Sponsored Video: Baby’s First Christmas

Christmas is one of my favorite times of year. I can’t even explain it. The magic of it all almost overwhelms me. Seeing it through the eyes of children just makes my heart sing. And part of that magic for me is how much kindness and goodwill there is in everyday life. If only it was year round. The wonder and awe of the magic of Christmas can really be enjoyed when you have a baby in your family- your own baby, or a loved ones baby. There’s just so much about babies that brings hope and joy – just like Christmas does. This post about baby’s first Christmas is sponsored by our friends at Fisher Price.
baby girl

Babies mean new life. They offer hope. They have a way of bringing out the softest side of almost everyone and can reduce you to a puddle in a glance. At the holidays, families gather together to celebrate- my family included. I know my family gets giddy when there’s a baby to celebrate Christmas with for the first time- the family grows, there are new traditions to be begun, old traditions to share, and memories to be made.

In our family, baby’s first Christmas absolutely includes gifts- it’s hard to not want to just ‘get a little something” for an adorable new baby! My mom always got the kids an LLBean backpack filled with hardcover children’s books she thought were wonderful. But she also got them something fun, and as many of the toys and gear have been through the years, Fisher Price was, has been and continues to a brand we purchase again and again. From the “big” gear items like a bassinet, bouncy seat, or jumperoo to baby’s first toys and mobile, Fisher Price offers quality materials and construction with fun, engaging components and design to delight your baby for a long time to come- and likely,

Fisher-Price made this absolutely adorable video using a holiday jingle and it just made me smile so big as I watched thinking back with my own kids and their excitement each year as Christmas morning come!

Just look at THIS little cutie! I love watching this video :)

Rice Krispies wants to know what’s hard for your kids to digest #HardtoDigest

What’s hard for your kids to digest?  Around here, the things that are hard for my kids to digest, in no particular order:

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This is a sponsored post, opinions are my own.

1. Film cameras.  Blank stares when we showed them.

2. The concept that no, mommy was not around the week God created the earth.

3. Wearing underpants EVERY time we leave the house

4. Why can’t we put things in our nose?

5.  How long it takes for Christmas to come.

6. But WHY do we have to have healthy grow food every time?

7. Why can’t I have some of my gum? (At 2 am)

8. Why don’t you ever give me my food in a bowl on the floor?

9. When can we get a pet skunk?

10. Why can’t we put stickers on our privates?

 

There’s rarely a dull moment around here.  Or, really, any home with small children.  Kids don’t always find the adult ways of doing things, or rules about how to do things, easy to digest.  At least with RICE KRISPIES® CEREAL, you can rest assured that it is easy for kids to digest.  That’s because it’s made of rice, which moms know is gentle on tummies.

Truth be told, when my littlest one was about 2?? One of the big kids mentioned wanting the noisy cereal that talks for breakfast.  After she freaked out and didn’t want her cereal to talk, she heard the fun snap, crackle and pop that we’ve all known for so long and proceeded to only want talking “ice” ripsies for months afterwards.  Kids are so funny!

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Photo Credit: RiceKrispies.com

What are YOUR kids’ hard to digest moments? If you share them with Kellogg’s using the #hardtodigest hashtag, you may just see it pop up on the RiceKrispies.com website! 

 

Join us for the #FPOverjoyed Twitter Party! #Win Prizes including a CRIB

I will be compensated for hosting the #FPOverjoyed Twitter party. Opinions are my own.
Join us on Sunday, October 20th from 8-9pm EST for the #FPOverjoyed Twitter party! We’ll be talking about the obstacles that new moms face when baby finally comes home and how to get through that important first year. We’ll also be giving away prizes, of course.

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Host: @brettbmartin CoHost @momof2monkeys

What: #FPOverjoyed

When: 8-9 pm EST Sunday October 20 

Prizes: 3 $50 Walmart Gift Cards, $100 Walmart Gift Card Grand Prize

You MUST RSVP and participate in the party to be eligible for prizes!  RSVP below:


One LOCAL to Connecticut reader will win a new in box Kingsport Convertible Fisher Price Crib in white!  (It’s local because we will have arrange to get you the crib- it’s physically in my garage in the box, unless you want to pay for shipping)

 

 

Girls Unstoppable Event 10/5: Don’t miss it!

