds isn’t any more appealing to me.  When I learned that StayMade was looking for bloggers to write sponsored posts in order to help them to secure KickStarter funding to launch their product that helps make making beds easier, I had to jump at the chance.  I mean, there has to be a billion folks across the world who are as lazy about  hate making beds as much as I do, right?  So why not tell them about a new way to make beds that is easier?!

Customizable-staymade-making-beds-easier

The StayMade is truly the world’s most functional, remarkable, and lovable bedding solution for kids. The best way to describe it is like an old-school sleeping bag that fits onto a child’s bed. The fitted sheet, the top sheet, and the comforter are all connected by thick, high-quality zippers. The comforter is made to hang over the zipper so that when everything is completely zipped up, it looks like a well-made bed.  You can check out video footage to see how it works and learn about the product more. I would like this for all 3 of my kids’ beds!  My oldest sleeps on a top bunk and my son is in a loft bed.  Neither is fun to make.  Ever.  Also, they never have a top sheet.  They kick it to the foot of their bed and then wake me up asking where it is.  Sounds fun, right?  Thankfully, they “find” the sheets magically each morning when they grudgingly make their beds neat before the day begins.

 

Of course, this product isn’t just for making beds easier. It also helps keep the covers where they need to be.  For us, living in New England in a small rural town, most of the areas here have above ground utility poles.  That means when storms hit (and it’s been big storms Labor Day and then again before Halloween) and knock power out, we’re out for days on end, sometimes a week or more.  It’s hard to feel confident when the nights are cold that my kids are going to be warm enough when we don’t have heat in the house, so StayMade would at least reassure us that the kids had a sheet and blanket on them.  I would imagine on super cold nights, a blanket tucked between the sheet and comforter would stay put as well.  Take that, Superstorm Sandy!  We lose power a lot. It may not seem like a big thing to some but living in an area where we’ve had snow in October, losing power for a week in that time frame can be kind of uncomfortable.

This product makes it super easy for kids of all ages to make their bed in the morning and have it look amazing.  One zip, that’s it!  The fit of the sheets is loose and comfortable. Getting into the bed is as easy for kids as unzipping the blankets and climbing into bed.

EasyForKids-staymade-making-beds-easier

The StayMade also helps parents have peace of mind during cold nights when their kids often kick off the blankets or sheets as they sleep. With the StayMade, the blankets and sheets stay comfortably on children, all night long, keeping them warm and keeping Mom and Dad worry-free. (I would officially like to add this to my holiday wish list for ME- because, like so many couples, there seems to be a constant battle over covers in this house and once in a while, I’d like to actually have  at least a sheet to cover up with when it’s the middle of winter!! King size, please!

The different layers of the bed can be zipped off completely so that you can mix and match different comforters with sheets, or zip in a thicker sheet during the wintertime, or a thinner comforter during the summer time.

Skyscraper-staymade-making-beds-easier

The StayMade will be sold as a kit, with one fitted sheet, zipped to one top sheet, zipped to one comforter. It will be available in twin and full size, at least for now.  

The first accessory for the StayMade is called the PeaPod. To use it, simply zip out the top sheet and zip in the PeaPod. The PeaPod is like a giant pillowcase that a kid climbs into to sleep. (I can’t even believe we are actually out of the stage in life where we need a PeaPod but I think my kids would have loved this.  Especially my youngest- she really likes to be tucked in really well and I think the pod would make her feel tucked all night long…and would have saved us many “MOM! I not tucked” shouts a 2, 3, 4 and 5 am)

This accessory is designed for children who are going through a phase of wetting the bed. The PeaPod is made of special material that is fully breathable and comfortable, but is also 100% waterproof. To clean up an accident, the parent can simply unzip the PeaPod and throw it into the washer, without the mattress or any of the other sheets being affected by the accident.

The PeaPod is sold in a two-pack so that when the soiled one gets zipped out and put into the washer, the second one can be zipped in and the child (and parent) can quickly and easily go back to sleep.

screenshot-kickstarter-support-staymade

PLEASE NOTE: StayMade will be offering the product as a pre-sale on KickStarter for $85 (regular retail is $130).  By pre-ordering, you are also helping to ensure that this product reaches consumers by backing it.  I just backed them- will you?  I’m putting my money where my mouth is, because I really think this product is amazing. I was asked to share about the StayMade product and the KickStarter campaign for this post- my decision to back this product was mine and mine alone.  (I hope they let me order blue, though, because I didn’t see a place to request which color and this will be in my son’s room).

So, what do you think? Do you agree this is an awesome product?  Would you order?  Did you go support the KickStarter campaign yet?

Nutritious Breakfast Ideas for Mom

I participated in a campaign about nutritious breakfast ideas on the go on behalf of Mom Central Consulting for belVita. I received product samples to facilitate my review and a promotional item as a thank you for participating.

One of the things I am HORRIBLE about is making sure that I myself have a healthy, nutritious breakfast.  I’m really good about making sure my family has one, but honestly, I’m usually making lunches and packing snacks for everyone while they eat breakfast, and before I know it, I’m in the car on the way to drop them at school realizing I’ve eaten nothing at all. One of my goals this (school) year is to plan out some nutritious breakfast ideas ahead of time so I can either grab and go or plan ahead.

nutritious-breakfast-ideas-belvita

1. belVita Soft Baked Breakfast Biscuits – these are my favorite because…well, there are chocolate flavors.  AND, they are packaged, so I can easily bring them with me on the go and not worry about a huge mess. (I have long since lost count of how many times I’ve spilled food or drink on my shirt in the car).

smoothie6

2. Smoothies- totally easy to make, and would actually complement a Breakfast Biscuit nicely.  We are partial to our Vegan Peanut Butter smoothie and Pina Colada Smoothie

egg jarlsberg avocado breakfast cups #breakfastduos

3. Make Ahead Egg Cups (Check out my Egg, Avocado and Cheese Cups)

4. Fruit & Granola, Yogurt (and combinations)

5. Protein-packed Muffins

 

Now, each of these alone can be a nutritious option.  Adding fruit to everything is always a good idea too.  Paired together, and you’re getting a pretty decent breakfast.  My favorite option of any of these options or for breakfast in general is absolutely the belVita Soft Baked Breakfast Biscuit, specifically the Oats & Chocolate flavor.  Nothing personal against the Mixed Berry, I am just a chocolate girl and will always choose the Mixed Berry. My husband really likes the Mixed Berry so it’s kind of a match made in heaven for us (awwwwwwwwww, aren’t we so cute?).  

belvita-breakfast-biscuit

Why do I love these little biscuits?  They are high in fiber, and really, we all need fiber.  So there’s that.  But they also have iron in them, and as someone who’s been anemic on and off for much of my life, I’m always up for more ways to add a little extra iron into my diet. No artificial junk, no high fructose corn syrup.  For busy mornings when I don’t have time to make my own breakfast?  This is a great nutritious option for me!

• 20% Daily Value of Fiber (contains 7 grams of fat per serving)
• 11 grams of Whole Grain per 50 gram serving
• Good Source of Energy Releasing B-vitamins
• No High Fructose Corn Syrup
• No Partially Hydrogenated Oil
• No Artificial Colors, Flavors or Sweeteners

belVita has partnered with Lifestyle Mom, Dana Hilmer, to provide us with tips to ease stress as we enter Back to School season. 