When I was a little girl, I had so much confidence.  Somewhere along the line, I lost it.  For far too long.  Really, it’s sad I lost it at all.  So many girls do.  I look at my kids- all three of them, so FULL of confidence in their ability to learn, master and succeed at anything and everything, and, especially with my girls, I pray that they don’t lose that confidence.  Somewhere along the line, I lost my confidence, as did so many other girls (now women)– not sure how or why, but it happened.  It happens all the time.  So when I was asked to share about the Girls Unstoppable Event October 5, I had to agree. For two main reasons (and a million more):

sistersBecause these two need to be taught about self-esteem.  As do all of the other girls in our world. We need to show them what self-confidence looks like so they learn it and see it and live it.  It’s not just my two girls- it’s all of our girls.  There’s too many like me who floundered for a time (and longer) and lost that self-confidence and self-esteem.

Because at some point, I’m really good at  (fillintheblank) turned into I’m not good at, I can’t, I wish I, and other thoughts equally as non-confident happen.  For most girls.

boost-a-girls-confidence-dove-girls-unstoppable

Dove® wants to inspire women everywhere to embrace their uniqueness. Join them on Saturday, October 5 for the Girls Unstoppable Event at a Walmart near you. Bring your daughter, and create a day out of it! 

Camera Shy?

Watch an inspiring video that shows just how important it is to teach young girls about self-confidence and self-esteem. While you’re on the site, download the Dove® self-esteem discussion guide to start the conversation with your daughter.

Your Purchase Helps

Your Dove® purchase helps provide self-esteem programs for girls

This post is brought to you by our friends at Lunchbox.  Opinions are my own.

 

How to install stair gates

This is a guest post from Ryan, dad of 2 and owner of Safe Nest Babyproofing Atlanta.  He’s written this article about how to install stair gates for my readers.

One of the most common questions I get as a professional babyproofer is about how to install stair gates. Once the excitement of a child starting to crawl passes, the dread starts to set in: we need to babyproof the house! The first place most parents look is to the stairs. The danger of a child crawling to the top of the stairs unnoticed and tumbling down is obvious, but properly installing a stair gate can seem difficult. Many parents put it off or call me for help.

When shopping for a baby gate, the first thing to look for is a brand that is a certified member of the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA). These brands agree to adhere to a minimum set of standards. Usually a JPMA label similar to this will be found somewhere on the product packaging:

JPMA Seal

The next thing you need to know before purchasing a gate is how wide your stair opening is. Most gates have some way of adjusting for width to fit the average staircase, but if your staircase is especially wide you may need to purchase an extension kit. Measure from wall to wall and look for a gate designed to fit that width or one that has extensions available.

There are two main types of gates available: hardware-mounted and pressure-mounted. Hardware-mounted gates attach to the wall using screws and are normally the most secure way of mounting a gate. Pressure-mounted work by applying pressure in an outwards direction on both sides, squeezing the gate between two walls.

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Hardware-mounted gate utilizing baluster post kit

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Pressure-mounted gate

Knowing the two main types of gates, you next need to consider where the gate will be placed. Pressure-mounted gates should never be used at the top of a staircase because they tend to loosen over time as they are opened and closed, and the pressure holding them in place will decrease. A child could then push, pull, or shake the gate, causing it to dislodge and tumble down the steps taking the child with it and possibly causing serious injury. The other main reason not to use pressure-mounted gates at the top of stairs is that many of them have a metal bar that runs across the floor to connect the two sides of the gate. This bar is usually about an inch in height, just enough to catch your foot as you step over it causing you (and your child if they are in your arms) to fall down the stairs. Because of these two main reasons, I will never install a pressure-mounted gate at the top of the stairs. Unfortunately while the JPMA recommends not using pressure-mounted gates at the tops of stairs, their guidelines for gate manufacturer members do not outlaw it, and so some JPMA-approved gates will advertise that they are for top-of-stair use.  So where can you safely install a pressure-mounted gate? The bottom of a staircase is OK as long as it’s placed at the ground level or no higher than the first step, but I still prefer using a hardware-mounted gate as much as possible. The best place to use pressure-mounted gates is in doorways to either contain a child in a room or keep them out of a room. Lastly, never use an accordion-style gate or one with V-shaped or diamond-shaped openings. There have been several recalls on this style of gate due to the risk of a baby getting their head entrapped in these openings. In addition, older children have been able to use these openings as a foot- or handhold to climb up and over the gate.

So now you know you should always use a hardware-mounted gate that screws into a strong surface for the top of a staircase. In most homes this means you need to locate a wood stud behind the drywall. If you have an electronic stud finder, this should be easy; if not, here’s a tip: Drywall is attached to the studs using metal screws. Locate the general area of a stud by knocking on the drywall until you find a solid (not hollow) sounding area. Then take a strong magnet and slowly run it in a sweeping motion up and down where you think the stud is. When the magnet encounters a metal nail, it will stick! Mark that spot and then go up or down from there trying to find another one. If you find two or more that line up vertically, that will be close to the center of your stud.

In a perfect world you will have two studs located directly across from each other to mount into, but that’s not usually the case. So then what do you do? Many of the better gate manufacturers offer gates that can mount on an angle allowing you to have the hinge side and the latch sides offset by several inches and still work properly. Just be careful that when installing on an angle you don’t allow the gate to overhang the steps at all, leaving a gap that the child could get under.

hardware-mounted-gate-installed-on-angleHardware-mounted gate installed on an angle

 

But what do you do if you have a wooden baluster post instead of drywall on one or both sides? Well, sometimes this can actually be easier than installing into drywall, as you don’t need to locate the studs. Assuming the baluster is sturdy, you can often drill directly into the flat surface at the top and bottom of the baluster and hang the gate from that. But many people don’t want to damage their baluster by drilling holes in it, or perhaps the area where a bracket needs to mount is rounded. You can buy special kits that clamp around the baluster, to which you then attach the gate brackets. The nice thing about using these kits is that while they can add cost to the installation, in a few years when you take them down there is no damage left behind to fix!

The last thing to think about when installing the gate is, which direction do you want it to open? Gates always need to swing away from the staircase, never into the stairwell, but you can usually choose whether the hinge is on the right or left side. I always try to have them open with the flow of traffic. For example if going up the stairs you always turn to the right when reaching the top, then you would want the hinge on the left side.

One final bit of advice for after you have installed the gate: Use it properly. Never climb over the gate rather than opening it to go through. For one thing, you may catch your foot trying to do this, leading to serious injury to you or your child if they are in your arms. Secondly, your child watches everything you do; by climbing over a gate, you are teaching them that is an appropriate use. They may try to climb over it themselves one day.

If you are still unsure about the best child safety gate for your situation or would rather have an expert help you with the installation, I recommend contacting the International Association for Child Safety (IAFCS), of which I am a member, to find a professional childproofer in your area. Their website is www.IAFCS.org.

 Be sure to like Safe Nest Babyproofing on Facebook for great tips!

No compensation was received for this post- a Ryan is a friend’s husband and we both thought this article would be beneficial to my readers.

 Photo Credits: Cardinal Gates (with permission)

Bonding through Babywearing and How it Saved Me

Before I had kids, I’m not sure I really understood what babywearing was, or what it meant.  I absolutely did not understand the benefits of babywearing. With my oldest, she was so mobile so early, she rarely wanted to be carried after about 5 months.  As my second baby came along, I learned very quickly that babywearing was the key to enjoyable freedom.

You see, my kids are 25 and 23 months apart.  When each new baby was born, it was right at the prime of that age when toddlers gleefully dart in whatever direction their impulses take them.  For my oldest, it was always taking off to find water to look for ducks (and one pink Baby Gap shoe that was never seen again, which probably houses a family of frogs in a pond nearby).  Taking off, and me trying to catch her or catch up to her after unlocking stroller brakes, etc.  Wearing my son helped him immensely- it calmed him, soothed him (he was a fussy monkey boy), and allowed me to be close to him AND have my hands free so that I could bring my daughter to see the ducks instead of having to chase her.  With my son in the carrier, he could nurse and I could play with my daughter, push her on the swing, etc. Having my little guy so close so much of the time meant I could enjoy the wonderful scent of baby head (still love it) and not have to stop what I was doing to hold him, rock him, love on him.  It was good for him, good for me, and good for big sister. She was babywearing her dolls within a month of my son’s birth…he was babywearing around 15 months!