Easing Stress during the Busy Back to School Season

Soon families everywhere will be getting back in the school year routine. Here are some tips to help parents get ready from the Lifestyle Mom, Dana Hilmer:

  1. It’s important to schedule down time for you and your family. Before signing your kids up for this year’s after-school activities, think about your family’s priorities and the impact each activity will have on your schedules.
  2. It’s just as important for you to have a tasty, healthy breakfast as it is for your kids.  Perfect for eating on the go, belVita Soft Baked Breakfast Biscuits come in two varieties, Mixed Berry and Oats & Chocolate, grab a banana and a latte and you’re good to go with nutritious morning energy.
  3. Take a little time each night to get organized for the following morning. By making lunches and selecting outfits before bed each night, you’ll free time each morning for other things.
  4. Be sure to keep healthy snacks in the kitchen for after-school snacking.  Nuts, crackers and fruit are great to give kids right when they walk in the door to keep them from grazing on unhealthy snacks, or spoiling their appetites for dinner.
  5. Moms often complain about not having enough time for themselves, but when life gets busy, it’s even more important to carve out that time. Treat “me time” as a priority.
  6. Start a to-do list with three sections: the priority of the day for yourself, the priority of the day for your family and the priority of the day for your work.  Start with these items, and only move on to other less important items once they’re done.
  7. Use Sunday nights to plan your dinners each week.  If you take a few minutes to think about how you can creatively use the leftovers from one night to the next, you can create a full week’s worth of healthy, tasty dinners that your family will enjoy.
  8. Give yourself the freedom to say no without guilt. Activities or commitments that may not be right for your family are okay to decline. Saying NO gives you the permission to say YES to things that are important to you.
  9. Back-to-school season is also cold and flu season. You can keep your entire family healthy with these simple habits: eating well, getting enough rest and washing hands regularly.
  10. Create a network of support for yourself. This network looks different for everyone.  Consider asking your partner and kids for support. They can be a great help with tasks you feel comfortable handing over.

 

 

So let’s talk about our bathroom habits, shall we? #LetsTalkBums #ad

This is a sponsored post about bathroom habits written by me on behalf of Cottonelle.Tracking Pixel

And no, I’m not talking about brushing our teeth, friends.  Little um…*ahem* lower.

You know, down there.

I realized recently I’ve clearly failed in the teaching of all the bathroom habits in this house. Not for everyone, but trust me when I tell you that the whole notion of having clean tissue sightings after a bowel movement has evaded multiple people who reside in this house.

And that’s not good. Really, it’s sad.  And bad. And leaves me feeling less than glad.

Because what happens in the bathroom needs to stay in the bathroom.

what-happens-in-the-bathroom

And here you were, thinking ERMAGHERD she’s totally not going to talk about the wiping of the bum and poo, not Brett, not on the internet?!

But I am.

Because….as that book tells us,

Everyone Poops.

Which means everyone wipes. Or should.

But they don’t always excel at wiping. I mean, you really have to be thorough when you wipe.

Plus there’s always those “out of the ordinary” situations that leave you wondering if things will ever be cleaned up down there, and what to do with all the tissue.

Deep breaths.

I’m done talking about poo.   Today we’re going to focus on the removal of the evidence from all parts of your person.

Many families who have small children have baby wipes around.  That’s all nice, and we are in that cloud, but come ON.  I’m 39 years old.  I think I can handle a little something more than a baby wipe.  Besides- I keep those in the car to wipe hands and to get coffee spills of my shirt.  (No joke.  A few brands of wipes are equally effective at removing minor stains from shirts. Try them). In my bathroom?  I need a little something more.

#letstalkaboutbums

We’ve grown accustomed to having wet wipes available for so many things in our lives nowadays.  It’s only logical that we’d have them to use in the bathroom- and really, isn’t that one of the areas we want to be as clean as clean can be?  With Cottonelle’s Cleansing Cloths, we can have a clean, happy bottom every time we use the loo.  The Cleansing Cloths come in a nice discreet container that will blend in any decor scheme.  I’m finding I want to actually get some fun fabric and mod podge and have some fun making it look awesome!

letstalkaboutbums-brand-image

Speaking of the “loo,” you may have noticed Cherry Healey, a journalist from the UK.  She’s funny and she’s come “across the pond” to talk about bums with us.  Yes, she’s here in the USA to talk about our bathroom routines and why we should be using cleansing cloths.  I find her hilarious- but I’m partial to British humor anyway.  Keep an eye out, or search around the internet for the #LetsTalkAboutBums hashtag- you’ll see lots and lots of Cherry’s wisdom and humor!  More importantly- you’ll also see a little bit more about the WHY we need to revamp our bathroom habits and start using wipes and cleansing cloths.

Cottonelle wants to get you talking about your bum and on a better way to clean “down there” by using the Cottonelle Clean Routine. By combining the use of Cottonelle Toilet Paper and Cottonelle Flushable Cleansing Cloths, the Cottonelle Clean Routine is a revolutionary way to keep your bum cleaner.

Are you ready? Don’t be shy! Visit http://www.facebook.com/cottonelle to learn more about the Cottonelle Clean Routine and join the clean routine conversation.

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Cottonelle.

 

 

6 Tips for Managing the Busy Back to School Season

This is a sponsored post about managing the back to school season. We’re still over a week out from school starting here but I’m already sort of cringing a little bit inside at what is yet to come.  I’m a Brownie leader, apparently also now a Sunday School teacher (although I’m sharing this with 2 other moms), I have 3 kids who will be playing soccer, a son who’s going to start Boy Scouts, a daughter in gymnastics and a daughter in dance.  Trying to sort this whole new routine out is a little daunting, but I’m making a list of things to help stay organized and on top of things.

6-tips-for-managing-back-to-school

1. Calendar.  Have a calendar on the wall that has a color for each kid.  That way, even the kids who can’t read can know that they have “something” on the day they see their color.  I need to find an enormous calendar so I can put things like stickers for gym days, dance shoes for dance…that kind of thing. Or I need to get separate calendars for each kid.

Not just for kids, but include meal ideas on the calendar.  Even if you have a family “meeting” of sorts on Sundays to decide what you will eat for the week, it leaves the person who has to prepare dinner with a plan and ideas.  It also makes shopping for groceries easier since you know what you will prepare- and save time in making lists.

2. Organization board.  Wouldn’t you just know that we’re in the middle of gutting our breezeway but I have this decent-sized cork board and I’m going to make it into organization/calendar central.  This is where we can keep papers for each kid, things that have to be signed or saved, their weekly schedules, etc., keep track of library books due.  That kind of thing.

With the beginning of the school year comes all of the papers to fill out and be signed.  Parents, you know what I’m talking about.  Eleventy billion pieces of paper…multiplied by how many kids you have.  It’s a LOT to keep track of, and not always something that we can sit down and complete in one sitting.  That’s why each kid will have a folder on that board- clearly labelled- so we can all keep track of who’s paper is what. I actually filled out my son’s paperwork in triplicate last year before realizing what I’d done so not only did I waste all that time, cover my pinky in ink (I’m a lefty) and get a cramp in my hand, I had to humbly ask for 2 more sets of papers from the school and fill them all out AGAIN for each of the girls.  Don’t be like the Brett of the 2012-2013 school year.

I am going to have a meal plan section for this too so I can get all of our favorite meal ideas up and hopefully help simplify my dreaded what do I make for dinner times.  Being organized with meal and menu plans will also help ME to get dinner prepped and cooked on the days when we have after school activities and I won’t be able to cook after school, but will need to cook midday.  (My actual organization board/station is a work in progress since that room is under construction but when it’s done, I”ll update this with a photo).  Being organized saves a LOT of time and makes that hectic back to school season a little less hectic.

3. Routine. We need to get into a routine.  Routines are great for all families. Figuring this out BEFORE school starts is key- so, starting today?  We’re getting up, making beds, cleaning out backpacks, and doing extra journaling.  Bedtime isn’t whenever anymore, it’s 7:30 sharp.  Baths or showers after dinner…you know.  Whatever our school routine is going to be, that’s what we’ll be practicing.