When my littlest was born, I had a just turned 4 year old and a not quite 2 year old. She was 5 1/2 weeks premature and loved to be held (actually, she’s still a fan of being held and or carried, 4 years later).  Obviously babywearing meant I had my hands free so I could be with the bigger kids, but this time, the babywearing was an amazing gift, to me. You see, my mom died 13 days before my littlest was born.  My heart, as you can imagine, was shattered and I was floundering to come to terms with her death, dealing with post partum stuff, and trying to be a mom.  To say I wasn’t handling things well is an understatement.  That little baby snuggled against my chest for so much of the time was thriving and growing but she was also keeping me grounded and functioning better than I would have.  Her little tiny self helped me for so long as I grieved so much.

Babywearing, I firmly believe, is part of what helped me to get through one of the most difficult times of my life.  Losing a loved one is never easy, and having a premature baby isn’t either, compounded with medical issues surrounding the birth for the mom.

One of my most favorite photos of all time of my husband is this one, wearing our son on his back while we hiked around the island on Lake Winnipesaukee that I grew up spending my summers on.  I happen to find my husband to be quite handsome but a man babywearing?  That’s really attractive to me!  Truth be told, I think wearing the kids was one of my husband’s favorite parts of the baby stage.  Since he couldn’t feed the kids when I was nursing, it was his chance to really bond and be able to spend some special close time he might not otherwise have been able to.

Babywearing, in my experience, was and continues to be such an amazing and wonderful gift for both us as the parents and the kids as babies. The time that our babies are that small is so short, so brief, and I feel like it’s so important to allow ourselves to go “all in” and bond with the kids while they are so tiny.  It seems like it was 5 minutes ago that I was elatedly calling my friend Sarah to tell her that I had mastered the front to back carry switch while still wearing the carrier- and yet somehow, my kids are 4, 6 and 8 and we aren’t even babywearing anymore. Before I had kids you probably couldn’t have gotten me to consider that babywearing is good for everyone – the adult wearing the baby, and of course the baby…it offers so much benefit for the baby but really, it’s just as good emotionally for the adult who’s snuggling that sweet baby.  My only regret? I can’t find a single photo of me babywearing any of my kids.

Today, my baby shower go to gift?  The baby carrier the mom has chosen to register for, or I get her one of my favorite carriers, the Boba Carrier 3G.  (Which was passed along to my friend Carey, who has since passed it along to another friend).

Why the Boba?  Boba understands that parents want to have the freedom to move and explore but still bond with their babies.  Robert and Elizabeth Antunovic, creators of Boba, came up with the first Boba product together, and it was designed so that they could travel with their children while bonding.  Through the years they have stayed true to their roots and have expanded their product line to include more of the same high quality, well thought out products that encourage freedom and bonding.  They have a wrap- which was my favorite method of babywearing for about the first 6-7 months, and they have carriers that will hold kids all the way up to 45 lbs.  The carriers are ergonomic in design (and you do NOT want a baby carrier that’s going to hurt your back, I promise), and have many adjustible functions that allow a really custom fit to make you and your little one comfortable.  There are so many colors and patterns to choose from, as well as organic options, so you can likely find one that fits your style and preference.

The first time I used my Boba, I had my son on my back as my daughter and I had adventures with the MOMS club at a local park.  He happily slept for almost 3 hours (unheard of, because this boy never napped!) and I was confident he was safe, secure and comfortable.  Not once did MY back hurt. We had a wonderful day and he was such a happy guy because he had a really great nap!

 

To learn more and connect with Boba, Like them on Facebook  and follow them on Twitter.

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Boba. The opinions and text are all mine.

Six Quick Weekend Getaways (Sans Kids)

I have to preface this post by admitting that my husband and I have been married almost 10 years (next week) and we’ve never been away just the 2 of us.  We’ve never actually been away from our kids for a night.  No weekend getaways for us (yet)It’s kind of sad, really. Not that we don’t love our kids but the idea of having a night or two just my husband and me to reconnect and enjoy one another’s company without tripping over a Lego or doll sounds like heaven!!