4. Delegate.  No matter how old or young your kids are, even toddlers can help with household tasks.  All 3 of my kids fed the dog and/or cat before they were 2.  Scoop of food into dish.  Voila.  My kids also clear their own dishes from the table.  Life is going to be busy, and hectic, but for example- my oldest is 8 and wants to have money of her own.  So she’ll be able to earn $1 each time she sorts the laundry baskets full of laundry into each family members’ piles.  Putting away the laundry can earn her more money.  She’s learning reponsibility and I have effectively delegated a task.  Win- win, right?

There’s a lot that kids can help with- it also teaches them responsibility at the same time. We keep the kids’ dishes in a drawer next to the dishwasher- that’s so they can access whenever they want. It also means that from a young age, all 3 kids have been able to help unload the dishwasher.  They are able to help and it’s a little less for me to do.

5. SYNC.  This just may be the most important one for we parents.  Sync those calendars.  The schedules. Routines.  If the soccer coach emails one parent the practice and game schedules, forward the email to your spouse.  I can’t tell you enough how much having a calendar feature on my phone that is synched to my email account has saved me and made me more organized.  There’s many many reasons I love this amazing and wonderful and glorious calendar feature on my phone, but

  1. I can set reminder alerts for whenever I want.
  2. I can see if we’ve already got other things going on that day and NOT overbook myself
  3. Did I mention the reminder alerts?  I can have email and pop up alerts to my heart’s content.
  4. We can share a calendar.  By we I mean my husband and me.  So even if he forgets to tell me he’ll be wicked late because he has a work meeting, I can see it. Or if we’re not going to be home until super late because there’s a game in a neighboring town, he can see that too.

Seriously. I can’t even explain how much I love having a calendar for family activities that is accessible to me almost 24/7.  It’s saved me and helped me be more organized. It might be my favorite tech thing ever.  It’s a beautiful thing!

Help your family manage the back to school season with Sprint’s limited time Buy One, Get One FREE offer on the brand new HTC One. Got a kid heading back to school?  Get one for them, and one for you!  Or get one for you and one for your spouse. I won’t judge. Of course, if one of you wanted to get the HTC One but didn’t have someone to give it to, I would gladly help you out. I’m hearing really great things about this phone and would love to try it!  (Kidding. Mostly).

 

 

sprint logo

 

Sprint, the Only National Carrier to Guarantee Unlimited Talk, Text and Data for Life.

Disclosure: Compensation was provided by Sprint via Glam Media.  The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and are not indicative of the opinions or positions of Sprint

Kids Fashion and Play combine with Hello Kitty and #KuKeeApp

This post is part of a social shopper marketing insight campaign about kids fashion with Pollinate Media Group™ and KuKee, but all my opinions are my own. #pmedia #KuKeeapp  http://cmp.ly/3/8vNxcO.

hello-kitty-kukee-bumpy-bridge

One thing my girls both love and adore is Hello Kitty.  Anything and everything with the fabulous Hello Kitty gets an enthusiastic thumbs up from them (and, well, me).  We love it.  When I first heard that there was a fun app that had an interactive component that included Hello Kitty clothes for girls, I had to jump at the chance to check it out. I mean, it’s Hello Kitty.

So off we Martins went to Macy’s at our local mall, to discover the Hello Kitty line by Evy of CA…which is the product line you can scan with the KuKee app and make your own Hello Kitty magic happen.

Not just scan and play, but REALLY play.  Literally.  The adorable sweatshirt is awesome alone but when you but it, it comes with a superb little HK finger puppet.

hello-kitty-kukee-label-scan

Using this app is really quite simple.

1. Download

2. Scan a KuKee marker

3. Take some photos

4. Check out the collection of items available

kukee-app-hello-kitty-puppet-show

 

Get ready to unlock the fun with KuKee – an outrageously, fun portal that activates unique augmented reality experiences.

KuKee is an awesome adventure of cool new content, fun user-experiences and zany attitude.

It’s simple – download the app (it’s free!), find the marker/label (the marker is ON the garments….), aim the scanner to activate, and the fun comes to life!

It’s KuKee time! Unlock the fun!

hello-kitty-kukee-puppet-bush

The hair clip is from The Bowtique– many of you have asked about it today, it’s called the White Kitty Clip.

Other items in the collection have tattoo finger puppets- and yes just like you’d think, you apply the temporary HK finger puppet tattoos to her little fingers and she can put on shows to her heart’s content.  Take my advice- do NOT apply these just before going out side to play.  I’d recommend the tattoos on a rainy, inside or generally more quiet day- we were playing outside and taking photos for the post and within moments the tattoos rubbed off.  Lesson learned, and now we know- save the tattoos for a rainy day, so they don’t rub off.  Here are the tattoos before we went outside- aren’t they just ADORABLE?!

hello-kitty-kukee-evy-finger-puppet-tattoos

 

and mere minutes later…

hello-kitty-kukee-dont-play-outside

Totally not anyone’s fault but my own.  Just learn from us. :)

There’s a lot of pink in the entire Evy by CA Hello Kitty line at Macy’s that you can check out- it was a very long and thorough process for my 4 year old to decide on the right pieces for her new outfit.  (Plus, we had a gift card to buy things, and I wasn’t going over…or at least, I meant to NOT go over…things happen…)  There’s also a lot of grey, and black.  There’s lots of pieces and styles to let your little HK fan look sweet and adorable like my little one, but there’s also trendier options for girls who don’t want to look, well, like a little girl. The skirt she chose was a MUST have.  (It’s also avail in a black with HK heads all over it, but she just loved the pink and wasn’t leaving without it)  I think it was the whole package with this skirt- it’s full, it’s twirly, it has HK all over it…and…its pink.

hello-kitty-kukee-finger-puppet-bluerail

hello-kitty-girls-fashion-kukee-finger-puppet

I see other licenses on the Evy site and I can’t wait to see what comes next to check out with the KuKee app.  What a fun concept- and what a GREAT way to keep kids busy and entertained when they are shopping with mom or dad!!

hello-kitty-kids-fashion-macys-kukeeapp

If When you download the KuKee app, the folks at Evy of CA would love to see pics of your little ones on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook!

 

 

Superman Bacon and Eggs (and more!)

One of the best ways to build a bond, before they are old enough for sports and hobbies, for dads and sons is to create a bond and theme that they can enjoy together.  The theme can last throughout their lifetime and create even more bonding activities like riding rollercoasters and even going to the movies.  They’ll love remembering when they started their first bond and every time they go do something with the same theme they’ll re-fall in love with it and grow closer together.  One possible theme you can use is Superman and you can start it well before they are old enough for sports or amusement parks.

superman-robe

Photo Credit: Crazy4Bargains

The first thing to do when everyone is waking up is to replace is to replace their old favorite pajamas with Superman ones and even possibly have kids robes with Superman theme on it.  The nice thing about is it that there are matching sets for both your son and Father.

Waking up and having your little one discover his Dad has the same robe or a matching Superman pajama set to his Superman pajamas is the perfect way to start the day.  The next step is to make a super breakfast full of proteins and carbs to help energize them for a day of super fun.

superman-bacon-and-eggs

Photo Credit: ApronsShop.com

Making Superman bacon and eggs. 

To make a set of Superman bacon and eggs you’ll need 1 pound of bacon and 6 eggs.  Take the bacon and either cook it in the microwave or place it on a pan and make sure you get straight crisp strips.  Take the bacon strips out of the pan and now cook your eggs.  The easy and quick solution is to scramble them.  The trickier way is to go sunnyside up (but eating raw or undercooked foods can be dangerous).  Now lay the eggs down on the plate in the shape of a diamond.  Outline the diamond or place the bacon in the shape of the diamond over the top.  Now fill in the rest of the space if you are using scrambled eggs and break the yolks so the yellow fills in the inside of the holes in the diamond.  Now take rest of the bacon and break it into pieces and create an S to complete the emblem.  If you like Ketchup or Hot Sauce, you could also outline the red bacon with it.

Now that the food is ready, quickly clean up the kitchen and get ready to enjoy it while watching your favorite episodes of Superman.