Going on family vacations can be a great time for everyone there. But every so often, it doesn’t hurt to hand your kids off to your parents or a babysitter and go for a romantic get away with your significant other. And with modern transportation opportunities, traveling for a quick weekend is easier than ever. Here is a list of six quick weekend getaways that you can take while leaving your children at home.

Six Quick Weekend Getaways (1)F

Sunny Isles, Florida

If South Beach in Miami is a bit too wild for you now that you’ve had children, than Sunny Isles is a great place for those on the east coast to visit for a long weekend. Sunny Isles is the perfect place for middle-aged people who are looking for a relaxing and romantic vacation with their significant other. You can find plenty of great restaurants, a few classy bars and also plenty of historical monuments. Or if you just want to relax on the beach with your feet in the sand, there are miles of oceans to do so.

Santa Barbara, California

If Sunny Isles is too far for you, than Santa Barbara is a great location for those living on the west coast and needing to get away for a few days. Santa Barbara is known for its beautiful weather year round and for its Spanish influence throughout the entire city. Santa Barbara also offers great opportunities for the outdoor couple who enjoy to surf, swim, scuba dive or snorkel.

Aspen, Colorado

Beach vacations are perfect during the summer, but there is something to be said about a beautiful winter getaway as well. Aspen is that perfect location for those looking to get away to a beautiful winter wonderland. Aspen can be a bit too upscale for families traveling with children, so if you are childless for the weekend, it’s the perfect time to experience this unique Colorado town. For those who love skiing, there are plenty of slopes to do so. Or if you just want to read a good book next to a fire, you’re sure to have plenty of lodging opportunities for that as well.

Chickasaw Country, Oklahoma

Chickasaw Country is a hidden gem that many couples don’t consider when looking for a quick vacation. After all, it doesn’t have the glamorous appeal at first like some of the other names on this list. However, because people underestimate Chickasaw, it makes it a perfect vacation spot for couples who have the weekend to themselves. Chickasaw offers casinos, golf, spas and more, all in a calm and relaxing atmosphere with much to do and see. It’s a hub for Native American cultural sites and history and there are plenty of activity options that are perfect as an individual or as a pair when going to Chickasaw Country.

New York City

The Big Apple is certainly an option for those living in the northeast. The great part about visiting New York City is that you have countless options for food, shopping and entertainment within reach. Whether you stay in Manhattan or just outside of the major boroughs, you can easily take public transportation to get into the heart of the city. With numerous landmarks and famous places to see, New York offers a bevy of options for couples.

Las Vegas, Nevada

It may have been a while since your last trip to Las Vegas, but don’t count it out as a place where singles mingle. Instead, Vegas specializes in couple vacations that are perfect without the kids. The best part about Vegas is that it is perfect place to spend a few days, before you get warn out of all the wildness that the city has to offer. You’ll be happy to be home with your kids, but you won’t soon forget the time that you had in Sin City.

Just because you have children doesn’t mean that you can’t travel with your significant other. Instead, ask your parents to babysit for the weekend and head to one of the places on this list. You’ll be sure to have a great time and enjoy the break from your kids.

12 Tremendous Tricks to Trim 20 Minutes off Your Morning

12 Tremendous Tricks to Trim 20 Minutes off Your Morning 

Um, I need more than 12.

I need like…eleventy billion tricks.

I do.

We got into this nice routine, the kids and I, this summer.  As they woke up, one by one they’d climb into our bed and snuggle up to watch some tv with mommy.  They loved it, I loved it.  Having to get up and be out the door in time for school has kind of put the kabosh on that — or rather, it needs to.  We’re still holding on to those minutes of cuddles and end up rush, rush, rushing to get ready for the day.

Instead of, you know, setting my alarm and getting up even earlier, I found a fun infographic from our friends at Suave (via Lunchbox) that gives 12 tricks- not just tricks, TREMENDOUS tricks, to trim 20 minutes off your morning. So I figure, that’s 20 minutes I can snuggle my kids, right?

Plus, even if it wasn’t the snuggles, I really just love bed. I love it.  The pillows. The blankets.  Sleeping.  I hate getting OUT  of my bed.  I’m loathe to do it anytime.  Now you know.  My kids even draw pictures of me sleeping. Exhibit A: (please note, my bed is only pink in my dream world)

my mom loves to sleep

 

So maybe we ALL need to work on shaving some time off of our slackety slackin’ each morning.

It’s just hard. It’s bed.  Pillows. Blankets.

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Now, my kids do love Suave products for their hair- right now, because they have Smurfs on them.  We like to watch old school Smurfs on TV sometimes and they’ve grown to love the little blue friends as much as their mama and daddy. So I’m all good with the suggestions especially the detangler!! My little one has very little hair and it’s stick straight but holy MOLY does she wake up with a rat’s nest each day….and lately, wants to brush it herself.  Never mind that she can’t see nor reach the back of her head….But she won’t resist her beloved Smurfs, especially if big sister is the one to help make her hair pretty.

I like the price of Suave products for my kids- I don’t normally get character versions of products because I find it costs more but with Suave, the kids AND mom end up happy. I suppose when we’re all happy and not crabby at one another….that probably saves even more time in the morning.

 

Head in-store or online to shop all Suave® products at the best value!

What are YOUR fun and creative ways to save time in the morning? 

And with the blink of an eye, summer is gone #CherishedChildhood

It’s over.  Summer, that is.  We did something new this summer, the kids and I, and had a blast.  We laughed, we played, we swam (a ton) and learned a lot.  We made new friends, visited with old, and have so many new memories. Memories that I will cherish – and hopefully, my kids will too!

sisters-cherished-childhood

We climbed (and lost teeth)

playing-in-rain-cherished-childhood

waited out a storm in puddles

swimming-on-shark-cherished-childhood

swam on a shark

swimming-with-dolphins-cherished-childhood

and on a dolphin

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played marbles with friends

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and painted toenails when her chin got split open and she couldn’t do her swim lessons.

So many memories to cherish and so many more to make…

The folks at Gymboree want you to join them in celebrating and sharing cherished moments in childhood. Gymboree has created an amazing new video to help kick off this campaign and I am thrilled to share it with you. This video is truly touching and must be watched by all parents. So watch and enjoy, then share your favorite cherished childhood moments in the comments! Be sure to use the hashtag #cherishchildhood when commenting or if you share this video with friends! Without further ado, I present to you “Today we’ve got to play!” sponsored by Gymboree:

 

 

 

Fun Kool-Aid Crafts and Recipes

Growing up, we had Kool-Aid a lot. Well, maybe not a lot, but at parties, celebrations, we definitely did.  I remember we had these really cool Kool-Aid man mugs and I really really loved those mugs. We might have had a pitcher, too.  Whatever- they were AWESOME.

vintage kool-aid mugs

Photo Credit for these beauties goes to Nothyme4Presents 

(and excuse me while I go rock in a corner because the cups are sold. Probably eons ago.  But not to me).

Because it was the 80’s and everything was awesome.  The Kool-Aid man would be on commercials busting through walls of houses to SAVE ALL THE PARTIES bringing his Kool-Aid with him.

And it was awesome.

But the mugs are gone and it probably wouldn’t be well received if the big pitcher-head-guy decided to blow through anyone’s house walls.  So we’re left with memories. And other cups.

ALTHOUGH….

kool-aid-fun-things-to-make

it is the um…teens?  You know. It’s 2013. The time of Pinterest. And Creativity abounds in this world. And now you can do oh so much more with Kool-Aid besides “just” drink it. You can drink it and make things with it.  Bonding time.  Family time. Crafty time. Fun time.  Making memories time.

things-to-do-with-kool-aid

Fun ways to use Kool-Aid 
how-to-dip-dye-your-hair-using-kool-aid

How to Dip Dye Your Hair Using Kool-Aid 

koolaid-playdough-sippy-cup-mom

Kool-Aid Play-Doh

How-to-Make-Tie-Dye-T-Shirts-with-Kool-Aid

How to Tie Dye TShirts with Kool-Aid

(which is on our list and we have supplies but this mama is not feeling well at all this weekend and sadly it’ll have to wait)

grapegranita

Grape Granita Recipe 

diy-lip-recipe

2 Ingredient DIY Lip Balm

edible-play-doh-for-kids

Edible Play-Doh

This is a sponsored post with Lunchbox.  Opinions are my own.