Superman videos become reality. 

Before your big day of super heroism, have Dad watch a couple of episodes of Superman with your son.  Find ones where Superman has to run, jump and swim or perform specific tasks.  The two of them can then enjoy watching these episodes together while finishing their superman breakfasts and once the shows over get ready for some exercise.

Because dad knew which videos you were going to watch, he now has two or three obstacles and courses set up around the yard that relate to the episodes.  Here are three super hero styled games and activities that are easy to do, fun for both of them and something that can help further their bond.

Waterballoons and Kryptonite.

The first thing to do is to have Dad be Lex and the son be Superman.  The two of them will play water balloon tag and your son will have red balloons and dad will have kryptonite grenade balloons.  The two of them will hide, Superman gets an extra 1 minute head start to plant balloons across the yard and find a perfect space.  Dad will then have 30 seconds to do the same once Superman is finished.  Over the next 30 minutes to one hour, Dad has to get Superman with 5 green balloons.  Superman needs to get Lex with 3.  Whenever time runs out, the person closest to their target number wins.  If one person successfully gets their number, then they win the game and it is now over.  One other option if you think water balloons are too dangerous is to use sponge balls and cover them in machine washable colored water or even just plain water.  This does create a huge mess and everyone will need extra protection like safety googles and something to protect their mouths so nothing get eaten like a hockey mask with a plastic shield and no balloon pieces get in their eyes.  You can also more accurately measure the hits if the water is colored and who wins.

Target practice. 

The two of them are going to be worn out from running and hiding for the last hour so now they need some come down time.  The two of them can go inside and watch some more tv while Mom goes out into the yard and sets up the next game.  Lay down an old blanket or sheet and have a very large cardboard box behind it against a wall.  Now, take about 20 printouts of Lex, 20 Supermen and 20 Cilivilians.  Hang 15 of each randomly throughout the wall and make your superhero and villain stand about 20 or 30 feet away.  They each get 10 throws and have to hit their main target.  They get 1 point for hitting their goal and then Mom will have random printouts on cardboard so they stay forward with 5 lexs, 5 supermans and 5 civilians.  She’ll throw three randomly 5 times during the game and if they hit a civilian, they lose 5 points, hit themselves, they lose 3 and hit their target they win 5.  Hitting your target means you miss a throw at a static board, but it could also mean winning the game.  The way to measure this is to soak the foam balls in a colored water and the water should leave a stain on the image.  That is also why you don’t want to use a new sheet or something when protecting your grass or pavement.

Making dessert. 

This is the easiest one of the day.  Take sugar cookies and buy a diamond shaped, a bat shaped and a circle shaped cookie cutter.  Cut out the shapes and have Dad and Superman cut out the cookies and then decorate them with black and yellow sprinkles for Batman, Red, Yellow and Blue food frosting for Superman and green food coloring and candy pearls for the Green Lantern or any other heroes they love.  Now let them settle so the frosting can set and after dinner when they get ready to watch anything from a new Superman movie to the old cartoons that have a million characters, Mom can come in wearing a Wonder Woman robe and everyone can enjoy the cookies for dessert.

Creating an entire day of Superman themed activities from sports and agility to learning practical skills like cooking, and even helping to open their minds with art by decorating cookies is an excellent way for some Dads, Moms and sons to be able to bond.  If you are from a split family, Mom can be one of the female villains and also be Super girl.  If you have a daughter instead of a son and still want to try this, you could always do Supergirl for the daughter and Superman for the Dad.  There are a ton of ways to mix and combine them to make it work for your family.  You could also take turns throwing the random cards with the second game.  Regardless of how you do it, it could create a bond around a theme that will help to solidify your relationship and make things like the Superman Rollercoaster at a popular theme park become something you have to ride instead of something cool to look at.  It’ll give you things to collect together and whenever a new movie comes out, you’ll always have someone to see it with and enjoy talking about it with after.

 

Thanks to Adam from Crazy4Bargains for sharing this SUPER guest post!